“I worked for three years in a classroom as a preschool teacher, and I was good. I could go in a classroom and run it like the back of my hand, but I didn’t have a degree,” said Elizabeth Coakley. Coakley, now the Better Beginnings Coordinator at C.B. King Memorial School in McGehee, is a former T.E.A.C.H. Scholar. “This program changed my life,” she said.
T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps) Early Childhood Scholarship Program is a licensed program of the Arkansas Early Childhood Association. A nationwide initiative, it creates access to higher education for teachers, directors and family child-care providers working in early childhood education.
“T.E.A.C.H. was designed to help those in the early childhood workforce to obtain a higher education degree,” said Paul Lazenby, executive director & T.E.A.C.H. state manager. “It’s unique because it provides more than just money for tuition and fees. The scholarship also includes a stipend for travel and books, along with a comprehensive counseling program.”
According to Lazenby, you can’t talk about education without talking about compensation.
“One of the most important aspects of the T.E.A.C.H. program is that it makes it possible for scholars to afford both the time and expense of going to school,” he said. “We work closely with employers so that scholarship recipients can remain employed fulltime and still earn a paycheck. And we provide a financial bonus once they meet their educational goals so that there is additional incentive to finish.”
As scholarship recipients, teachers must attend classes and successfully complete 9-15 semester hours toward a certificate, credential or degree in early childhood education during the contract year. Teachers are expected to contribute 5% of the cost of tuition and 5% of the cost of books each semester. At the end of the scholarship year, teachers must promise to continue to teach at their sponsoring center for another year in return for the bonus.
“Most people can complete an associate degree in about two years if they attend classes full time. Our students typically have to work full time, and 18 hours a week of classes in addition to their job isn’t possible. It usually takes them closer to three years to finish. But there is no time limit on when you have to complete the program,” said Lazenby. “If you can just take one class at a time, that’s what you do. We want this to be accessible to as many early childhood educators as possible”
The T.E.A.C.H. program is a stair-step process. For each hour of credit you earn, it counts toward the next level if you choose to go further. Teachers can earn a Child Development Associate [CDA] certificate through a 10-13 hour program, an associate degree that takes 60 hours, and some even complete a bachelor degree.
“I love being an early childhood teacher, and I love my job,” said Orlanda DeSaussure. She graduated with her CDA from ASU Beebe. “I am so thankful for the T.E.A.C.H scholarship and for their T.E.A.C.H team. I was so nervous about going back to college, but they were very patient and encouraging to me. They helped me with the financial support to finish my CDA, and it also gave me the confidence to know that I could do it.”
To learn more about the T.E.A.C.H. Program or to sponsor a student, visit arkansasearlychildhood.org/TEACH