Delaware recognizes standout early childhood teachers

 Early childhood educator Tina Edwards (center) poses with Governor Jack Markell (left). (Avi Wolfman-Arent, NewsWorks/WHYY)

Early childhood educator Tina Edwards (center) poses with Governor Jack Markell (left). (Avi Wolfman-Arent, NewsWorks/WHYY)

Delaware officials honored recipients of a scholarship Tuesday that subsidizes college costs for early childhood educators.

Governor Jack Markell and Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky were among those on hand to celebrate more than 200 educators who received a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship in 2015. The awards cover 85 percent of tuition and 90 percent of book costs for those seeking an associate or bachelor’s degree. The program started in North Carolina in 1990 and now offers scholarships in 24 states and the District of Columbia. Delaware first jumped aboard in 2004.

 

Award recipients also shared stories from their educational journeys.

 

Tina Edwards, mother of five, started as a caretaker for her grandkids before becoming an early childhood professional. At 50, with the help of T.E.A.C.H. she headed back to college. After much studying, and a bit of math tutoring from her kids, she graduated this spring with a bachelor’s from Wilmington University and a renewed belief in the power of early childhood education.

“I don’t want to a child’s potential to be squashed because somebody didn’t invest in their future,” Edwards said.

The average T.E.A.C.H. scholar in Delaware is 37 years old, according to the program. Just over 40 percent are the first in their family to attend college and just over three quarters are married with children. Of the 209 students who received the scholarship in 2015, 128 were pursuing associate degrees and 52 were on the path to a bachelor’s. The remainder were working toward some sort of certification or credentials.

The state funds the scholarships, part of Markell’s broader push to bolster education for the youngest Delawareans. In 2011, at Markell’s request, the General Assembly approved a $22 million increase in spending on early childhood education. Since then, the percent of low-income children enrolled in programs the state deems high-quality has jumped from five percent to 58 percent, according to the Governor’s office.

“You’re the one audience in the state where I know when I walk in people will be happy with me,” Markell said to laughter and applause.

The Governor praised the participants and emphasized the economic value of early childhood education.

“It’s easier to build a strong child than fix a broken man or women,” said Markell. 

 

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