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The real choice: a career in early childhood education.

Stop! Listen! Hear the calling of the little voices. Hear the message loud and clear. Teachers, teachers where are you? Teachers, teachers, to read and write! We want to learn to read and write. We want to use our minds and see the world so bright. Help us in our early years. Help us erase away our fears. Teachers, teachers, where are you? Teachers, teachers, we need you!

An early education for African-American children is more important and necessary than ever before. We need African-American teachers who understand and can relate to the experiences of our children and who will have an impact on their early learning and development. We need enthusiastic, intelligent, and creative individuals to pursue a career in early childhood education.

A career in early childhood education can be both rewarding and challenging: Rewarding because of the responsibility to engage children in a variety of activities that will prepare them from birth to age eight to become life-long learners and productive adults; challenging because early educators must strive to motivate, communicate, and involve children continuously in a variety of learning methods and teaching strategies. These instructional strategies should meet the diverse needs of American-African and other children of color. Are you that person? Can you become that teacher?


The need for early educators of color is steadily increasing. The current trend indicates that by the next decade only five percent of the teaching population will be non-white, while students of color will make up 35 percent of the student population. In many cases, in the more urban public school settings these students may represent as much as 90 percent of the student population.

The latest trend in demographic and cultural diversity shows that 1.4 million teachers will be needed by 1997 and 1.5 million to 2.5 million will be needed by the year 2000. There is an ever growing increase in students of color in the public schools and an overwhelming necessity to bring multi-culturalism into the curriculum and the classroom. African-American students must see African-American teachers as role models and providers of relevant learning experiences. According to the recent National Education Association Study, nearly one-third of the students in U.S. public schools belong to a non-white group and only eight percent of the teachers are African-American, three percent are Hispanic and 1.4 percent are Asian. Therefore, the need for teachers of color is especially critical.


In preparation for a career in early childhood education, a college student must possess a love for children and feel a strong commitment to the community. At the end of the sophomore year, college students should have maintained a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.5 before being accepted into a teacher preparation program of studies. The student must exhibit both academic and leadership qualities and meet with college advisors on a routine basis. The completion of studies at a four-year institution in a teacher-training program a minimum of a bachelor's degree are required. The education program must provide student teaching and practicum experiences as well as meet state licensure or certification requirements. In at least 22 states the National Teacher Exam is required for certification.

Many Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) offer early intervention strategies that will improve teacher preparation and promote leadership skills, thus hoping to insure successful completion of their programs and to better prepare students to meet the demands of the teaching profession. Such models of intervention might include: * Assessing and evaluating all

components of Teacher Education

Programs * Assuring acceptance with the State

Department. of Education requirements * Expanding recruitment efforts * Establishing a skills-based computer

instructional program * Attending orientation seminars * Structuring academic advising

systems * Providing scholarship opportunities * Developing test batteries in

communication, generalknowledge,

professional knowledge,

education specialty areas * Supervising all field

experiences * Video-tape assessments of student

teaching performances * Providing test-taking study guides * Monitoring academic progress of


Norfolk State University, Bethune Cookman College, Tuskegee University, and Xavier University of Louisiana all implement these and many additional strategies to help recruit, maintain, and promote African-American students into the teaching profession.


The recruitment initiatives across the nation are a result of a national shortage of qualified African-American teachers--a shortage caused by low salaries and the difficulty of some students to meet requirements for state certification as well as college entrance requirements and admissions into teacher-preparation programs. Not nearly enough African Americans, according to the latest statistics, are entering higher education teacher programs and, therefore, a large number of teachers will not be entering the classroom as needed. This perpetuates the necessity to increase the attractiveness of a teaching career by raising the salary and status of teachers. Recruitment incentives should address the need to establish appropriate funds to support African-American teacher candidates as they enter college and pursue a teaching profession. Recruitment initiatives must continue to develop incentives that will prepare, recruit and maintain qualified teachers.

The rewards of teaching and the high demand for teachers must be publicized and communicated in a positive manner,that might influence a career choice for early childhood education. Communities must continue to improve teachers' salaries and benefits.

Students' awareness of the long-term effects of teaching and the rewards associated with teaching must be enhanced. Students must realize that teaching is a serious commitment and provides a service to the community.

Recruitment initiatives must continue and expand because significant numbers of African-American teachers are retiring, leaving fewer and fewer African-American teachers in the classroom.

Elaine P. Witty, dean of the school of education at Norfolk State University, said, "Attracting more minority group members to teaching will be difficult in a tight economy; therefore minority college students should be given more opportunities to study, even if that means giving them full scholarships and grants."

According to the National Data Book Statistical Abstract of the U.S. 1992, the average teacher salary across the U.S. was $32,977 in 1991. The beginning salaries for teachers vary from state to state and have improved slightly through the years. The average starting salary in the northeast is about $22,000. Benefits include various retirement packages, health insurance benefits, and liberal personal and sick leave plans. In addition, many school districts provide additional supplements for master's degrees and tuition reimbursement for continuation of educational pursuits.

To make recruitment of teachers even more inviting and attractive, states are considering more flexibility with regard to reciprocity in accepting teacher certification. Reciprocity enables teachers to become certified in more than one state.

A Real Choice

As African-American students begin to solidify their career plans, they must consider a real choice for career development; that choice is early childhood education. Unless more African-American students choose teaching as a career, African-American children could complete a K-12 academic program and never encounter one African-American teacher. African-American children need sincere, dedicated, and committed teachers. African-American children need to experience African-American teachers in a position of authority and respect who can deliver a well-defined and appropriate instructional program for them. Our children desperately need positive role models. Our children need someone to care, encourage, and reward them as they pass from year to year, grade to grade.

The time has come for African-American college students to give something back to the community. Choose a career in early childhood education and experience the most exciting and fulfilling career possible--a real choice, a choice for our future.

Ethnic Diversity, Peace Corps, and Early Childhood Education

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco from 1970-72, Stan Olivier, early childhood education trainer at Cal State Los Angeles, used everyday objects like bottle caps and string to develop new teaching aids for educators in blind schools. Originally assigned to train Moroccans to use a Braille printing press, Olivier used his resourcefulness to make a difference in his students.

"Not only was Peace Corps the greatest experience of my life, but it was also one step towards showing the developing world that we are a culturally diverse nation," said Olivier.

In 1993, Peace Corps celebrates its 32nd anniversary. Over the past decades, thousands of African-American Peace Corps volunteers like Olivier have been making a difference in the lives of people in more than 90 nations worldwide.

The benefits of Peace Corps for African Americans are multiple. "Peace Corps offers an extended education," notes Olivier, "And it can help African Americans gain a better understanding of the cultural diversity of their own nation." Olivier would like to see more African Americans join Peace Corps to build an understanding of cultural diversity and combat mistrust and fear.

Peace Corps is an investment in your future. The personal growth, international exposure, language training, and opportunity to experience life from a different perspective cannot be matched by any experience that working in the U.S. has to offer.

Volunteers recruited by Peace Corps today must have more sophisticated skills and experience in specialized areas such as education, math, science, engineering, environmental studies, and health/nutrition. Any healthy U.S. citizen, who is at least 18 years old and has three to five years of skilled work experience or a bachelor's degree is encouraged to apply. Peace Corps volunteers serve two years, receive travel expenses, intensive language and cross-cultural training, medical and dental care, a monthly living allowance and $5400 savings upon completion of service.

The Mellon Fellowship for Minority Teachers

If the schools of our nation are to prepare today's young generation for life in the next century, some 200,000 new teachers will be required annually over the next decade.

The Mellon Fellowship is one of the nation's most prestigious teacher preparation programs, whose graduates will be the beneficiaries of a renewed respect and attention to education, and to the people who practice it. Teachers are now more involved than ever before with curriculum development and planning, classroom research, and in school-based systems planning.

Four leading research universities--Cornell, Columbia, Harvard, Stanford--have a powerful vision of the classroom teacher. They prepare teachers for effective and sensitive work with students, combining personal strengths, educational research, and realistic practice teaching assignments with experienced teachers. Teachers are the leading edge of education reform in this country, able to implement change from the vantage point of our most critical resource: our children. Through collaborative efforts in professional organizations and with the universities, the Fellows Graduate can help lead the most promising efforts to reinvigorate our schools.

The program is seeking outstanding candidates, especially those revealing a commitment to urban school reform. For more information, contact: The Mellon Fellowships Collaborative, Box 4, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 120th Street, New York,, NY 10027, (212) 678-3876.


[1.] Branch, Eleanor, "Rediscovering the Value of Teaching," Black Enterprise, February 1992, [pp. 119-127]. [2.] Garibaldi, Antoine, M., PhD, The Revitalization of Teacher Education Programs at Historically Black Colleges: Four Case Studies, August 1989, [pp. 5-281 Southern Education Foundation. [3.] Daughtry, Jody, "Recruiting and Retaining Minority Teachers: What Teacher Education Can Do," National Education Association, [pp. 25-271. [4.] O'Harrow, Robert Jr., "Schools Scramble as Minority Students Reject Teaching Careers," The Washington Post, July 18, 1992. [5.] Mason, Emanuel; Middleton, Ernest; Parker, Williams; Stilwell, William, "A Model for Recruitment and Retention of Minority Students in Teacher Preparation Programs," Journal of Teacher Education "Minorities," [p.14]. [6.] Statistical Abstract of the U.S. 1992, [pp. 148, 151] [7.] The World Almanac -- Book of Facts 1993, [p. 1921
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Author:Buxton, Margaret R.
Publication:The Black Collegian
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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