How did you get where you are today?
I was inspired by the power of education early on. My mother, Tracy Jaramillo, cofounded Anansi Day Schoolwhen I was 8 years old, and I spent my childhood and adolescence helping in the classroom. I was able to acknowledge first hand, the power of incredible educators and innovative practices that empower children and their families.
I suppose I knew I was always destined to be an educator, following in the footsteps of my amazing mother. It was my trip to Reggio Emilia, Italy, my sophomore year at Colorado College, that ignited a passion in profound new ways of viewing both the child and the teacher. Children are strong, capable and competent citizens and education is child-initiated and teacher-framed. I became deeply committed to pursuing the research in Reggio-inspired practice. After completing my Master’s in Early Childhood Education Psychology at University of Colorado, and teaching abroad for two years in Europe, Asia and South America, I returned home to Taos. INSPIRE! Bilingual Early Learning Center opened shortly thereafter. I have been truly inspired by the children and their resilient families. I am continually moved by the astounding commitment to children and their families in our small rural community. I am honored to learn with so many child and family advocates through my many collaborations with schools, organizations and agencies within our community.
How many years involved in your various endeavors? Of what are you most proud?
I’ve been back in Taos for 14 years working in education. I love a challenge and to think outside the box. The evolution of INSPIRE! represents that thinking. We are committed to evolving our program to meet the needs of our community and piloting new programs to support children and families in comprehensive ways.
My work and commitment to children and families extends beyond the walls of the INSPIRE! program. I am deeply committed to community collaboration. I am an active participant in the Paso a Paso Network and a founding member of the Taos Early Childhood Alliance. It is through that work the UNM Taos Residency Program was born. I am proud to have been a part of envisioning how to transform higher education to meet the realities and needs of potential teacher candidates. More than half of the educators at INSPIRE! were parents first who enrolled in the program and are now working toward their degrees in Early Childhood Education.
In the same vein of innovative thinking, I am committed to the relationship between behavioral health and education. We have been able to pilot a family navigation program that supports families in a comprehensive way and onsite behavioral health support for both children and their families. Social Emotional Learning and comprehensive family support are the bridge between education and healthy families.
Most recently, INSPIRE! has extended our programming to include school age children from across our county in remote learning pods that also focus on social emotional learning and integrative project-based education supporting their online schooling platforms. We have also expanded our meal program in support of children and families during the COVID pandemic. We are so grateful for the opportunity to support our community during this extremely difficult time.
If possible, what advice would you give your teenage self?
Play. Connect. Listen deeply. Think creatively. Be reflective. Anything is possible if you work collaboratively and lead with empathy and compassion.
How do you create a sane work-life balance?
I am always dreaming up new ideas and projects, but in many ways that is what fuels my soul. We live in an incredible place surrounded by incredible people who motivate me daily. Taking time to breathe in the fresh mountain air and spend time with friends and family helps to ground me and inspire me to keep dreaming.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women right now?
The progress of women around the world is profound. The goal of achieving gender parity is absolute and is a prerequisite for peace.
Who are your real-life heroes?
My mama, Tracy Jaramillo, and my grandma, Mark Adair, are my truest inspirations, advocates and my very best friends. They breathe life into my mind, body and soul.
My brothers, Ryan and Grady, teach me humility, patience and what it means to love deeply.
My dad, Greg Jaramillo, is the source of laughter and play.
My husband, Cory Etchemendy, is truly the most patient and supportive man in the world. He humors my big ideas and supports me every step of the way.
Great friends provide perspective and support
My colleagues who fight for a better life for children and families are a true inspiration.
Caregivers, parents and teachers are fierce leaders.
Children are our most important citizens. They are resilient, joyful and see the potential in the world around them.
What has the COVID-19 pandemic made you be more aware of than ever before?
There have been incredible acts of kindness and support for one another all over the world. I have a renewed sense of hope in humanity.
What is the main message you want Taoseños to hear coming out of this pandemic year?
Let’s continue to support one another and uplift each other. Let’s continue to fight for the well-being of children and their families! Let’s inspire one another to be kind, compassionate and fight for the change we want for our community, our nation and our world.
Watch Taylor Etchemendy's 2021 Taoseña Award acceptance speech.