“I had to work when I was 15 years old,” said WAGE$ participant Maria Milla. “My country, Honduras, is very difficult, very poor. I had to move to a bigger city and live with relatives to be able to study. I wanted to be a teacher, but that required day classes. I had to work during the day, so I studied something else, but my dream was always to be a teacher. When I played school as I child, I was always the teacher!” Maria’s dream came true when she moved to the United States.
Maria answered an advertisement for a child care center substitute and started learning about children, but she quickly realized how much more she needed and wanted to know. She kept working, took English (ESL) classes and then began her early childhood coursework. Maria started on the Child Care WAGE$® Program with the NC Early Childhood Credential (four semester hours) and now has her Birth-Kindergarten Bachelor’s Degree. She has moved up the WAGE$ scale many times, earning higher awards, and has remained at her current 5-star program since 2005. She is now only two classes away from earning her Birth to Kindergarten license.
Maria knows how much her education and consistency mean for the children and families she serves.
“I feel like the more education we have, the better we can do,” she said. “We learn about development and how we can help children grow and learn.”
The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Program helped her pay for classes; she says she couldn’t have done it otherwise. She’s proud of earning her degree, and she says WAGE$ helped her attain that goal.
“It helped with the financial component of taking classes. WAGE$ is a good motivator. I’m very thankful for all that WAGE$ and my partnership do with this incentive. I love my job and I’m happy, but I don’t make much money and this incentive helps a lot of us stay in our jobs. WAGE$ helps everybody. It helps children have the same teachers. Children feel safe, secure and happier. It helps parents feel more trust. They can leave their child with someone who has been there a long time rather than someone who comes and goes. It helps families because we don’t have to charge them more than they can pay. It helps the teachers a lot.”
Maria joked that despite her years of education in the United States, her English continues to improve with the help of the children in her class.
“I tell them to let me know if I say something wrong. They do! They correct me!” Laughing, Maria said, “Teaching is my passion. I want to stay in the classroom.”
Tomonica Rice-Yarborough and Kathy Thornton from
CCSA’s Professional Development Initiatives Team
World Teacher’s Day was established
in 1994 to recognize and celebrate teachers all over the world for their
hard work and dedication. It also brings to light the issues affecting the
profession to work toward a resolution for retaining and attracting teachers to
the field. This day was founded to celebrate public school teachers, but early care educators also should be recognized on this
day because they’re instrumental to the growth and development of our children.
Their contributions to society’s economic stability should be valued,
recognized and celebrated.
One of the main issues facing early care educators is the little
recognition or validation they receive for the pivotal roles they play in the
lives and development of young children. As a field, early educators in North
Carolina often hold degrees, but they earn significantly less than public school
teachers. According to CCSA’s 2015 North Carolina Child Care Workforce Study, the median wage of center directors in North Carolina was
$16.00 per hour, while teachers earned $10.97 per hour and assistant teachers
earned $9.97 per hour.
Although degree attainment has drastically increased in North Carolina, the field as a whole still suffers from being perceived as a high priced “babysitting service.” For 30 years, the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program has provided the workforce with access to a debt-free college education while they work as low wage earners teaching future doctors, lawyers, teachers, administrative assistants, scientists…
Our brains grow
faster between the ages of birth and 3 than any other time in our life.
Children who are formally cared for in early education settings outside of
their homes depend on the early educator to support their developmental growth.
Those years are particularly formative, making the role of the early educator
even more critical. According to philosopher John Locke, “a child’s mind is a
blank slate waiting to be filled with knowledge.” Early educators play a big
part in setting the foundation for our children’s future.
On Sept. 4, 2019, Australia celebrated Early Childhood Educators’ Day to honor and appreciate early childhood educators. The world, like Australia, should have a day set aside to recognize early childhood educators. Sadly, early childhood educators are seldom during the World Teacher’s Day observance. This lends credence to the perception that early childhood education isn’t seen as a worthy profession. Why can’t we dedicate a day of observance to them?
Joe has had the desire to teach and engage families and children for 18 years serving as a preschool teacher, kindergarten teacher, public school administrator and training and technical assistance specialist. Now, while he pursues his M.Ed., he is the Child Care Resource & Referral (CCR&R) Program Director for Onslow County Partnership for Children in North Carolina.
“I am a true believer in lifelong learning. I also feel it is our responsibility to model life-long learning for those that we serve,” Joe said. “I originally became familiar with the T.E.A.C.H. program when I was completing my associate’s degree. Fellow students shared the information with me.”
What is T.E.A.C.H.?
In 1990, Child Care Services Association
(CCSA) created the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship program
to address the issues of under-education, poor compensation and high turnover
in the early childhood workforce. In 2000, the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®
National Center was established in response to the growth and expansion of the
T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship. The T.E.A.C.H. Early
Childhood® National Center is now offered in 22 states plus D.C. and
has awarded over 150,000 scholarships since its opening.
T.E.A.C.H. is an umbrella for a variety of scholarship programs for those working in early education in North Carolina. Because of the complexities of the different scholarships, each recipient is assigned a specific scholarship counselor.
T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship Counselors
Bynum, who has been with CCSA for 22 years, is the program manager for
T.E.A.C.H. North Carolina. One of her main duties is to provide counseling to
graduate-level scholarship recipients like Joe. Those counselors are the reason
Joe can say, “The process has been easy to use and to understand.”
“Joe is a great recipient to work with,”
Kimberly said. “There’s not a lot of hand holding to do with him. He’s really
proactive, but if there is ever anything missing, like when we do check-ins
with our recipients several times throughout the semester, he’s very responsive
to getting me what I need.”
Counselors play a vital role for T.E.A.C.H.
scholarship recipients, helping them navigate through the many obstacles they
may face while furthering their education.
“I do the same thing for Joe as I do for all
my recipients. I make sure if they’re enrolled in school, we have the documents
we need to go ahead and pay for their tuition upfront, because we don’t want
anybody dropped…I usually go through and look at all my recipients, including
Joe, to make sure we sent in the authorization to the colleges and
universities,” said Kimberly.
And because of T.E.A.C.H., Joe will be able to graduate with his M.Ed. debt-free.
“T.E.A.C.H. has made it possible for me to
continually build on my education from an Associate’s in Applied Science to a
Master’s in Education without incurring a huge amount of student debt,” said
Joe. “Early childhood education is a field in which the professionals are often
underpaid and are themselves lacking resources. T.E.A.C.H. provides an avenue
to advance education and careers while helping to avoid massive student debt.”
Kimberly finds her part in that process
“What I really enjoy most about my position is…developing that one-on-one relationship [with the recipients],” she said. “It really just brings it all together when you’re at a conference or…attending graduations and you get to meet that person face-to-face…Especially at graduation, it makes you feel really proud, because you work with these people for so long, so they made it and they’re done.”
The Economic Impact of T.E.A.C.H.
Kimberly is also proud that T.E.A.C.H. has a wide reach that goes well beyond the scholarship recipient after graduation.
“We are empowering these scholarship
recipients to [earn] more education, which in turn, they bring back into their
facility, they’re better equipped to teach the children and then the children
are ready for school when they start kindergarten.”
Once recipients complete their degree, they increase their marketability in the early childhood education system and may experience growth in their wages as well. In 2018, associate degree scholarship program recipients experienced an 11% increase in their earnings, with a low turnover rate of 8%.
“In addition, it’s increasing the star rating
level as far as education goes for those facilities they’re employed in, making
them more attractive to families, so increasing business that way,” Kimberly
said. “Also, what [T.E.A.C.H.] does in the community…is increase the student
enrollment in early childhood education departments [at participating
universities and colleges]. So by T.E.A.C.H. sponsoring students at these
universities and colleges, there is a positive economic impact on the North
Carolina college system.”