Kathleen Flanagan has worked her entire life in early childhood education. She was born in New Jersey and went to university in Boston. In 1975 she moved to Canada with her husband, and they’ve made a home here on PEI. Since then, they have raised four kids and enjoy having four grandkids.
We connected via telephone and Kathleen’s description of living by the water in Kings County made me want to drive to the country immediately.
Kathleen was the director of the first Montessori Centre on PEI in 1976 and she has worked for decades on the policy side of early childhood education with the PEI Government. In 2005 she left her role in the government and within a week was being called on for a variety of important contributions and consultations, including research and evaluation work with Health Canada. From there, Katheen was hired to create a quality framework for the province of British Columbia and she has become a full-time consultant across Canada and around the world.
“I’ve worked with basically all the provinces and territories in Canada, and I’ve had many opportunities for working internationally as well.” Kathleen’s work has taken her to many places: Egypt, Portugal, and South Korea to name a few. “Sometimes my husband could come along on a work trip so we could do some exploring together when I wasn’t working.
“It’s interesting to do work in other countries. The subject matter is the same, but we need to learn how to apply it in different geographic, cultural, social, and political environments.”
Kathleen was no stranger to working virtually before the pandemic, but she notes there are additional challenges to working remotely, and she misses being able to engage with people face-to-face.
Along with traveling for work, Kathleen also enjoys traveling for leisure with her family. We reminisced about some of the trips we’ve already taken and dreamed forward to places we’d still like to go. For Kathleen, one of those next places is Ireland.
Some people tend to not want to engage in leisure activities if they look like their work (for example, one of my friends who is a high-end chef chooses hot dogs from a cart for his dinner because he doesn’t want to cook after being in a kitchen all day). This isn’t the case for Kathleen. Her curiosity through research reaches beyond her work and into her personal life as well.
“I love to spend time researching family history and genealogy and I brought my mom to Ireland before, and we visited the childhood home of her grandfather.
“So far, I have traced our families back to the 1500s.”
Not surprisingly, Kathleen is also a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto where she is studying developmental psychology and education. Specifically, she is examining curriculum in early childhood education.
You’d think there would be no hours left in Kathleen’s days after all that work and study. But she also volunteers as the chair of Cloggeroo: The Island Folk Festival. In 2013, she joined a few other like-minded people to bring Cloggeroo to Kings County in 2014. Now in its ninth year, Cloggeroo is planning an exciting festival for August 2022.
We laughed a little bit about the variety of hats people wear and when I asked Kathleen about whether and how her various parts of herself (policy, education, research, music) are integrated, she said: “We actually have so many transferable skills and it’s really great to put those into action for the festival.”
Like most of us, Kathleen doesn’t show up as compartmentalized versions of herself. “I’ve become the go-to advisor for many of the musicians when it comes to their children.”
Kathleen jokingly said she motioned to her husband, “don’t let me have any more great ideas!”
Everything starts with a good idea and when those ideas are nurtured, there’s no limit on what is possible. Cloggeroo started as a great idea and Kathleen has an infectious drive and passion for supporting great ideas into action.