Faces of CNM: Natane Lim

Natane helped build and now runs an extensive network that supports new and veteran early childhood educators
August 02, 2021

When you ask Natane Lim why she dedicated her career to early childhood education her answer is powerful and straightforward.

“Early childhood is a foundational age when kids develop incredibly important building blocks,” she says. “That and I love being around children. It’s amazing to watch how quickly they develop. One month they’re struggling with a skill and by the next month they’re experts.”

Natane has taught in public school settings, private centers and in CNM’s Early Childhood Education Program. She also runs a kids’ dance studio with her husband, and has a family of her own. Currently, she works as the Program Manager for the statewide Early Childhood Mentor Network. Early childhood is defined as birth to 5-years-old, and educators in this field work in a variety of school settings including private and public daycares, Head Start, and Pre-K.

The network pairs veteran early childhood educators with students doing their practicums or recent graduates who are entering the field. Over 100 early childhood educators currently participate as mentors across the state, and they work with students from CNM, University of New Mexico-Taos, New Mexico State University, San Juan College, Western New Mexico University, and Santa Fe Community College. The network also plans to add more partner schools soon. 

The point of the network, says Natane, is to build a support system for both the incoming and veteran teachers. New teachers get to learn from those who have experience so when they enter their own classroom they’re more prepared. As a result of the mentor program, Natane says they’ve already seen much higher retention rates among early childhood educators.

The mentors also benefit from the network. They’re paid a stipend for the time they spend with mentees, get to participate in a variety of professional development programs, and have been able to build a strong community network. 

Case in point: during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Natane says she was worried the Mentor Network would lose members because early childhood educators were on the front lines and facing a lot of stress. But the opposite happened. The Network grew and strengthened because it provided the educators with a space to find connection and community. 

“I was really scared that people would check out and not stay with us because they didn’t need one more thing on their plate, But we found that the network actually created a sense of normalcy for educators and gave them a space to let out a bit of their stress,” she says. 

Natane says it’s been great to be based at CNM because the college has always supported her work and the network itself. Going forward, she says the sky's the limit. She wants to find new ways to expand the network, and also wants to improve how the network supports both new and veteran teachers.

“We’re excited about the work we’re doing, but we also have plenty of room to grow. I definitely want to find new ways to support diverse communities. I want to work more with educators of color and definitely want to strengthen our connection with educators on the pueblos, the Navajo Nation, and tribes across New Mexico,” she says. “And we also really want to grow our support for infant and toddler teachers. As the pandemic has demonstrated, our early childhood teachers are absolutely essential.”