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Supporting Those Who Teach Our Youngest Children

Photo of a teacher instructing a girl in a preschool classroom.By Shannon Rudisill, Director of Office of Child Care

In September, I had the honor of being a graduation speaker for Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) D.C.  T.E.A.C.H. awards scholarships to early childhood and afterschool teachers, allowing them to pursue associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees in early education. This was D.C.’s largest class ever – 23 students successfully completed their degrees. 

Many of the graduates have overcome obstacles to reach this goal in addition to the daily challenges of working full-time in child care, studying, and caring for their own families. One of my co-speakers was struggling to pay for two of her own children to attend college and wondered how she could ever afford to go back to school herself. That’s where T.E.A.C.H. came in. The scholarship paid for her studies while counselors were available to help her navigate the higher education administration. Her employer offered time off and teamed up with T.E.A.C.H to pay bonuses and raises as she completed her bachelor’s degree.  

Employer support is critical. Martha’s Table Child Development Center for example made a huge commitment to the program – with 20 teachers currently on scholarship. The college instructor actually comes on-site to Martha’s Table to provide the classes. Colleagues support each other through studying and juggling work, school and family responsibilities. 

I was thinking of the TEACH graduation as I read new data from ACF’s National Survey of Early Care and Education. The survey shows that there are about one million teachers and caregivers directly responsible for children age zero through five years in center-based programs, and another one million paid home-based teachers and caregivers, caring for children birth through age five during the most rapid period of brain development. Still, wages are low – around $20,000 per year – and only half of preschool teachers and a third of infant and toddler teachers have a degree. The President’s Early Learning Agenda will invest in this critical group of teachers by offering pay comparable to public school teachers for new Pre-K programs and by raising infant and toddler teachers’ pay in our Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships.

I am proud to say that D.C. T.E.A.C.H.  is funded from the Office of Child Care’s Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), administered in D.C. by the Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Nationally, using CCDF and other funds, 17,432 T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® scholarships were awarded to teachers, directors and family child care providers in 22 states and the District of Columbia in fiscal year 2011-2012. My favorite part of T.E.A.C.H. graduation?  The photo session after the ceremony when a dozen school-age children crowded around with cameras and smartphones to snap graduation photos of their Moms! Leading by example, those teachers are getting their own kids and many others off to a great educational start.

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