To Lift Up the Children, Lift Up the Teachers: Creating a High-Quality Early Education Workforce

Jumpstart Alumna Noelle Akousa Dankwa Owusu (left) and Maria Olalde (far right) engage preschool kids in a learning activity. (Photo courtesy of SFSU)

Jumpstart is perhaps best known for the work we do to provide an evidence-based curriculum to help preschoolers in underserved areas across the country enter kindergarten prepared to succeed. But, we also know that the best way to help all children receive high-quality early education is to ensure a high-quality early childhood education (ECE) workforce. Beginning in 2017, Jumpstart expanded our focus on the ECE workforce in two ways: by developing programs that encourage and support our college student volunteers (known as “members”) to enter the teaching profession after graduation and by creating programs to work directly with current early education practitioners to support their work in the classroom.

Jumpstart’s workforce development strategy is guided by one overriding question, “How can we increase equity in early education by strengthening the quality of the ECE workforce in all communities?” Jumpstart works to ensure that children across the country receive the support and resources they need to thrive, while simultaneously providing current and future educators with the tools they’ll need to understand and adapt to a variety of student needs in the classroom.

Jumpstart’s Workforce Flow Model

With more than 4,000 members serving annually, Jumpstart is in a unique position to create a diverse and well-prepared ECE teacher pipeline. Jumpstart’s members come from many backgrounds and are passionate about service to their communities. They understand the importance of high-quality education in breaking the cycle of poverty and achieving educational equity. To support our committed volunteers and the nation’s youngest learners, Jumpstart has developed several programs to support the professional development of members and current educators and to meet the needs of our partners in the community.

Jumpstart’s workforce development programs use research-based best practices to develop effective educators and produce positive child outcomes through direct service in classrooms. These programs create opportunities for experienced educators to provide ongoing support and mentorship to members. Additionally, these programs encourage members to pursue state licenses and certifications and further their education while building relationships with potential employers. To ensure the effectiveness of our programs, Jumpstart implements regular assessments to evaluate the educators’ progress and the impact on the children they serve.

Creating a Pipeline of Early Educators

Jumpstart Alumna Stephanie Estrada working with preschool children. (Photo courtesy SFSU)

This year, Jumpstart took strides to provide educational career development opportunities for our current members and alumni. In addition to the intensive training that is required of all Jumpstart members, we launched a new webinar series in early 2018, to further members’ professional development. The three-part series allowed members to explore career opportunities in social impact, learn more about entering the field of education, and hone their professional skills, such as resume building and networking.

“This series was designed to respond to needs we have heard from our field staff, members, and alumni: primarily, the desire for guidance around breaking into the early education field,” said Atalaya Sergi, Vice President of Strategic Partnerships & Programs. “We wanted to provide information, tools, resources, and guidance on the various pathways to the classroom. We also wanted to raise awareness about careers outside the classroom that still support high-quality early education – things like research, curriculum development, policy, and even positions in finance and human resources.” In this first year, the webinars attracted more than 300 alumni and members, indicating a need for these resources that Jumpstart is excited to continue to provide.

Additionally, Jumpstart regularly features career opportunities on our website, in our monthly Alumni Connection newsletters, and in our quarterly Member Connection newsletters (specifically designed for current Jumpstart members) to highlight job openings with our early education partners such as Bright Horizons, fellowships in early education, and teacher training programs like Urban Teachers and Teach for America.

One of Jumpstart’s core values is learning, and it is one we take seriously. We believe in providing our current members and alumni with the training and resources they need to advance their own careers while they impact the lives of our youngest learners. Jumpstart also engages alumni and current members in opportunities to advocate for early childhood education in their communities, helping to amplify their own experiences to a wider audience. Through advocacy outreach, professional development experiences, and meaningful job opportunities, we are committed to supporting our alumni and members’ ECE and social impact endeavors after their service.

Early Teaching Experience in San Francisco

Christine Nevarez (left), SFSU Jumpstart site manager, and Linda Platas, assistant professor of child and adolescent development at SFSU.

In 2014, Jumpstart began a partnership with San Francisco State University (SFSU) to create the Jumpstart/EDvance Child Adolescent Development (CAD) Early Teaching Experience program to support an ECE workforce pathway for SFSU students pursuing a degree in education. What began as a pilot with six students in 2014 has since grown into a full workforce development program model. As of the summer of 2018, the Jumpstart/EDvance program has engaged 95 future teachers and served over 700 children.

Jumpstart oversees the practicum component of the Jumpstart/EDvance program, providing students with an opportunity to serve in the classroom and gain relevant experience. The program is structured so that students are licensed and ready to serve as assistant teachers by the end of their Jumpstart practicum and as lead teachers after completing the full Jumpstart/EDvance program.

“This partnership grew out of a combined desire between Jumpstart and SFSU, and also through requests from local early education providers,” explains Atalaya Sergi. Early education providers recognized that students who had served in Jumpstart’s traditional model (prior to the formation of the workforce program) were better prepared and more experienced than students who had only completed a senior year practicum, and thus were more effectively serving the children in their classrooms. Knowing that Jumpstart could help to meet this community need, the Jumpstart/EDvance program was born.

In this model, students serve in teams of two and work with a classroom teacher as a mentor. Members receive a supervised, in-depth, hands-on learning experience that pairs their current coursework with direct teaching opportunities and ongoing coaching that prepares them for employment in the community’s early education centers. Students can join staff trainings and meetings at the preschools, which advance their knowledge and skill development while also giving them a deeper understanding of all aspects of working in a school environment. Jumpstart also provides several trainings for the classroom teachers to support their development as mentors and to share resources they can utilize to continue their professional development.

“Having Latino teachers sends a message: it tells the children that they can do it and that it is possible to pursue their dreams.”

Jumpstart Alumna Stephanie Estrada; Photo Credit: Miguel Astudillo

The program at SFSU has done more than provide important training and preparation for future teachers. For former Jumpstart Corps member Stephanie Estrada, it enabled her to become the teacher she wished she had had growing up. “In [school] I did not see myself reflected in any of my teachers, because they were completely differently from me. In college, I took a course on Latinos and the teacher was Hispanic, so I was very reflected in her. I said to myself, maybe I can be a teacher — if she can do it, I can too. Having Latino teachers sends a message: it tells the children that they can do it and that it is possible to pursue their dreams” (Univision Noticias, 2018). Stephanie is thrilled to now teach mostly Latinx students at Mission Community Center and connect with them as a Latina teacher, making them feel comfortable to learn and achieve their goals.

Workforce Pathways in Arizona

Jumpstart Alumna Nancy Macias; Photo Credit: Fernando Hernandez

In 2013, Jumpstart formed the Workforce Pathways program in Maricopa County, Arizona, to support current early educators and their development as teachers. Arizona has one of the lowest degree and credentialing requirements for early childhood educators in the United States with some of the largest classroom sizes (National Institute for Early Education Research, 2017); thus, the need for more professional development was clear. This program provides training in ECE theory and best practices to early educators who have had minimal access to professional development and coaching. In addition to training and support, Jumpstart provides a pathway for these educators to further their education through partnerships with local community colleges, contributing to the professionalization of the early education field in Arizona and providing a model for similar communities across the country. By the end of the 2017-2018 year, the program had engaged nearly 140 teachers serving over 900 children in underserved communities in Maricopa County.

Jumpstart’s Arizona model is special because of the program’s emphasis on continuous learning. Ongoing support can be a crucial ingredient for engaging effective educators. Many of the teachers in the Workforce Pathways program only have a high school diploma or GED and have not had access to a consistently supportive learning environment that sustains the work they do in their own classrooms. Through the Jumpstart program, they are given a space to strengthen their teaching skills, learn more about the academic principles that scaffold the work they do in the classroom, and pursue higher degrees. Maria Mendoza, a recent participant, voiced her hopes to pursue a bachelor’s degree in education after earning her GED while in the program last fall. She was shocked by the support she received from Jumpstart staff and shared her deep appreciation. “Thank you for being my help and my support. I don’t get a lot of that. There are people [in Jumpstart] who care, who want to further my education and who know that there is a future for me.”

Educators in the Workforce Pathways program first receive in-depth training on tools and strategies that they then implement in their own classrooms. Ongoing opportunities for learning and coaching are offered throughout the program. This year, the program grew to include two cohorts, with one group of educators starting in the fall and the second group starting in the spring. The success of the Workforce Pathways program in Arizona has led Jumpstart to look into opportunities for expansion in other areas where teachers do not yet receive high-quality professional development support, with the goal of preparing all early educators for success in the classroom.

Looking Ahead

Jumpstart believes that we are uniquely positioned to make a deep and lasting impact on the field of early childhood education in America. Beginning in the 2018-2019 program year, a new Early Education Fellowship in New York will offer yet another opportunity for Jumpstart to support future educators, and all of this is just the beginning. We are committed to investing in future teachers, current teachers, and early education advocates through innovative, accessible, and supportive workforce development programs. We know that Jumpstart has the experience, partnerships, and national footprint needed to cultivate a pipeline of high-caliber, well-prepared, and diverse early educators and champions of early education, helping to improve early learning experiences for exponentially more children across the country every year.

This story is featured in our 2017-2018 Annual Report.

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