Determined. Dedicated. Committed. Those are just a few words that describe Child Care WAGE$® participant, Ellen Devenny. Ellen works as an assistant teacher at a five-star private NC Pre-K center in Gaston County and just graduated in May 2019 with an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education with a 4.0 GPA. She walked across the stage at age 62.
Ellen was 50
years old when she started work on her degree. She said, “It has taken me a
long time, but I remained determined to see it through to completion. I would
not have been able to have done this without the support of programs like
T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$. Because of my education, I feel more confident as a
Ellen’s passion for her career and the children in her care is clear. “My favorite thing about working with young children is… everything! It is rewarding to see how they grow and learn new things during the school year. I love to see the child that struggled with feelings of insecurity walk away at the end of the year full of confidence. I love seeing children with special needs accomplish things that other children take for granted. I love working with children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and learning from each. This year, we have families representing China, Pakistan, Jordan, India, Columbia and Mexico. How can I not love working with young children?”
Fortunately for the children in her center, Ellen plans to remain in the field for as long as she can. “I began working with children in 1974, and that desire to continue has remained strong.”
“I don’t always look back at my own journey. Doing so lets me know I’ve been through a lot and I made it. I’m still making it. I’ll have my Bachelor’s degree soon!” Naukisha Wray-Darity is now back in school after many years without the financial means to do so. She had exhausted her pell grant and federal funding on past education and her center was not originally participating in the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program because they did not fully understand how cost-effective it could be. Things are different now.
Naukisha teaches in the center her sister owns. Her sister tried to convince Naukisha to join her in the early childhood field when she first opened her program, but it wasn’t until after Naukisha had her son that she realized she had a gift. She created learning tools for him and her nephew and was helping them both learn through play. She decided she could help other children, too. She started working in the afterschool program and then became the full-time teacher for 3- and 4-year olds. “I fell in love with it,” she said.
Although Naukisha had already earned a two-year degree in another field, her success working with children made her want to share and learn more, so she completed her associate degree in Early Childhood Education and enough coursework to earn additional degrees, including an associate in Special Education. But that wasn’t enough. “I preach to my children all the time about the importance of college and degrees, and I wanted to meet the same standard I was setting for them.” The problem was finding the money to do it once her other options were exhausted. She said, “We really didn’t understand T.E.A.C.H. – what the percentages meant.” After talking with another participating center, they decided to give it a try.
Now Naukisha is on a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship and she continues to receive her Child Care WAGE$® supplements. She has been on WAGE$ since 2009, with ever-increasing supplement awards that reflected her ongoing education. “WAGE$ has helped me want to continue on with school,” Naukisha shared. “As a single mom at the time, my checks have helped me pay for child care and feed my kids. It helped me pay for books and classes. I don’t know what it hasn’t helped me do! Without WAGE$, it would be hard to stay in the business even though I love it. It has saved me from leaving the industry. I remember when my boys were starting school one year and I didn’t have the funds to buy what they needed. I had no idea how I was going to get through it. That Saturday, the WAGE$ check came. It was like Christmas because I could make sure my children had what they needed. They didn’t understand how hard things were for me.”
Naukisha uses her story to provide encouragement to other teachers in her child care program.
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.”
Written by Edith Locke, CCSA Professional Development Team
The month of May signals the season for commencement
exercises at colleges and universities nationwide. As students walk proudly across
the stage in cap and gown, triumphantly moving the tassel on their mortarboard to
symbolize academic achievement, it is important to recognize degree attainment
roadblocks that the early care and education (ECE) field face.
Why are early educators more deserving of special acknowledgment for degree completion than other non-traditional, working students?
First, one should consider the shared traits of this workforce with college non-completers. The ECE workforce, much like the college non-completer, typically has dependent children, low income, works full-time, attends college part-time and is financially independent from parents.
Despite how closely they mirror college non-completers, degree attainment is not impossible. The 2015Working in Early Care and Education in North Carolina Study reported 63 percent of teachers had a college degree. Additionally, 17 percent of teachers were taking courses in the ECE field with 60 percent of them working towards an associate or bachelor’s degree.
Unfortunately, degree attainment rarely means significant compensation
gains. The median wage for ECE teachers was $10.46 compared to $17.61 starting
wage of public school teachers in North Carolina. Additionally, over 70 percent of the
workforce’s household income was below the $46,784 North Carolina median
household income. Moreover, 39 percent of teachers received some public
assistance in the previous three years.
It is commendable the ECE workforce makes educational advancements despite challenges.
Workforce supports, such as the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® scholarship and Child Care WAGE$® salary supplement programs that help early educators access formal education and reward their retention, are crucial. Research shows degrees are linked to quality care, and maternal education has been linked to better child outcomes. Therefore, support for degree attainment in the ECE field should remain a priority.
Written by Kayli Watson, Spring 2019 Communications Intern from UNC Chapel Hill
Health experts have always stressed eating healthy and being active. Instilling these values at an early age can be the first steps for a longer, healthier life for children. Children enrolled in child care may consume between 50 percent and 100 percent of their Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) while in care. Child care programs have a chance to provide the foundation for a healthy life, in terms of food consumption and levels of activity. Child Care Services Association (CCSA) has worked to create programs to help early care centers in multiple ways, including healthy eating and active play.
CCSA implemented Shape NC to increase the number of children starting kindergarten at a healthy weight. The project promotes healthy eating and active play for children from birth-5 years old by working with child care programs to instill healthy behaviors and create a solid foundation for a healthy life. Shape NC integrates multiple research-based models to provide an in-depth approach to childhood obesity prevention. It combines evidence-based programs to create a comprehensive approach in partnership with the following statewide programs: Be Active Kids®, Preventing Obesity by Design and the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care (Go NAP SACC).
Little Engine Academy in Durham, N.C.
Like other centers, Little Engine Academy benefits from several of CCSA’s programs, including Shape NC. Kathy Smith, the center’s owner, shared how she became involved in early childhood education and created Little Engine Academy. “It was something I always wanted to do,” Smith said, “The previous owners contacted me to say that they were closing and to see if I was interested, and I jumped on the bandwagon thinking it would probably take a month to open. It actually took about three months.” While Kathy has been managing Little Engine Academy since November 2008, the center has only been involved in Shape NC for a year.
Little Engine Academy is also working to add more healthy meals to their menus through various programs. “We like to talk to the kids about what they eat, explain where the food came from and why they should be eating it,” Smith said.
Outdoor Learning Environment
For Smith and the children at Little Engine Academy, one of the most exciting aspects of Shape NC is re-building their outdoor learning environment. “We’re part of the natural learning initiative,” Smith explained, “We’re super excited! That’s one of the things about being part of Shape NC [that is exciting as it] is helping us get to have what is called an outdoor learning environment versus a playground.”
The outdoor area is a space for children to strengthen their cognitive, social and emotional development through playing games with other kids in an environment in which they can explore and learn. Additionally, outdoor play helps kids’ physical fitness as well as sensory skills. Little Engine Academy is excited to create an area for their kids to not only learn and explore but garden and learn exactly how food is grown. Now in its second year, Shape NC will help create these spaces for child care centers through funding and fundraising opportunities in its third year.
CCSA’s Other Resources for Little Engine Academy
Shape NC is not the only resource Little Engine Academy has used from CCSA. Chenille Coston, a teacher at Little Engine Academy, is also participating in a T.E.A.C.H. NC Early Childhood Scholarship as she works to obtain her master’s degree. There also employees who have received wage supplements from the Child Care WAGE$®️ Program. Both Coston and Smith talk about the value of professional development opportunities they have attended. “For me, it’s been really awesome. It’s always good to learn more and they provide a lot of new information for us,” Smith said, “We’ve actually incorporated a lot of things they’ve given us.”
“The trainings [have] provided new strategies that we’ve been able to use in the classroom,” Coston said as she explained a recent strategy they have incorporated to teach the kids movement. The center also participates in CCSA child care scholarships that make attending Little Engine Academy more affordable for parents.
The Future at Little Engine Academy with Shape NC
Parents will continue to be more involved with Little Engine Academy as the school gets closer to its third year of participating in Shape NC. Little Engine Academy is looking for volunteers to help remove playground equipment to make room for the new outdoor learning environment, which they will start fundraising for this summer.
If you’re interested in volunteering with Little Engine Academy to remove their playground equipment contact Jennifer Gioia at 919-967-3272.
CCSA is hosting Shape NC activities this Earth Day Festival Sunday, April 28 from 12 – 5 p.m. at theDurham City Earth Day Festival. Stop by Durham Central Park, 501 Foster St. to enjoy all day performances and tons of fun activities. Learn more here.
Learn more about Shape NC here or call us at 919-967-3272 for more information about the program.
To support the Shape NC project, click here and DONATE
Your gift to fund Shape NC workshops and events in Durham, N.C. will be matched
100% through a Social Innovation Fund Grant.
Marsha Basloe, President of Child Care Services Association
When businesses consider expansion or relocation, they look for thriving communities with a strong social infrastructure that promotes a good quality of life. A key component of this social infrastructure is early care and education. Research tells us that high quality early learning opportunities both foster children’s development and facilitate parents’ employment.
But “social infrastructure” is a rather technical term for what we know is most important to child development and long-term child and family outcomes – relationships are the key! A child’s first relationships and interactions with family members and early educators are the most critical in supporting healthy development.
It follows then that the backbone of quality early education is a stable, qualified and compensated early childhood workforce. Those first caregiving relationships with early educators provide the foundation for healthy development through nurturing, early learning opportunities and partnership and communication with families.
The recently released 2018 Early Childhood Workforce Index provides a snapshot of early childhood workforce conditions. According to this Index, for the 36,550 members of the early childhood teaching workforce statewide, North Carolina is making progress in some areas like educational supports, compensation and data but is stalled in others such as work environments and family and income supports.
Child care workforce compensation and lack of supports barriers to quality
In contrast to what we know about the vital role of early educators in fostering early learning and development, they are woefully underpaid and these positions are in fact considered ‘low wage’ jobs. In 2017, the median hourly wage for child care professionals in North Carolina was $9.86. Early educators often do not earn enough to meet their basic needs and teachers of infants and toddlers are the most likely to be in economic distress. This is in direct opposition with what we know about the first three years of brain development and the part early educators have in fostering this growth.
In North Carolina, strategies have been developed by Child Care Services Association (CCSA) to increase the education and compensation of early educators and reduce turnover in the child care workforce. The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program provides comprehensive educational scholarships that link the completion of formal education to compensation increases and the Child Care WAGE$® Program offers salary supplements based on level of education. Results of these strategies include increased workforce retention, increased education levels and improved capacity to deliver high quality care. In response to the disparities for early educators teaching the youngest children, CCSA will have the opportunity to administer a new statewide salary supplement initiative from the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) that will support full-time infant and toddler teachers in increasing their earnings based on education.
Families struggle with access to early education
A comprehensive early education system with qualified teachers is one part of the equation but families must be able to access this child care and right now affordability is a significant barrier for many families. According to the 2018 Early Childhood Workforce Index, North Carolina is ‘stalled’ in the areas of Family Income Supports and Health and Well-being. The Index notes the absence of the following in North Carolina: a higher than federal minimum wage indexed for inflation, paid sick days law, paid family leave law and expanded Medicaid eligibility.
Without these critical family supports or a publicly funded early childhood education system for children birth to five in place, low and middle-income families face difficulty affording high quality child care. The high cost of early education can force families to make tradeoffs that impact their economic security and/or welfare of their children. In addition, child care costs may contribute to decision making about whether or not to have children and family size. In a New York Times released survey, young adults identified child care costs as one of the main factors in having fewer children than they considered ideal.
While North Carolina has invested in its early childhood system and workforce, and has several national program models to show for it, there is much still to be done to adequately support early educators and families. We need to do more to enhance our programs and policies to ensure there is a robust, highly educated and appropriately compensated early childhood workforce and early childhood system birth to five for all families to utilize. Investments in early education will foster individual and family well-being and ensure communities are prepared for business growth.