Blog

By Jennifer Gioia, CCSA Communications Manager

Joe Coffey

Joe Coffey will earn his Master’s in Education (M.Ed.) from UNC-Wilmington next spring, and because of the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) Early Childhood® Scholarship program, he will do so debt-free. T.E.A.C.H. provides educational scholarships to early care professionals and those who perform specialized functions in the early care system.

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

Kimberly Bynum

Kimberly 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 gratifying.

“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.”

To continue supporting the operations of Child Care Services Association and crucial programs such as T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®️ Scholarship North Carolina, please consider donating today.

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 2015 Working 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

(From left to right) Chenille Coston, teacher at Little Engine Academy, and Kathy Smith, owner of Little Engine Academy, hold up their outdoor learning environment blueprints from Shape NC.

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.

Shape NC

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 the Durham 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 NOW! Your gift to fund Shape NC workshops and events in Durham, N.C. will be matched 100% through a Social Innovation Fund Grant.

Jennifer Gioia, Communications Manager of Child Care Services Association

Carolina Demography Releases Info about North Carolina’s Leaky Education Pipeline, T.E.A.C.H. NC Can Help to Seal the Gaps

Carolina Demography at the Carolina Population Center at UNC-Chapel Hill has been slowly trickling information about North Carolina’s Leaky Education Pipeline since last month. Robert Kinlaw at EdNC writes, “Most people in North Carolina don’t have any education beyond high school. That’s a big problem for the state’s workforce. If we think about the path to higher education as a pipeline, we can find the ‘leaks’ where students often fall out of their journey to a degree or credential.”

“The fastest-growing sectors of North Carolina’s economy demand employees with increasingly higher levels of educational attainment. By 2020, an estimated 67% of all jobs in North Carolina will require some education and training beyond high school. Today, 47% of North Carolina’s 5.3 million working-age adults (25-64 years old) have a postsecondary degree or nondegree credential,” writes Rebecca Tippett, Director of the Carolina Demography, and Jessica Stanford, Demographic Analyst of the Carolina Demography.

“Educational attainment is part of a decades-long process. It is the sum of educational experiences and exposures that begin at birth and continue well into adulthood. Overall pipeline completion—measured here as the timely completion of a postsecondary degree—is the cumulative result of success across multiple transition points in K-12 and postsecondary. Each transition point offers an opportunity for intervention to improve educational outcomes for individuals and North Carolina as a whole” (North Carolina’s Education Pipeline).

Tippett and Stanford suggest “Students currently in the state’s K-12 system represent the largest potential opportunity for North Carolina to move towards 60%” by 2030. However, let us not forget the largest potential opportunity for North Carolina is also in its youngest children—birth-5 years old—and those in the early childhood care and education workforce.

Potential in North Carolina’s Birth-5 Years Old

In many important ways, our preschool years determine our future competitive role in the global economy, the public safety of our communities, the cost-effective investment of public and private dollars and the success of welfare reform. Current research has shown that the early years (ages birth-5) are the most sensitive for brain development. More than 90% of brain growth occurs during this period. The people who help care for a child are also those who help shape a child’s mind. Studies show that children who receive quality child care enter school with better math, language and social skills. These skills give children a good start to succeed in school and in life.

To ensure North Carolina’s youngest children have access to affordable, high-quality child care, we must also focus on the teachers and providers who care for and educate birth-5 year olds. For many educators, barriers such as low wages, having children of their own, working full time and/or being a person of color stand in the way of furthering their education. “If we are to meet the demands of tomorrow’s job market, all North Carolinians must be able to realize the promise of education, particularly nontraditional students, minority and low-income students, rural students, and others who are disproportionately affected by challenges associated with postsecondary access and completion” (Tippett and Stanford).

Potential in North Carolina’s Early Childhood Workforce

The Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (T.E.A.C.H.) Early Childhood® North Carolina Scholarship program takes on the issues facing many early childhood educators—under-education, low compensation and high turnover rates—by offering professional development opportunities for early childhood educators in North Carolina. As they complete coursework along a degree pathway, participants increase their marketability in the early childhood education system and experience incremental growth in their wages as well.

Nearly 49% of teachers working toward a bachelor’s degree through T.E.A.C.H. NC said they were not considering furthering their education before they heard about T.E.A.C.H. In fiscal year 2018, T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipients were enrolled in 55 of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges, as well as in 12 state-supported universities and four private colleges. T.E.A.C.H. NC scholarships give them significant financial support and an experienced counselor to help them navigate the obstacles they may face in their personal life, career or in the higher education system.

“A highly trained workforce is a key driver of economic growth. Employers are drawn to regions where they can easily hire and retain skilled employees, and communities benefit substantially when new industries move to town or existing companies grow. More-educated workers are less likely to be unemployed and more likely to earn higher family-supporting wages. In addition, increased educational attainment is a powerful predictor of adult well-being, including better physical and mental health outcomes, more stable relationships, and greater civic knowledge and engagement. Adults’ educational attainment is also a key predictor of their children’s own level of education and wages” (Tippett and Stanford).

T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipients represent the ethnic diversity of the children in North Carolina. Compared to 47% of the early care and education workforce statewide, nearly 50% of T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipients are people of color. Recognizing the diverse educational backgrounds of the early childhood workforce, T.E.A.C.H. NC offers scholarship programs ranging from those appropriate for early childhood educators with no formal education beyond high school to scholarships that help degreed teachers earn their Birth-Kindergarten License or an Early Childhood Leadership Master’s Degree.

Since 2011, just over 37% of T.E.A.C.H. NC Associate Degree recipients are first generation students, meaning they do not have a parent or sibling who has attended college. Of those first generation students 58.5% came to T.E.A.C.H. with only a HS diploma/GED and 75.5% indicated their educational goal was to complete a degree. Since 2011, 33.3% of Bachelor Degree recipients are first generation students and of those first generation students, 93% indicated their educational goal was to complete a Bachelor or higher degree. From 2016-2018, 43% of associate in applied science degrees (specifically in early childhood education) and 66% of bachelor of arts degrees of T.E.A.C.H. NC recipients were first generation students.

In fiscal year 2018, 2,106 people participated in T.E.A.C.H. NC, with 141 associates degree graduates (up from 77 in fiscal year 2017), 32 bachelor’s degree graduates (up from 25 in fiscal year 2017) and 17 master’s in education degree graduates. Those educators completed nearly 13,000 credit hours at 71 higher education institutions, and ultimately, the end goal—improving the education and care they give children—was served for more than 57,543 children in North Carolina.

Just as Tippett and Stanford said, “Rather than rely on attracting highly educated individuals from other states and countries to increase our state’s attainment, we can strengthen our ability to cultivate our own talent,” and T.E.A.C.H. NC helps to cultivate talent among North Carolinians from birth-5 and in the early childhood education workforce.

About T.E.A.C.H. NC:

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® North Carolina Scholarship Program is an umbrella for a variety of different scholarship programs for those working in the early education field in North Carolina. Based on the partnership principle that requires support from the employing sponsoring program, T.E.A.C.H. scholarships are configured with five essential components: scholarship, education, compensation, commitment and counseling support. The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® North Carolina Scholarship program is offered statewide and partners with the state’s higher education system to provide educational scholarship opportunities for early educators including those teaching in NCPK classrooms and infant toddler educators caring for children ages 0-2  in licensed facilities. Additionally, unique scholarship programs are available for system specialists within the early care and education system. Typically, comprehensive, core scholarships provide significant financial  support for the following costs: in-state tuition, books, travel and if applicable, release time. Most importantly, all comprehensive scholarships mandate an award incentive for participants who successfully complete an annually specified number of semester credits. The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® North Carolina Scholarship program is administered by Child Care Services Association. For more information, visit www.childcareservices.org/teach-nc.

About Child Care Services Association:

Founded in 1974, Child Care Services Association’s mission is to ensure affordable, accessible, high-quality child care for all young children and their families. Using a holistic approach, Child Care Services Association (CCSA) supports children and families, helps child care professionals improve the quality of early education children receive and ensures that all families can afford and access the high-quality early care and education that is so important for a child’s early development. Through its Meal Services Program, CCSA also provides nutritious meals to children at child care centers, where they may eat 50-100 percent of their meals. Our T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood®, Child Care WAGE$® and Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$® programs give child care professionals the means to obtain an education and supplement their salary based on that education. CCSA also licenses T.E.A.C.H. and WAGE$ across the U.S. and conducts early childhood systems research and policy development statewide and nationally. For more information, visit www.childcareservices.org.

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