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The need for early childhood education teachers

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On any given weeknight at Pretty Passionate Hands, teen moms Henya’ Patton, 17, and Imari Torain, 16, can expect to learn career development or infant care from the nonprofit catered to teen parents.

Patton gave birth to a baby girl a month ago and has her mother to help her watch the child at home if she needs to step out.

The new mom has been thinking a lot about childcare.

RELATED: Challenges child care and early learning workers face during the pandemic

“I go back to school Feb. 5. They have a daycare where we can bring our kids to school with us, so there’s a possibility that I can take her,” said Patton.

“Then I feel like it’s better for them to go to school early so they can go into the school setting and see how school works, and how to act in school, and stuff like that. I don’t know even remember if my people put me in school early or not.”

Torain’s one-year-old son currently goes to daycare while she is at school. She also has a job with a support system that can watch him after school. She said her mom put her in school early.

“I want my son to start early in school so he can get used to it. I feel like that will be better for his overall growth and development,” said Torain.

Early childhood education

Erin Kissling is the CEO of Early Learning Indiana, which currently operates thirteen early education schools, a majority are in and around Indianapolis.

She said 66% of parents in the state need to find out-of-home care for their children because the adults in the children’s lives are working.

Early Learning Indiana serves children across the state: 45% of the children it serves are Black and or African American; 2% report themselves as Asian or Asian American.

“What we know is happening in a lot of early education classrooms, they’re just not enough early education teachers. This was a problem pre-COVID, but COVID really exacerbated the problem and really highlighted the need for early caregivers,” said Kessling.

“Families don’t have access to the care that they need because we don’t have enough early education teachers in the classrooms to keep them operational.”

She said that the diverse experiences that occur in classroom settings help infants and toddlers build skills before they reach kindergarten.

Early Learning Indiana

The demographics of Early Learning Indiana’s student population and adult population are reflective, and the organization works hard to ensure this balance is maintained so that the children can see themselves in the teachers that are educating them.

“The other thing that we know is that young children learn faster during those first few years of life than they do at any other time. It’s a really pivotal time for brain development. That’s why it is really important to consider where children are spending their time,” said Kessling.

She said early childhood development classrooms are where a child can persist in a task and try to complete a hard task, fail and do it again, which is important for children to experience in the first few years of life.

Early literacy skills for infants and toddlers involve important language milestones that sound a lot like talking.

Math skills entail integrating daily tasks such as counting out slices of apples so they hear and understand the amount of slices being counted for them.

A major priority for Early Learning Indiana is building an effective workforce. The demand for early childhood educators in Indiana is expected to grow 32% between 2017 and 2027; however, the supply of qualified workers will not meet this demand.

The organization is partnering with higher education institutions and other stakeholders to strengthen attraction, preparation and retention of the early learning workforce.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON. 

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