Aug. 28, 2002
<bt>Sterling resident Judith Walters juggled a family, a business and the first year of her associate’s degree and got an extra $300 for the effort.
Walters and two other Sterling residents are the first Loudoun County students to complete one year of the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TEACH)—Virginia program. Walters, Sandra Genthner and Mary Jo Jones, who are all child-care providers, each received a bonus check at a special recognition ceremony on Wednesday.
“It’s a great opportunity for anyone involved with child-care as their career to further their education and [become] a better provider,” said Walters, who operates Judy’s Puddle Jumpers Day-Care out of her home.
TEACH aims to improve the quality of child-care by educating providers and increasing their pay so that they are encouraged to stay in the field. In Virginia, child-care providers typically have no college training and are paid the lowest wages in the country, according to the Action Alliance for Virginia’s Children and Youth, which coordinates the TEACH program. As a result, the turnover of child-care providers averages about 40 percent, according to the Action Alliance.
“The quality of child-care is important because it affects the majority of population in Virginia,” said Rhonda Thomas, program coordinator for TEACH–Virginia, adding that four-fifths of children in the state who are ages 12 and under are in child-care.
TEACH originated in North Carolina in 1990 and is now in 20 states. The Action Alliance for Virginia’s Children and Youth started TEACH in Loudoun County in fall 2001, one year after the program was launched through private funding in Virginia in Roanoke Valley and Hampton Roads. By 2001, the program expanded to Richmond and to Loudoun County. This year, 12 child-care teachers are participating in the program in Loudoun and 150 teachers statewide.
“I want to be the best I can be for these children placed in my care,” Genthner told the Action Alliance.
Through the program, child-care teachers have an opportunity to take college-credit courses and receive wage increases. The program provides 80 percent of tuition and book costs, paid release time from work and a cash bonus, along with encouraging day-care owners to increase the teachers’ compensation and allow them time off to take classes. The child-care teachers are required to work 30 hours a week in a licensed child-care center or as a home provider and take nine to 15 college credit hours a year toward an associate’s degree in early childhood education.
“It motivates them, because we’re helping to professionalize the field,” Thomas said. “They can go to the center and practice what they learned. They take book knowledge and practice it.”
Walters expects the early-childhood-education classes she is taking at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) – Loudoun Campus to give her new ideas for child-care. “It’s good to do things different each year and not to fall in the same routine,” she said.
NOVA, along with four child-care centers and the Loudoun United Way, are in partnership with Action Alliance to provide the program in Loudoun County. The Colis Warner Foundation donated funding to bring the program to Loudoun, and IBM gave the matching funds. TEACH typically involves a partnership among day-care owners, community colleges and universities, businesses and community organizations.
“It’s win-win,” said Andy Johnston, assistant director for community services at Loudoun United Way, which provides leadership for the program. “It’s increasing enrollment at our community college. It’s giving people who want to improve their education an opportunity to do so, and it’s giving children better-trained and better-quality child-care teachers.”