Billi Bromer, Class of ’72

When I graduated from college in 1970 with a B.A. in Psychology, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my degree.  I just knew I was interested in learning more about children.  That fall, I headed to Tufts to begin a graduate program in Child Development at the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study.  One of the first people I met was Dr. Evelyn Pitcher, who was in charge of the department then.  I was 21, ready to learn, and became immediately in awe of Dr. Pitcher.  In addition to being so knowledgeable about young children, she was such a gracious lady.

I loved being at Tufts and loved studying at Eliot-Pearson even more.  I didn’t realize until a few years later how much Eliot-Pearson and Dr. Pitcher shaped my future and influenced my life.  I discovered all about how children develop from her and learned how to assess young children (via the Arnold Gesell scales) for the first time.  I explored creativity with Sylvia Feinburg and can never again look at a coloring book in the same way.  I was lucky to have many conversations with Eliot-Pearson faculty because I received financial aid from Tufts that required some work hours in the department.  I was immersed in Eliot-Pearson and I loved every minute of it.  My general interest in children became a true love for early childhood education and an endless fascination with how children develop.

Although I had majored in Psychology and some of my Tufts colleagues were completing a thesis to earn an M.A., some were planning to student teach and graduate with an M. Ed.  Writing a thesis didn’t sound like as much fun as teaching, so I pursued an M.Ed.  I student taught at the Children’s School and remember that it wasn’t my best performance, but the guided experience told me that I wanted to teach.  I made it through student teaching and I made it through the final comprehensive exam.

I graduated a year and a half after I began, ready to start my career in teaching.  It was January; I had a graduate degree and Massachusetts teacher certification, but no job.  After several weeks, I was running out of money and when I was just about to give up and take any job that would pay the rent, I got a call from Dr. Pitcher.  She knew of a job that she thought I would like.  The job was teaching young children from low-income families in a federally funded program called Home Start.  It was in Haverhill, a long ride from where I lived in Cambridge, but it was a teaching job.  She was right.  I liked the job and they hired me.   I taught in Home Start until I married my husband, Rich, and left Massachusetts a few years later so he could begin his medical career (he is a Tufts Medical School graduate).

It’s been almost 40 years since I earned my degree at Eliot-Pearson, but Eliot-Pearson stays with me and always will.  The fascination with how young children learn that the faculty sparked in me has grown.  I went on to teach general and then special early childhood education in both private and public schools for many, many years.  An appreciation for the uniqueness of each child began in 1970 at Eliot-Pearson and remains deeply embedded within me.

I have also proudly and joyously parented three children. My son, Zach, is a graduate of Tufts as well.  I appreciated each of my children as distinctly different while they were growing up and still appreciate their uniqueness as adults.   I can’t help but credit Eliot-Pearson with an abiding appreciation for the wonders of childhood.  My children used to tease me as they were approaching adulthood that I would become the grandma who bought educational toys, just as I had done with each of them.   It was a self-fulfilling prophecy!

I completed an Ed.D. a decade ago but gave up teaching little ones only five years ago.  My knees got a little too creaky to keep getting eye-to-eye with four-year-olds.  Now I teach future teachers at Brenau University in Georgia, where I have lived for almost thirty years.  Eliot-Pearson shaped both my professional and personal life and I will always cherish my days at Tufts.  I will never forget Dr. Pitcher and how much she taught me about the wonders of children and how they grow.

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