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.”
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.”
Kellie Toney is an early childhood educator in Cleveland County. As a recipient of Child Care WAGE$®, she sent the following letter to her North Carolina legislators:
“I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for your support of the WAGE$ program funded through Smart Start. Without this supplement, I would not have had the opportunity to complete my Bachelor’s degree while working as an assistant teacher with Cleveland County Schools. The checks I have received through this program have [gone] towards my tuition and textbooks. Without this program, I likely would not have been able to get through school without student loans. Thank you so much for supporting this program, which played such a vital role in the completion of my Birth-Kindergarten Education Bachelor’s degree. This program truly helps those of us shaping the youngest minds through private child care and public education.”
Kellie began her career in early
childhood education as an assistant teacher in Head Start. “I love children. I
love to be there for all of the ‘firsts’ in learning. When children arrive in
NC Pre-K and Head Start, most have never been in [child care] or spent very
much time learning. I am there to guide them as they begin to write their name,
interact with peers and explore the world around them,” Kellie said.
After some time, Kellie began
wanting a role where she could plan what to teach the children, so she decided
to go back to school to complete her Birth-Kindergarten Education Bachelor’s
degree from East Carolina University.
With high college tuition,
textbooks and transportation expenses, Kellie’s husband had to work overtime to
help her afford to go back to school. They also took out a home equity line to
pay for some of her classes.
Fortunately, through Child Care Connections and a college instructor from Cleveland Community College, Kellie heard about Child Care Services Association’s Child Care WAGE$® compensation program. “WAGE$ helped me to graduate debt-free. With the help of WAGE$ funds and Education Incentive Grants, I did not ever need to take out student loans. I was able to save these funds and used them to pay for textbooks, coursework and required trips to East Carolina University,” Kellie said, “With the WAGE$ funds, we paid back [our] loans and used the remaining funding to pay for new coursework.”
Kellie felt compelled to contact and thank her legislators for their support of Smart Start, which the Cleveland County Partnership for Children, Inc. used to provide WAGE$. “WAGE$ enabled me to continue my education. This in turn benefits my students because I was equipped with the skills and knowledge to better educate my students… I want to ensure funds are available for [all] teachers.”