Kate Zinsser

Kate Zinsser

Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois at Chicago
Chapter Member: Chicagoland SSN
Areas of Expertise:

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About Kate

Zinsser's research focuses on the quality of early childhood environments, especially the ways by which adults promote young children's social and emotional competences and well-being. Her work examines early childhood teacher-child interactions, classroom processes, instruction quality and emotion socialization practices that promote children's social success, positive development, and achievement. Zinsser is especially interested in studying systems and policies that impact young children's learning (e.g. recent preschool expulsion legislation, child care providers' workplace experiences and well-being, and equity and inclusion in quality care). She is a former post-doctoral fellow of the National Academy of Education and Associate Editor of Early Education & Development.

In the News

Opinion: "Kate Zinsser: It’s Time for Congress To Fix Our Broken Child Care System," Kate Zinsser, Chicago Tribune, March 7, 2022.


"She's Supporting Them; Who's Supporting Her? Preschool Center-Level Social-Emotional Supports and Teacher Well-Being" (with Claire G. Christensen and Luz Torres). Journal of School Psychology 59 (2016): 55-66.

Uses data from a nationally representative study of Head Start students and teachers. Identifies critical child-level resources program directors can implement that additionally benefit teacher mental health and job satisfaction.

"The Emotional Basis of Learning and Development in Early Childhood Education" (with Susanne A. Denham and Chavaughn A. Brown), in Handbook of Research on the Education of Young Children, edited by Olivia N. Saracho and Bernard Spodek (Routledge, 2013), 67-89.

Summarizes the evidence of the importance of promoting young children's emotional competence in order to ensure both their later academic and social success. 

"Understanding Preschool Teachers' Emotional Support as a Function of Center Climate" (with timothy W. Curby). SAGE Open Journal 4, no. 4 (2014).

Indicates that a teacher's ability to support children's emotional development were differentially predicted by characteristics of the center and the director, including prior teacher turnover rate and director job satisfaction. Shows that highly regulated indicators of center quality (e.g. student:teacher ratio) did not substantially explain emotional support. 

"Early Childhood Teachers as Socializers of Young Children's Emotional Competence" (with Susanne Denham and Hideko Hamada Bassett). Early Childhood Education Journal 40 (2012): 137-143.

Summarizes the critical role that early childhood educators play in supporting young children's social-emotional growth.

"Utilizing Social-Emotional Learning Supports to Address Teacher Stress and Preschool Expulsion" (with Courtney A. Zulauf, Vinoadharen Nair Das, and H. Callie Silver). Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology (2017).

Discusses how preschoolers are being expelled at an alarmingly high rate and indicates that Chicago teachers' requests to expel a child are highly dependent on their own levels of stress. Shows that although resources, such as social-emotional learning supports can help reduce expulsions, they only work if they address teachers' experiences of stress a work.