Joan Ershler, PhD

Waisman Center
University of Wisconsin-Madison
1500 Highland Ave
Madison, WI 53705-2280
Phone: 608-262-4718
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Last Updated: December 12, 2016

Joan Ershler

Project/Program/Clinic Contacts: Waisman Early Childhood Program
Discipline(s): Education: Early Intervention/Early Childhood
AUCD Council Membership: No Council Membership
Research: The Waisman Center's Early Childhood program was recently awarded a Wisconsin Idea Grant from the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Endowment. Joan Ershler, PhD, with the Waisman Center and Carol Keintz with the Dane County Parent Council will lead the project, named Teachers TeachingTeachers. State records indicate that only about half of all Head Start teachers have an early childhood degree, yet they work with a highly needy population. This project will use a professional development model that will pair experienced staff from the Waisman Center?s Early Childhood Program with teachers from Dane County Head Start. WECP staff will provide an intensive mentoring program, working side-by-side with Head Start teachers in their classrooms helping them with strategies to facilitate classroom management, children?s self-regulation and positive social interaction. Designed as a three-year project, it is intended also to train Head Start teachers to be mentors themselves to other teachers so that the program may extend beyond the funding period.


I have a long-standing interest in young children?s development and learning, and ways in which we can facilitate both in children with varying abilities, especially through play-based strategies in inclusive programs. My career has included teaching young children with special needs; teaching at the university level; providing pre-professional training in early childhood education; and consulting with Head Start programs. Since 1992, I have been the director of the Waisman Early Childhood Program, an inclusive program for approximately 90 children, a third of who have a developmental disability or special education need. In addition to direct services to children and families, we provide training opportunities for university students, a setting for research, and consultation services to community early childhood programs. We are also in the process of developing several new programs: a play-based intervention program for young children who have difficulty with social interactions, and a mentoring program for teachers working in Head Start classrooms.