A New Name for a New Reality: The Ounce is Now Start Early Read More

Early childhood professionals participating in leadership development program

The Essential Fellowship

Powerful. Prioritizing. Proven.
An intensive curriculum for responsive leadership.

We believe leaders are the essential starting point for building strong early childhood programs. That’s why we created The Essential Fellowship (formerly known as Lead Learn Excel) as an individualized, immersive training experience just for early education leaders.

The Essential Fellowship is different from other leadership programs. We teach leaders how to facilitate the three cycles of team collaboration that research proves are most critical to achieve positive child outcomes, build committed staff, and create a thriving culture:

  • How to excite teams about working with data
  • How to build trust and solve problems in collaborative peer settings
  • How to support effective team lesson planning

The best part? Once these cycles become team habits, leaders can use them to solve any problem of practice. Invest in a leader today; inspire your entire program for years to come.

I want to practice my new way of coaching immediately! The wealth of knowledge I’ve received from (The Essential Fellowship) has me excited about the rest of the school year and any challenge ahead.

Fellowship participant
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The Details

What does The Essential Fellowship include?

The Fellowship is a year-long intensive program featuring dedicated implementation support for both administrators and participants. The Fellowship includes:


  • Session 1: Foundations of Instructional Leadership
    Understanding The Start Early Essentials, the leadership role, job-embedded professional development
  • Session 2: Data
    Using tools and collaboration strategies to analyze data, designing small targeted actions for improvement
  • Session 3: Team Lesson Planning
    Equity through ambitious instruction, intentional lesson planning, creating supportive learning environments, building home-school partnerships
  • Session 4: Collaborative Groups
    Creating and facilitating peer learning communities (format, facilitation, planning and reflection)

Implementation Support

  • Technical Assistance Calls for Administrators
    Start Early provides full implementation support to system leaders, from development of a unique fellowship implementation plan through ongoing progress updates that ensure the fellowship continues to address program-wide needs.
  • Monthly Technical Assistance Calls for Fellowship participants
    Participants meet virtually with Start Early practice consultants each month for individualized technical assistance. Over time, participants learn to apply the tools and approaches learned in the fellowship to any problem of practice within their early childhood program.
  • Virtual Peer Learning Communities
    Participants engage in monthly online peer learning communities facilitated by Start Early practice consultants, where they experience the same peer collaboration they will teach to their teams.
  • Virtual Alumni Resources
    Alumni receive Quarterly Implementation Tip Sheets and membership in the Alumni Peer Learning Community – providing free 90-minute interactive webinars facilitated by Start Early practice consultants and designed to support transfer of fellowship learning to practice.

The Essential Fellowship’s year-long Train-the-Trainer program, facilitated by a Start Early practice consultant, builds internal training capacity by preparing professional development staff to facilitate The Essential Fellowship across early childhood systems. It culminates in organization and trainer certification and includes:


  • Sessions
    Sessions cover the core content of The Essential Fellowship and strengthen participants’ facilitation skills with adult learners. Topics include Foundations, Data Dialogues, Team Lesson Planning, Collaborative Groups, and Skill-Building.
  • Teachback Practice
    Teachback Practice Sessions, with real-time Start Early practice consultant evaluation and peer feedback, are integrated into training. Skill-building teachbacks are designed to build confidence in participants, allowing them to adapt the content to their own personal training style with individualized guidance from Start Early practice consultants.
  • Resource Library
    Participants also will have access to a library of trainer resources designed to support these sessions.

Implementation Support

  • Technical Assistance Calls for Buyers
    Start Early provides full implementation support to system leaders, from development of a unique train-the-trainer fellowship implementation plan through ongoing progress updates that ensure the train-the-trainer program continues to address program-wide needs.
  • Monthly Technical Assistance Calls for TTT Participants
    Participants receive monthly technical assistance from Start Early practice consultants to support their work supporting leaders within their system. Calls are a time to reinforce session content and are tailored to meet the needs of each individual participant.
  • On-Site Observation of a Trainer-Led Session
    At the culmination of the Train-the-Trainer program, a Start Early practice consultant conducts one on-site observation of an Essential Fellowship training session led by newly-authorized trainers. This training may be led by one or multiple trainers who have completed the Train-the-Trainer course.
  • Online Peer Learning Communities
    All program participants have access to an online community of practice for in-training and authorized trainers.
  • Coming Soon – Video Evaluation of Newly-Authorized Essential Fellowship Trainers
    As part of their training, within six months of Train-the-Trainer course completion participants will video-record a 30-minute session that they facilitate within their program and submit to their Start Early practice consultant for evaluation and feedback.

The timeline for The Essential Fellowship’s Train-the-Trainer program can be customized based on individual customer’s needs and capacity. Certifications are renewed annually and include training replacement trainers, technical assistance, and observation.

Rooted in Research

The Fellowship is a research-based professional development approach grounded in implementation and improvement science.

The curriculum for leaders is competency-based to align with state and national standards.

The approach to improvement is structured around The Start Early Essentials — an evidence-based framework of essential conditions that, when strong, most directly impact children’s long-term success.

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