Graduating During COVID-19 Takes Dedication and Support

When any teacher working with young children graduates with her/his Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, it is cause for celebration. But when three teachers at the same child care program accomplish this at the same time, it is even more special. Yvette Garner, Tiffany Grace Pointer and Priscilla Rowell from Excel Christian Academy (ECA) in Alamance County did just that. They didn’t let financial struggles or the impact of COVID-19 stop them from achieving their educational goals. Congratulations!

All three teachers learned about their passion for early childhood at different points in their lives. Tiffany, for example, started teaching when she was quite young. She remembers lining up her stuffed animals, who were her very first students. They all agree that being able to impact the lives of children, seeing them grow and learn, kept them motivated to continue their education and that having the support of their director was critical to their success.

Yvette shared, “My Director, Davina Woods, and the whole staff at ECA encouraged me to go back to school. They were my support team. When I first started working there, everyone was enrolled in school and taking classes whether they were online or face to face. So, I enrolled at Alamance Community College and started off with one class at a time, until I became more comfortable with it. Their support encouraged me to keep moving forward to success.”

Priscilla said, “Mrs. Woods didn’t stop with just hiring me, she also opened my eyes for me to believe in myself and move toward what I knew I should be doing. At 60 years old, I did it and I am very proud of myself. Who knows what the next move will be?”

They also acknowledge the key roles that the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program and the Child Care WAGE$® Program played in their educational journey.  According to Tiffany, she could not have obtained her degree without the scholarship assistance. “The T.E.A.C.H. scholarship has helped me by paying for my tuition and my books for school. Without them, I do not think I would have been able to get my degree,” said Tiffany.

Priscilla echoed that perspective, “There was a time when my rent was due and I needed to have work done on my car and had to make a choice of which one was more important. They both were and I didn’t know how I was going to make it work. That very day I received a check from T.E.A.C.H. All I can say was what a blessing T.E.A.C.H. was to me while I was in school and then because of me graduating, I was able to get a raise at my job. Thanks T.E.A.C.H!”

All three receive WAGE$ supplements and discuss the importance of this additional compensation. They use the supplements to meet basic needs, to catch up on bills, for car maintenance and to enhance their classrooms. Yvette also pointed out, “WAGE$ was the incentive to encourage me to keep moving forward in my degree, because each bonus I received made up for the hours missed at work.”

When COVID-19 really hit in North Carolina, many students had to make a quick transition from seated to online courses. Yvette was one of those.  She said, “I am excited to say with hard work and dedication, I was able to complete all of my classes and earned my degree.”

Priscilla completed her coursework in December, just prior to these changes. But COVID-19 took away her ability to celebrate like she had planned.  She shared, “If I had known Mrs. Corona was around the corner and was going to stop graduation, I would have celebrated in December. This lady was looking forward and was very proud to strut her stuff across the stage.”

CCSA’s WAGE$ and T.E.A.C.H. are also very proud of Yvette, Tiffany and Priscilla. We celebrate them and all the teachers who persevered through these challenging times to complete their coursework. We congratulate them on their success and thank them for the difference they make in the lives of the children and families they serve.