As the early childhood field continues to struggle with turnover, largely due to low compensation, it is refreshing to hear Julie Keffer talk about working with her current five-star child care program since 1997. She loves teaching and says that her coworkers are like family, and it also helps that she has been on the Child Care WAGE$® Program since 1999. She talks about how she moved up the WAGE$ scale as she increased her education, and said, “When I got up to $1,000, I was able to purchase my first car!”
Julie wasn’t planning to be an early educator, but as she says, some of the best things in life are not planned. She started out as a Head Start volunteer when she enrolled her son and eventually became a full-time teacher. She realized that she had a knack for creating activities for children and decided she wanted to build upon those talents. She changed from studying psychology to early childhood and pursued her associate degree coursework at night.
She said, “My two young sons cried when I went to school at night, but I wanted to show them that I was doing it for them, to give us a better life. It was so important to me that they saw me graduate, and they did! It showed them that they could set goals and achieve them, and they’ve now done that too.”
Not only did her dedication provide an important model for her children, but her coursework has given her a better understanding of child development. She’s proud of the years of service she has provided to children and families. “It is a great feeling when children I taught in Head Start still remember me as adults. They friend me on Facebook!” Her goal is to pursue her four-year degree and she is determined to complete it.
As a long-time early childhood teacher, Julie appreciates what WAGE$ has meant to her life. She said, “WAGE$ has been a life saver a lot of times. It has helped me buy a car, a washer and dryer, spend time with family and pay bills.” It has also supported her longevity in the field. According to Julie, “WAGE$ has made me feel appreciated and valued. When you feel valued, you want to stay. It is important to value dedicated teachers who want to learn all they can. I never want to stop learning.”