Dr. Libby Dogget visits ARS


Sherri Greenberg, Director of the Center for Politics and Governance, moderates the ‘Early Childhood Education’ panel featuring Libby Doggett, Carol Shattuck, San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, and U.S. Rep. Gene Green at The Texas Tribune Festival on Sep. 28, 2013. (Photo by Bob Daemmrich)

Willa Smith and George Oldham

Dr. Libby Dogget, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Early Learning at the U.S. Department of Education, visited Ann Richards in the morning on Monday, November 24th. She delivered a short speech to the all-school assembly before going on a tour guided by students. Later she met with Ann Richards administration and board members. Although not unique among the many educators and government officials to visit the school, Dogget is different in the way that she deals with the youngest children out there.

“At the Department of Education if you want to know anything about a child 0 to age 5, I’m the one you’d get referred to. So, I oversee all the policy, as well as the team, as well as the programs that have to do with infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers,” said Doggett.

Despite Dogget’s current success working under the Obama administration, she didn’t always know that early childhood education was the right place for her. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of college when it dawned on her.

“I was sitting in the dorm on my bed at UT in the middle of finals my senior year and I realized that what I was really interested in was young children. I was a good student, a very serious student, and somehow the idea of young children when I was in college didn’t seem serious enough and so, it wasn’t until I was a senior when I realized this is what I wanted to devote my life to.”

After graduating with a masters in Curriculum Instruction from UT, Dogget taught bilingual 1st grade at Ortega Elementary in Austin, TX. Later, she moved on to special education in order to better help kids in need prepare for school. Today, she looks back on her years as a teacher fondly.

“I miss being a teacher everyday,” said Dogget in regards to her past profession. “I loved being a teacher. Every Fall I kind of get… teacher envy. I think about going into the classroom and welcoming a whole new class– I like to see people grow and develop. Being a teacher is such a rewarding field. I wish it had more status in our country.”

Since then, Dogget has been the director of the HeadsUp! Reading Program and Pre-K Now. There, she helped young students develop a love for learning earlier by getting them into Pre-K and introducing reading as part of the primary care of young children. Her work with early childhood education has never stopped, and she continues to be fueled by its lack of affordability and widespread access.

“If you get children off to a great start they do better in school and in life. That’s what the research said. Its also economically smart- there is a better pay-off. You put the money in and teach a child a skill, they then use that skill to learn other skills. You know, its hard to learn something when you start way behind,” said Dogget. “Its underfunded and it needs help, and I feel like I’m someone who can really move the agenda in that area.”

As Dogget moves forward in her new role, she plans to continue work on Obama’s Pre-School For All program. She is currently working on combining Early Head Start and ChildCare in a partnership. She is also working on the Pre-school Development Grants, which help states set up public pre-schools.