T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Arkansas Initiative

Creating a professional, educated and fairly compensated early childhood education workforce

The T.E.A.C.H. (Teacher Education and Compensation Helps) Early Childhood Arkansas Initiative is a national, evidence-based strategy that creates access to higher education for teachers, directors and family child-care providers (early educators) working with young children.  T.E.A.C.H. provides comprehensive scholarships to enable educators to take coursework leading to credentials and degrees by making it possible for them to afford both the time and expense of going to school.  At the same time, T.E.A.C.H. will help leverage the financial resources necessary to provide capacity in higher education to helping individuals attain their educational and career goals.  T.E.A.C.H. is a change agent for the early care and education (ECE) workforce and system.

The T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Arkansas Initiative was developed to upgrade the level of education of teachers working with young children while making the educational process affordable, increasing wages and reducing turnover.  With funds from the Arkansas Department of Human Services, the program is now in Arkansas. The program has had remarkable success. Teachers and their sponsoring centers overwhelmingly support the program in their evaluations.  Teachers typically complete 4-17 credit hours per year and remain in their sponsoring centers, thus reducing turnover.

Any teacher who would like to attend a college to enroll in coursework in Early Childhood Education and who is employed full-time (30 hours/week minimum) in a licensed childcare center or a licensed large family childcare home is eligible to apply for a scholarship.  Scholarships are awarded based on need and commitment to the Early Childhood Education field, as shown through information on the application and availability of funds.

T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Arkansas pays for 90% of tuition and books, provides and $80 travel stipend each semester, reimburses the center for $11 per hour of release time given, provides $450 in bonuses for teachers who complete their contract and provides counseling and administrative support for the program.

Centers must agree to sponsor a scholarship teacher by contributing a portion of the cost of tuition (5%), giving teachers paid release time each week (3-6 hours a week) and agreeing to award the teacher a $300 bonus upon completion of the one-year scholarship contract.  T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Arkansas will reimburse centers for $11 per hour of release time.

To help with their cost of the degree, teachers may also look for additional sources of scholarships and grants, including Pell Grants.  If they are eligible, they may use those funds towards their portion of books/tuition and living expenses.  Teachers may also choose to obtain their CDA credential while working on their Associate degree.  In this case, the T.E.A.C.H. grant will cover 90% of the cost of the CDA assessment.

As scholarship recipients, teachers must attend classes and successfully complete 9-15 semester toward a certificate, diploma or associate degree in early childhood education during the contract year.  Teachers are expected to contribute 5% of the cost of tuition and 10% 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 a bonus.

Profit, not-for-profit, faith-based public and Head Start programs have all sponsored scholarship teachers. Any licensed center or family childcare home in good standing wishing to make a commitment to teacher education and compensation by meeting the terms of the scholarship contract is eligible to sponsor up to two scholarship recipients.

Jeff Dyer

Jeff Dyer

AECA Executive Director and T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Director

Married for almost 30 years to Robin. She is a Physical Therapist. We have 2 kids, both at the University of Arkansas. Drew(son) is a senior and Abby just finished her Freshman year. We have a rescue dog, Wrigley and 2 cats, PJ and Junior.

I just concluded my 30th year in education with the last 8 years at the Arkansas Department of Education, where I coordinated the Teacher Recruitment and Retention programs. During my education career I was also an elementary teacher and principal. I have been involved with Special Olympics for almost 40 years and I have been involved with many other service organizations over the years.

I am very excited to be able to join such an amazing group as we work together to strengthen early childhood education around Arkansas. I am truly humbled with the confidence shown in me by the Board of Directors and can’t wait to get started.

Paul Lazenby

Paul Lazenby

Association Manager & T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood Counselor

Paul earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Arkansas and studied Early Childhood Education at Arkansas State University. From 2003-2009, he served in various positions at the DHS Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education, including Arkansas Better Chance administrator and Assistant Division Director. During this time, the Division oversaw the expansion of the Arkansas Better Chance Pre-K program and the creation of the Better Beginnings Accreditation system. In 2009, he joined Arkansas State University Childhood Services as a project manager and trainer for directors and administrators of early childhood programs. Over the next seven years, Paul worked with programs applying for Better Beginnings to help them strengthen their administrative systems. Since 2016, he has served as Executive Director and Operations Manager with Western Arkansas Child Development, Inc. which operates five early education facilities in western and Northwest Arkansas. Paul has also served as Treasurer of the Arkansas Early Childhood Association.

“Having the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program in Arkansas is the most important milestone in our education history since the creation of the state-funded pre-K program. Educating and training Arkansas’ early childhood workforce is paramount to bring about the sustainable positive change we want to see in children’s lives. And it will bear out what we already know—quality early childhood programs bridge the achievement gap and generate value-added benefits to our state’s economy. I am both humbled and proud to be a part of this momentous next step in early education for Arkansas.”

You can contact me at Paul@arkansasearlychildhood.org

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