Momentum Builds for Early Childhood in Oregon, Federally: An Interview with Miriam Calderon


by Rafael Otto



On this episode of The Early Link Podcast, host Rafael Otto talks with Miriam Calderon, the Early Learning System director at the Early Learning Division in Oregon’s Department of Education. Miriam has been a long time advocate for early childhood and is leaving Oregon for a new position in the Biden-Harris administration.


Miriam Calderon has been the Early Learning System director overseeing the Early Learning Division in Oregon for the last 4 years. Previously, Calderon has worked on policy at the BUILD initiative and served as a political appointee in the Obama administration. She also served as the director of Early Childhood Education at DC Public Schools, where she oversaw Head Start and pre-kindergarten programs, including helping to implement universal pre-kindergarten in DC.


Miriam discusses her role as Early Learning System director and the vision she has for Oregon’s early childhood system. She also shares the negative impact of undervaluing childcare providers  and describes the tension  that exists between access versus quality, when trying to solve problems in the early childhood field. Looking forward, Miriam explains how we can continue to build the early childhood education system to support children and their families, and the importance of making big, institutional changes over small, program adjustments. Finally, Miriam shares what she is hoping to accomplish at the federal level in her new role in the Biden-Harris administration.


Rafael Otto: [00:00:03] This is the Early Link Podcast. I’m Rafael Otto. As usual, you can catch us on the airwaves on 99.1 FM in Portland on Sundays at 4:30 PM or subscribe and listen, wherever you find your podcasts. Today, I’m talking with Miriam Calderon, who is the Early Learning System Director at the Early Learning Division in Oregon’s Department of Education and has been in that role since 2017. She has been a long time advocate for Early Childhood and has worked on policy at the BUILD initiative and in the Obama administration.
And soon she will be leaving Oregon for an exciting new role in the Biden-Harris administration. Miriam, you’ve been on the podcast before, welcome back. It’s great to have you here. How are you today?

Miriam Calderon: [00:00:45] Thank you, Rafael. I’m really happy to be back. I’m doing okay. It’s my last week at the Early Learning Division, my last week in this role, coming off of my last all staff meeting saying goodbye to many colleagues at ELD. So…

Rafael Otto: [00:00:59] A big week

Miriam Calderon: [00:01:01] It’s emotional. But yeah, a big week.

Rafael Otto: [00:01:03] And you don’t have any time, really. You’re starting.. you’re moving into your new role right away next week.

Miriam Calderon: [00:01:07] Yeah. Start Monday.

Rafael Otto: [00:01:09] Well, I appreciate you carving out some time in your schedule to talk with me today. It’s great to have you back on here. One of the questions that I wanted to ask you is just to kind of look back, if you think about the last four years, and thinking about the development of the Early Learning system in Oregon, and how has that changed and evolved since you started?

Miriam Calderon: [00:01:32] Yeah, that’s a great question, a big question. Um, I guess, I think back to when I was considering whether to take on this role of Early Learning System Director, I was really trying to figure out what was needed at the time from a leader. I consider these positions to be really important.

It’s an honor and a privilege to sit in the seat, to have this responsibility. It’s really important that you’re the right match at the right time. I think it’s about also timing. And, it’s not about, kind of, me necessarily having a job, right? I can go work at many places. It’s what I can contribute.. um, really the right fit for what’s needed kind of at this moment.

So I talked to a lot of folks, folks inside the governor’s office, the Early Learning Council, our chair at the time, particularly Sue Miller – spent a lot of time with her – folks inside the division, advocates… And I had a lot of the same questions, like “What’s the ideal candidate look like?” “What are you looking for in the next Early Learning System Director to bring?

For the full transcript, please download the pdf below.



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