Saviors of the Community: Early Childhood Educators and HBCUs Go Hand-in-Hand
It’s a vicious cycle: High-need schools are frequently in need of quality teachers, yet they often struggle to recruit, retain and develop the teachers that come through their doors. Frequent staff turnover leaves underserved schools with a lack of educators who can invest themselves in the school’s continued growth from year to year. This is where HBCUs come in: according to this study, HBCUs are “uniquely qualified” to address these issues, as many make a focus on training their teachers for high-need schools and by serving as a support system amidst challenges.
Perhaps you remember a particularly influential teacher from your years in kindergarten or elementary school. Maybe you recognize our education system’s shortcomings and want to change the way it engages with communities of color. Either way, you have the motivation that it takes to become an early childhood educator. If you’re good at speaking in front of groups, yet you’re an excellent listener; if you’re well-organized and good at planning in advance; and if you truly believe that a good education can change a child’s life, you bring much-needed qualities to the table. Today’s students create tomorrow’s society. Your role and your visibility both make a difference.
There is no shortage of opportunities for you to explore the field of early childhood education and get a better idea of what your future career could look like. Observe, volunteer or eventually, student teach in classrooms in your community. Make an effort to talk to the teachers you meet about their career path—most will be thrilled to talk to you.
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In high school and college, learn a second language if you can. As the United States becomes more of a melting pot of many cultures from around the globe and as a teacher, learning another language can help you be more relatable to your students and the changing demographics of our country. As you’re searching for colleges, check with the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (CHEA) to see if your favorite school is certified. While narrowing down your list of prospective schools, contact the education department at your college and ask: What percentage of graduates pass the state licensing test? And what percentage get jobs right after graduation? This will provide you with evidence of how effectively each college or university develops and supports its students.
Two especially excellent choices for future educators are UNCF (United Negro College Fund)-member HBCUs Claflin University and Spelman College, both of which are CHEA certified. Claflin’s early childhood education major prepares students to be involved in any facet of the field, whether that be a career in teaching or in curriculum development, educational consulting or social services. The early childhood education major at Spelman leads to certification and prepares students to teach at any level from preschool to fifth grade.
UNCF believes in supporting our future educators, and we put those words into action through the Walton-UNCF K-12 Education Fellowship Program which, through internships, career coaching and networking opportunities, ushers graduates onto their career path with a built-in support system.
Alongside scholarship opportunities, UNCF posts stories of the educators who came before you and the positive impact they’ve made on their communities. To continue to learn and grow your teaching aspirations, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We believe that you can be the teacher that students remember with fondness for years to come. The people and communities you can influence are countless and lasts for decades.
Sekou Biddle is UNCF’s vice president for K-12 advocacy.