Standing Strong Together

ECEBC History

The Early Childhood Educators of British Columbia (ECEBC) is the association of educationally qualified individuals who work with children in early childhood settings in the province of BC. The association was established in 1969 as the British Columbia Preschool Teachers Association (BCPSTA) and changed its name to ECEBC in 1988.

Over the past fifty years, ECEBC has focused much attention on promoting professionalism and improved educational preparation for its members, as well as on the development of professional support and resources to improve the quality of early childhood experiences for the children with whom they work. While ECEBC has worked diligently on behalf of its members, benefits have also extended to everyone working in the early childhood field.

Learn more about our history from inception, through our milestones, achievements and developments that have shaped ECEBC to what it is today.

child playing with a bucket of water outside

Historical Overview

BCPTSA was established in 1969, with its first constitution written and adopted by the membership at its first Annual General Meeting (AGM) on May 23, 1970. The preamble to the Constitution at the time, spelled out the rationale for the formation of the organization and its purposes:

BCPSTA (1969)
In recognizing there are thousands of BC children in preschool and in daycare centres,
In knowing that there are hundreds of teachers involved in teaching these children,
In believing that these teachers of young children need support, encouragement and unification throughout BC,
We hereby seek to build together this Association dedicated to the varying interests of preschool teachers who serve young children and the community in which they live.

In a series of interviews in 1997 of the Association’s past presidents, Joyce Brown (the first president of BCPSTA) told the story of a small group of preschool teachers and daycare workers who came together to both support preschool teachers and to work toward better educational preparation. She described how “children needed something better and teachers needed to know what that ‘better’ was...teachers... were out there working on their own in isolation.” Joyce described how she “...never felt we reached that level of teachers feeling their own professionalism. That just was always a fire in my heart...that this should be a profession because it was such important work!”

One of the earliest issues faced by BCPSTA was the name it had chosen for itself to represent workers in the preschool and daycare system. Both government officials and public school teachers resisted its efforts to call its members “teachers”. Hannah Polowy, the second president of BCPSTA, argued that “people that work with young children whether they are daycare or whatever...they are teachers. They are teaching every minute they are with children!”

Issues that faced later Association presidents and their boards were not unlike the issues faced today. In an article for the provincial government’s magazine People in 1975, Kay Britton (President, 1974 to 1976) stated:

“We are determined that the children entrusted to us shall be housed in quality facilities that meet the children’s and teacher’s needs... We are determined that our salaries shall rise above the poverty level... We are determined that support services for children, parents, and teachers should be available immediately on request. Too many of us have seen one or two years go by with nothing, except the teacher’s efforts, being extended to help and rehabilitate a child in need...”


BCPSTA was an invited contributor to the DACUM (Developing a Curriculum) process in 1978 that resulted in guidelines for our post-secondary early childhood programs.  In 1979, the Association was invited to sit on the newly established Provincial Child Care Facilities Licensing Branch Advisory Committee, and in 1982 on the Early Childhood Education (EC) Articulation Committee.  Shortly thereafter, ECEBC maintained membership on the EC Articulation Committee, had several presidents sit on the Provincial Child Care Council (set up by the provincial government in 1994), and successfully led numerous contracts to research educational needs of practitioners (Blueprint, 1992), revised the ECEBC Code of Ethics (1994), and undertook several projects and contracts between 1989 to 2002 to advance the field’s professional status through self-regulation.  Self-regulation would allow the profession to determine entry requirements to the field and provide direct input into the approval of post-secondary early childhood programs.

ECEBC has held conferences annually since 1970, with the exception of 1984 and 2000.  The first three conferences were held in the Lower Mainland.  Beginning in 1973, with Focus on the Teacher in Kelowna, locations alternated from outlying Branches to the Lower Mainland.  In 1990, Expanding Horizons held at Vancouver’s Westin Bayshore was the start of a new trend.  The numbers of delegates attending conference had grown so quickly that conference facilities outside of the Lower Mainland were unable to provide adequate facilities.  Moreover, ECEBC was becoming increasingly dependent on conference revenue to meet increasing organizational costs.  With the exception of Together:  25 Years of Stories in Whistler in 1995 and Together:  Valuing the Early Years in Victoria in 1998, this trend continued until the early 2000’s.

BCPSTA/ECEBC has been through many changes since its inception in 1969.  Membership has grown from 118 members in its first year to over 500 in 1982.  Membership numbers continued to grow until 1987 when a sudden drop occurred, bringing membership down to 357.  Numbers increased to 2013 under the direction of our first Executive Director Joyce Branscombe in 1996, followed by another slow decline.  Since 2002, membership numbers have hovered between 800 and 1300.  The challenge of membership is thought to be largely the result of the low wages typical of Early Childhood Educator work.   Though every effort is made to keep membership fees low, the challenge continues to be a struggle between keeping fees affordable and meeting the demands of a vital, growing organization.

ECEBC's Historical Timeline

From challenges we've faced to important milestones we've achieved view our history over the past 50 years.


  • ECEBC celebrates 50th anniversary with a National Conference, in partnership with the CCCF.


  • New governance structure and bylaws are introduced by the ECEBC Board of Directors.


  • ECEBC's Leadership Program is introduced as 6 online modules.


  • ECEBC hires the first Membership & Engagement Coordinator Shawn Nygren.


  • Board approves road trips across the province to meet and engage and ECEBC holds first pre-conference Leadership Day.


  • ECEBC establishes ECE Student Bursary through funding from MCFD.


  • The fifth cohort of the Leadership Program begins.
  • An evaluation of the Leadership Initiative is completed and this frames the direction for the program.
  • ECEBC holds its 42nd annual conference, Celebrate the Essence of the Child and Champion a Better Future, in Richmond.
  • Leading up to the provincial election in May 2013, the early care and learning sector and the $10/Day Child Care Plan received much media attention and had a visible impact in provincial party platforms.
  • The $10/Day Child Care Plan has 1.6 million supporters.


  • ECEBC enriches the Best Choices: An Ethical Journey Program by training new guides.
  • The fourth cohort of the Leadership Program begins
  • ECEBC holds its 41st annual conference, Playing it Forward: Discovering the Wonder and Value of Authentic Play, in Richmond
  • ECEBC and its coalition partner, CCCABC, continue outreach work on the Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning


  • The Community Plan for a Public System of Integrated Early Care and Learning is released.
  • ECEBC and its coalition partner, CCCABC, redraft the “Emerging Plan” for release in April 2011
  • The third cohort of the Leadership Program begins
  • ECEBC holds its 40th annual conference, Dedicated to Leading and Creating Change, in Richmond
  • ECEBC’s Board of Directors and Branch Chairs meet in October 2011 to begin work on the creation of a five-year strategic plan to formalize the organization’s goals and anticipated outcomes


  • Sheila Davidson retires in June 2010 and Emily Gawlick becomes ECEBC's new Executive Director in May 2010.
  • ECEBC’s Vision and Mission statements are rewritten and presented at the May 2010 Annual General Meeting
  • The second cohort of the Leadership Program begins.
  • ECEBC’s student bursary program fund is expended, leading to the suspension of the program at the end of the summer, and subsequent negotiation with the Ministry of Children and Family Development for a renewed funding commitment
  • ECEBC works with its provincial partner, the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC (CCCABC), to create and present its joint document “Our Emerging Plan for an Integrated System of Early Care and Learning in BC” to the community at large across the province. The briefings concluded with over 60 presentations held throughout the province to thousands of people, over 5000 briefing plans distributed, the online launch of a webinar, and an online survey provided for community feedback.
  • ECEBC achieves registered charitable status, opening the door to fundraising opportunities for its programs.
  • ECEBC expands its “Associate” membership category to include Assistant ECEs and Family Child Care providers.

2009 & 2008

  • ECEBC celebrates 40th Anniversary (2009).
  • Leadership Initiative is launched with 10 Communities of Innovation. ECE's from around the province are supported and mentored to increase their leadership capacity (2008).


  • ECEBC hires a full-time Executive Director (Sheila Davidson) and Bursary Administrator. Sheila is the first executive director since the financial crisis of 1999.
  • ECEBC receives endowment funding from Vancity Community Foundation in the amount of $85,500.00.
  • ECEBC receives bursary and professional development funding from Vancity Community Foundation in the amount of $45,915.00.
  • ECEBC moves to its own storefront office at 2774 East Broadway in Vancouver.



  • ECEBC is asked by Vancity Community Foundation to administer funding granted from MCFD for an ECE Student Bursary Program ($1.5 million) and professional development ($2 million).
  • The National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention provides ECEBC with funding for the fourth, and most recent, edition of Taking Care.


  • ECEBC receives endowment funding through MCFD in the amount of $2 million to enhance the professionalism of the field.
  • ECEBC’s Board of Directors creates a five-year Strategic Plan to formalize the organization’s goals and anticipated outcomes.


  • Early Childhood Articulation group discuss forming the Early Childhood Instructors Network.
  • ECEBC receives full funding from both the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention for the continuation of the Let’s Talk About Touching program.
  • ECEBC hires a part-time Office Assistant in May 2003.


  • ECEBC is contracted by CCCF to conduct the certification component of the national project, Training for Delivery of Quality ECD Learning and Care Services in Canada: Accessibility, Portability, and Career Advancement.
  • ECEBC holds its 31st Annual Conference, Childhood in the 21st Century, at UBC in Vancouver. The conference is organized on a “break even” budget.


  • Membership increases by 30%.
  • A branch retreat is held in the Lower Mainland for the first time in several years.
  • ECEBC’s application to the Health Professions Council to establish a College of Early Childhood Educators is declined.
  • ECEBC and the Vancouver School Board launch the second edition of Let’s Talk About Touching, a child sexual abuse prevention project, with funding provided by the National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention, BC Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Vancouver Foundation, Vancouver School Board, the Vancouver Police Union Charitable foundation, and the Department of Justice Canada.


  • ECEBC continues to support the application to the Health Professions Council regarding the College of Early Childhood Educators.
  • Membership fees are lowered in an effort to increase membership.
  • ECEBC holds AGM and workshop instead of its annual provincial conference.
  • A part-time office coordinator is hired (a merging of the administrative and executive director positions).


  • ECEBC establishes a volunteer management schedule for the provincial office and begins a comprehensive strategy planning process, including membership consultation.
  • ECEBC faces a financial crisis and is forced to lay off its executive director Joyce Branscombe and staff. The administrator's hours are reduced and most administrative work is done by the Board.
  • President Chris Gay gives her famous "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more" speech on the steps of the Vancouver Art Gallery during the annual conference, protesting not enough action by government.

1998 & 1997

  • Gyda Chud receives the first Gayle Davies award (1998).
  • Membership reaches approximately 2,000 with 27 branches around the province (1997).
  • ECEBC receives funding from the IOF Foresters Prevention of Child Abuse Fund Canada for the third edition of Taking Care (1997).

1995 & 1994

  • ECEBC becomes an affiliate of the Canadian Child Care Federation (1995)
  • ECEBC Code of Ethics is revised. (1994)

1993 & 1992

  • ECEBC receives funding from BC’s Ministry of Women’s Equality to revise its child abuse prevention guide, the resulting publication being Taking Care: A resource Manual for Early Childhood Professionals (1993).
  • The Early Childhood Educator publication achieves journal status (1992).
  • ECEBC hires its first Executive Director, Joyce Branscombe (1992).


  • BCPSTA's name is officially changed to Early Childhood Educators of British Columbia (ECEBC).
  • The first edition of Let’s Talk About Touching (LTAT), a child sexual abuse prevention project, is published.


  • Taking Care’s predecessor, Child Abuse: A Practical Guide for Prevention and Response for Early Childhood Education Centres, is developed and implemented.


Invited to sit on the Early Childhood Education Articulation Committee.

1979 & 1978

  • Invited to sit on the new Provincial Child Care Facilities Licensing Board Advisory Committee (1979).
  • Student Membership Category is Introduced (1979).
  • Invited to contribute to DACUM (Developing A Curriculum) process, resulting in curriculum guidelines for post secondary ECE training programs (1978).


  • Constitution written & adopted by the membership at its first Annual General Meeting (AGM) on May 23, 1970.
  • First Annual Conference Held.


  • BC Preschool Teachers Association (BCPSTA) is established.
  • Joyce Brown becomes the first president of the association.

Past Presidents

Early Childhood Educators of British Columbia (ECEBC) Presidents:

Taya Whitehead (2013 to Present)
Denise Marshall (2010 - 2013)
Vi-Anne Zirnhelt (2008-2010)
Toni Hoyland (2006-2008)
Diane Tannahill (mid-term 2004-2005 to 2006)

Amy Collum (resigned mid-term 2004-2005)
Diane Tannahill (2002-2004)
Linda McDonell (2000-2002)
Chris Gay (1998-2000)

Judy Pollard (1996-1998)
Trudy Norton (1994-1996)
Linda McDonnel (1992-1994)
Sandra Griffin (1990-1992)
Susan Harney (1988-1990)

BC Pre-School Teacher’s Assocation (BCPSTA) Presidents:

Diana (Peggy) McDonald (1984-1988)
Thelma Varcoe (1982-1984)

Rita Oudelaar (1980-1982)
Bridie McIlwraith (1976-1980)
​​​​​​​Kay Britton (1974-1976)

Hannah Polowy (1972-1974)
Joyce Brown (1970-1972)