Meet Crystal Elliott O’Connor, Director of the Y’s Early Childhood Demonstration Center

March 15, 2016


Early childhood education veteran Crystal Elliott O'Connor is heading up the YMCA of Metro Chicago's new, cutting-edge Early Childhood Demonstration Center"

The YMCA of Metro Chicago welcomes Crystal Elliott-O’Connor as the director of the new Early Learning Demonstration Center (ELDC). Crystal Elliott-O’Connor has been on the cutting edge of early childhood education since 1990, serving in teaching, administrative and directorship positions at such renowned organizations as Baker Demonstration School and the Dr. Effie O. Ellis YMCA (both teaching labs for National Louis University during Crystal’s tenure), and Family Focus in Evanston. “When I am in the classroom with children, everything comes alive!” Crystal says. “We play, we inquire, we experience, we discover, and we make meaning. THIS is the pinnacle of learning.” Crystal holds a B.A. in English and social sciences and an M.A.T. in early childhood education from National Louis, as well as an Master of Divinity from Northern Theological Seminary.

“Early childhood education is not my job. It is my calling.” Crystal says. Her deep knowledge and leadership experience are a perfect fit for the new demonstration center. The ELDC is intended first and foremost to be a model site for the other YMCA child care centers, where Y teachers can go to learn best practices to replicate at their Y. This standardizes care across the association and makes the Y’s quality and research basis even stronger.

The ELDC is also intended to become a think tank and model site for the larger field of early childhood education. Teachers and practitioners can come to the center and use the observation booths to watch ELDC teachers engage in best practices in daily routines, teacher-child interactions, and other elements of the early childhood classroom.

On the first floor, the center has three classrooms for infants and toddlers (ages 0-3) with space for eight children per classroom; the second floor has three classrooms for preschoolers (ages 3-5) with a space for 20 children per classroom. All classrooms will have three full-time teachers. The ELDC is expected to open in mid-February.