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By Allison Miller, VP of Compensation Initiatives at CCSA

When any teacher working with young children graduates with her/his Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, it is cause for celebration. But when three teachers at the same child care program accomplish this at the same time, it is even more special. Yvette Garner, Tiffany Grace Pointer and Priscilla Rowell from Excel Christian Academy (ECA) in Alamance County did just that. They didn’t let financial struggles or the impact of COVID-19 stop them from achieving their educational goals. Congratulations!

All three teachers learned about their passion for early childhood at different points in their lives. Tiffany, for example, started teaching when she was quite young. She remembers lining up her stuffed animals, who were her very first students. They all agree that being able to impact the lives of children, seeing them grow and learn, kept them motivated to continue their education and that having the support of their director was critical to their success.

Yvette shared, “My Director, Davina Woods, and the whole staff at ECA encouraged me to go back to school. They were my support team. When I first started working there, everyone was enrolled in school and taking classes whether they were online or face to face. So, I enrolled at Alamance Community College and started off with one class at a time, until I became more comfortable with it. Their support encouraged me to keep moving forward to success.”

Priscilla said, “Mrs. Woods didn’t stop with just hiring me, she also opened my eyes for me to believe in myself and move toward what I knew I should be doing. At 60 years old, I did it and I am very proud of myself. Who knows what the next move will be?”

They also acknowledge the key roles that the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program and the Child Care WAGE$® Program played in their educational journey.  According to Tiffany, she could not have obtained her degree without the scholarship assistance. “The T.E.A.C.H. scholarship has helped me by paying for my tuition and my books for school. Without them, I do not think I would have been able to get my degree,” said Tiffany.

Priscilla echoed that perspective, “There was a time when my rent was due and I needed to have work done on my car and had to make a choice of which one was more important. They both were and I didn’t know how I was going to make it work. That very day I received a check from T.E.A.C.H. All I can say was what a blessing T.E.A.C.H. was to me while I was in school and then because of me graduating, I was able to get a raise at my job. Thanks T.E.A.C.H!”

All three receive WAGE$ supplements and discuss the importance of this additional compensation. They use the supplements to meet basic needs, to catch up on bills, for car maintenance and to enhance their classrooms. Yvette also pointed out, “WAGE$ was the incentive to encourage me to keep moving forward in my degree, because each bonus I received made up for the hours missed at work.”

When COVID-19 really hit in North Carolina, many students had to make a quick transition from seated to online courses. Yvette was one of those.  She said, “I am excited to say with hard work and dedication, I was able to complete all of my classes and earned my degree.”

Priscilla completed her coursework in December, just prior to these changes. But COVID-19 took away her ability to celebrate like she had planned.  She shared, “If I had known Mrs. Corona was around the corner and was going to stop graduation, I would have celebrated in December. This lady was looking forward and was very proud to strut her stuff across the stage.”

CCSA’s WAGE$ and T.E.A.C.H. are also very proud of Yvette, Tiffany and Priscilla. We celebrate them and all the teachers who persevered through these challenging times to complete their coursework. We congratulate them on their success and thank them for the difference they make in the lives of the children and families they serve.

by Allison Miller, Compensation Initiatives at CCSA, and Tanya Slehria, Communications Intern at CCSA

The world is an uncertain place right now due to the impact of coronavirus (COVID-19). In response to the pandemic, Child Care Services Association (CCSA) launched the COVID-19 Relief Fund in partnership with Smart Start to help child care programs in North Carolina with urgent and long-term expenses during this time. Once the immediate crisis has passed, the fund may shift its focus to helping families pay for child care.

Amidst these unprecedented times, celebration is likely not the first thing on our minds. However, it is more important now than ever to remember the little things. Did you know National Coffee Day will be celebrated in September 2020? Or that National Donut Day is in June? These days, and many others like them, give us an opportunity to celebrate or enjoy these simple pleasures.

So, what is “Worthy Wage Day,” on May 1, 2020?

While early educators do not earn a worthy wage, this day gives us a chance to celebrate the early educators who work with young children and recognize that earning less than $11 per hour is unacceptable. We hope that teachers, families and communities across the country are taking advantage of this special day to raise their voices and say, “Enough is enough.”

Participants of CCSA’s education-based salary supplement programs, the Child Care WAGE$® Program and Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$®, often say they could not survive on their hourly wages alone. One teacher said the supplement is necessary for her to stay in early childhood because she was earning $3 more per hour working in retail. Retail jobs are absolutely important to our economy, especially once we reopen our stores and restaurants, but early childhood teachers are the workforce behind the workforce. We see this especially today as our early childhood educators allow our essential workers to be able to go to work during this health pandemic! They deserve to be compensated based on the value they bring. Not only do they allow parents to go to their jobs, but they also build the brains of our youngest children, children who will become citizens, leaders, future parents.

Child care is the backbone of our nation’s economy

The importance of early childhood educators cannot be overstated. The reasons they earn so little are complicated, but basically, parents simply cannot afford the cost of quality care, and without an external source of funding, such as public funding, teacher pay remains low. However, as science continues to illustrate the critical need for educated, stable early childhood teachers, there is hope that the field’s compensation will become front and center as future budget decisions are made. And as COVID-19 continues to spread, as we are experiencing now what the early childhood field has always known – child care is the backbone of our nation’s economy.

What does the research show?

We all know that positive early experiences are the building blocks of brain development and that our early childhood workforce is a critical component of this construction process. Stable and engaging relationships between young children and the adults in their lives can have a lifelong impact. As brain builders, early educators need scaffolding such as quality education, opportunities for professional development and fair compensation. With appropriate support, the early childhood workforce can provide the experiences necessary to build trust and promote learning.

To have quality care for children, teachers must be fairly compensated. A worthy wage would be a wage that acknowledges and celebrates their importance for growth and development in young children and allows them to stay in early childhood as a financially competitive profession. The supplements WAGE$ and AWARD$ offer are designed to recognize their retention and education and help address the salary gap.

Participants and employers know firsthand the importance of these incentives. One director said, “Child care teachers are not paid what they are worth. Therefore, centers have a great deal of turnover. The majority of my staff have been with me for years and I am very proud of that; WAGE$ helps them tremendously with that.”

These supplements would not be possible without the ongoing commitment and funding from local Smart Start partnerships that choose to invest in WAGE$, and the NC Division of Child Development (DCDEE). DCDEE provides funding to help support the administration of Child Care WAGE$® and is the sole funder for Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$®.

As one AWARD$ recipient said to DCDEE, “Thank you so much for seeing us for what we’re worth and helping take some financial stress off our plates. I truly feel well taken care of and appreciate the much-needed funds.”

Make it a priority

Teachers are worthy of fair compensation. It isn’t a question. On Worthy Wage Day, especially during the time of COVID-19, make it a priority to share your appreciation with teachers and to say to anyone who will listen that “enough is enough.”

How can you help?

Learn more about how you can help early childhood educators to either continue offering quality care to the children of essential workers or to reopen once it’s safe to, and to get the tools and resources they need during this challenging time.

If you are an early childhood provider

We are especially interested in your comments about how COVID-19 has affected you. You can submit stories of hopeful moments or have the chance to vent challenges by emailing us here.

By Allison Miller, CCSA Compensation Initiatives Team

When Davina Woods was asked how she became interested in early childhood, she said, “I entered the profession as an undercover helicopter mom! I had just placed my son in child care and I couldn’t stand not being there and seeing what and how he was doing.”

Her child’s center hired her as a part-time school-age group leader before she eventually found her calling with young children and their teachers. 

She started with no education and now she is in the master’s program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with the assistance of a T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® scholarship. After 25 years in the field, she loves her position as director of Excel Christian Academy, a five-star child care center in Alamance County, where she has been for 13 years.

“It has been a privilege to work in every single aspect of child care,” Davina said. “In every classroom, with every age group, in every position. I have fulfilled every duty from cook to van driver and it gives me perspective and appreciation. I love this viewpoint. I get the luxury of working with children, families and teachers.” 

Davina’s center prioritizes its teachers by providing a livable wage as well as other key benefits, which she knows most teachers are unable to access in this field. “And then they get WAGE$ and T.E.A.C.H. on top of that,” she said.

The Child Care WAGE$® (WAGE$) Program provides education-based salary supplements to low-paid teachers, directors and family child care providers working with children between the ages of birth to five. The program is designed to provide preschool children more stable relationships with better-educated teachers by rewarding teacher education and continuity of care.

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship (T.E.A.C.H.) Program addresses under-education, poor compensation and high turnover within the early childhood workforce by providing educational scholarships to early care professionals and those who perform specialized functions in the early care system.

“WAGE$ and T.E.A.C.H. are just part of who we are, part of the center’s make-up,” Davina said. “It is essential, imperative, to have an educated staff, especially here in the 21st century where children are not changing but the modes and methods of educating children are constantly evolving. Teachers must know best practices and know how to utilize the latest research and incorporate that into classrooms for the best outcomes for children.”

According to Davina, “WAGE$ is essential because it helps to boost teacher morale within the program. WAGE$ both encourages and motivates staff to increase their education. Additionally, WAGE$ provides a sense of healthy competition among team members as they see who can achieve the next level first.”

She said, “My teachers talk about the courses they take and they drive each other.” Three of her staff will graduate in December with their associate degree in early childhood education and they remind Davina of why she does what she does. “If I take great care of my team, they will take great care of the children.”

Thank you, Davina, for your support of the workforce and the Child Care WAGE$® Program.

Learn more about the Child Care WAGE$® Program here.

Learn more about the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship (T.E.A.C.H.) Program here.

Julie Delair

Julie Delair has operated her family child care home in Brunswick County since 2008. “I always remember thinking this was going to be my career. I always wanted to work with children,” she said.

She joined the Child Care WAGE$® Program at the entry-level of education, which at the time was six semester hours of early childhood coursework. She moved up the WAGE$ scale, earning higher awards each time, and now has her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. Getting her degree, though, was not easy, which is the case for many in the field who have the interest, but are faced with a variety of challenges.

Julie said that she had started college but life got in the way and she was unable to continue until she learned about the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program. “I had the interest, just not the funding. I couldn’t have done it otherwise. WAGE$ also prompted that educational movement because I saw what I could receive if I got my degree. The incentive was there.” 

Getting her associate degree made her realize how much there was to learn. She loved learning and bringing that back to her class. It kept her fresh and she wanted to keep going.

She saw how much her education had impacted her teaching. “Going to classes gave me so many more ideas of working with children, what was developmentally appropriate [and] how to work with families. It expanded my knowledge in all areas. It definitely made me more confident, more professional. WAGE$ does that, too. It recognizes that early childhood is important to children, families and the community. We feel appreciated. People know it is important.”

Julie uses the WAGE$ funds in many ways, including to support her business. She provides new materials, toys and even playground equipment for the children she teaches, which she says they really love. “I often have them when they are very young until they go to kindergarten, so having new things really matters. I think the Child Care WAGE$® Program is very important, especially as an incentive to keep educators in the field. I have had my family child care home for over ten years and I credit the WAGE$ Program with my eagerness and even the ability to continue operating. The supplemental income allows me to provide quality care to the children, and I’m so grateful for it.”

Learn more about the Child Care WAGE$® Program here.

Learn more about the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program here.

By Tanya Slehria, Communications Intern at CCSA

As a teaching professional, Chatiba Bullock truly values her education and credits her continuous path to being a lifelong learner. “In order for me to motivate my teachers and team members, it’s important for them to see me working,” said Chatiba.

Chatiba works as Education Manager for Durham Head Start/Early Head Start while also furthering her early childhood development degree. She first began as an assistant teacher, quickly moved up to lead teacher and went on further to serve in the leadership position of center director.

Chatiba is also a Child Care WAGE$® recipient. “I really like WAGE$ because it gives you an incentive to keep learning,” she said. “The WAGE$ program really was [integral] in motivating me as an educator to want more and better myself.”

“I received an associates in early childhood education from Durham Tech Community College in 2005 and I went on to North Carolina Central University where I received my bachelor’s in family and consumer sciences with a concentration in child development in 2008,” Chatiba said. She didn’t stop there. “I received my Master’s in education in 2014 from Ashford University and then received some post-graduate certifications from Walden University in teacher leadership and childhood administration.

It wasn’t always Chatiba’s plan to work in early childhood education. Out of high school, she began as a business major. “It wasn’t until in ‘99, I started working at the Early Learning Center through the YMCA, they had their own child care center and I took on a part-time job as a floater, and I loved early childhood education,” Chatiba said.

While there, Chatiba realized something. “Working with kids and going to school for business, it just didn’t mesh. I like working with kids and I need to learn more about children,” she said.

“[My favorite part of being an educator is] the correlation between children and families. I think it’s actually working with children and families to help them understand the importance of education and how they can foster that love at home with their kids,” said Chatiba.

Her teaching style is shaped by “letting [the children] be the teacher and I’m the facilitator. I like to build lessons when I’m in the classroom. I’m not in the classroom as much anymore, but when I’m helping teachers understand their teaching style, my teaching style basically is the child’s interests and helping teachers facilitate that in their classroom,” said Chatiba.

By Tanya Slehria, Spring Communications Intern at CCSA

Tracy Pace’s favorite part of being an early childhood educator is “being there, being able to be an advocate for [children’s] success and being willing to listen and try to help parents reach out, find the resources [they need] and gain new skills.”

Tracy wears many hats in her role as a lead teacher at Nanna’s & Momma’s Child Care Center in Pisgah Forest, North Carolina. “And my title kind of switches from day-to-day,” Tracy said. “It depends. I’m a very flexible person, but the majority of my time is used either as teaching in a classroom or in the office as an executive assistant.” 

After high school, Tracy said, “I decided to get married instead of go to school…my husband and I were married for 5 years and our first child came along…We didn’t want them to do the same thing we’ve done. We wanted [them] to try to be smarter than that. So, we both had enrolled in school…Our second child came along and I just piddled here and there and did a class. So, it took me 26 years to get my associate’s degree and I’ve just done that this July [2019]” from Blue Ridge Community College.

Tracy’s educational journey may be filled with twists and turns, yet her commitment to education and early childhood education has remained consistent throughout her 30-plus years in the field. While working toward her degree, she was still supporting her family of four children as well. 

After graduating, Tracy enrolled in Brevard College. It was through her persistence and encouragement that they began offering a birth-to-kindergarten program and an education program for students to receive teaching licenses. She continued to pave her own path, and as she told Brevard, “I’d love to [enroll with] the T.E.A.C.H. Scholarship.” At the time, Brevard was not participating with CCSA’s T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program, but Tracy’s determination led them to offer the scholarship. “So, in 10 classes, I’ll have my Bachelor’s degree,” Tracy said.

Tracy’s involvement with T.E.A.C.H. began with her work at Nanna’s & Momma’s where she became a Child Care WAGE$® recipient. At the time, she was her mother’s full-time caregiver, a full-time student, a full-time employee and a full-time mother. She credits her ability to keep up with it all to the WAGE$ supplement.

“The [WAGE$] supplement has allowed me not to have [a second job] and to help me manage all these other different things, as first of all, a wife and mother, and second of all, someone who wants to give back to their community. Without [WAGE$], it wouldn’t have been possible,” said Tracy. 

Tracy is as dedicated a teacher as she is a student. Her goal has always been to teach. Teaching “fits my family’s needs,” said Tracy.

Before her time in the classroom, Tracy worked as the assistant director for the Brevard Davidson River Presbyterian Church and was involved with various organizations. Her position helped her form a network of connections that serve as a benefit to her current role as an educator. “I think community resources is my biggest strength—those connections outside of this job and those I made before I got into this current job,” said Tracy. “I know people to call by name at the Social Services office. I would say that’s one of the biggest things for teachers, in general, is being able to know and have a list of those resources and know people by name.” 

Tracy attributes her teaching style to her community. “I’ve grown a lot and become a lot more flexible as I understand and continue to try to edge out a living in the community that I’ve worked and raised my kids in and [one that] they would love to come back to,” she said. She also credits her passion for reading, “which has given me an understanding and [ability to find] solutions, or things I can try, and that not all kids are the same.”

“We know everything we need to know before we’re age 5. That’s the point and most people miss that. They think we’re not anything until we’re 5 and go to kindergarten, but every child learns all their coping skills, their ability to receive and give information before the age of 5,” said Tracy.

Ellen Devenny

Ellen Devenny (right) at her graduation in May 2019.

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 teacher.”

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.”

Learn more about Child Care WAGE$® here.

Learn more about T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarships here.

Maria Milla

 “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.” 

Naukisha Wray-Darity

“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. 

“It gives them hope.”

By 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?

Early education workforce initiatives in North Carolina such as the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Scholarship Program, the Child Care WAGE$® and the Infant-Toddler Educator AWARD$ salary supplement programs and NAEYC’s Power to the Profession are aimed at professionalizing the early care and education field so its members receive the respect, recognition and compensation they so rightly deserve.

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