Pilot program aims to address lack of diversity in early learning field, create new talent pipeline
Early Learning Indiana today announced the launch of “Educate ME Early supported by Early Learning Indiana,” a pilot program to recruit, train and support men of color in entering the early childhood education field as classroom teachers. The program, made possibly by support from the Lilly Endowment, is a partner effort with Educate ME Foundation, Inc., an Indiana non-profit organization determined to increase the number of men and women of color in the field of education.
African American and Latino males who apply and are selected as fellows will join one of two Educate ME Early cohorts and make a two-year commitment. In the first year, fellows will co-lead a classroom with the mentorship of a full-time teacher at an early childhood center in Central Indiana. Fellows will transition to full-time teaching in the second year. In addition to the support of a mentoring teacher, Educate ME Early Fellows will receive individualized coaching and guidance from an Educate ME program coordinator throughout their experience.
The early childhood education field faces a critical workforce shortage. In Indiana, demand for early learning educators is outpacing supply, with a projected shortfall of more than 9,000 child care workers and teachers by 2027. Moreover, lack of ethnic and gender diversity in the general teaching population is even more pronounced in early learning programs. People of color represent only 36% of the early childhood workforce nationally and just 14% in Indiana. Additionally, only 7% of the more than 30,000 early childhood educators across the state are men. National research indicates children who are instructed by a teacher who looks like them, particularly in their formative years, are more likely to complete high school and enroll in college.
Educate ME Founder and CEO Blake Nathan has firsthand knowledge of the benefits of being a male educator of color in an early learning setting. He credits a Nashville, Tennessee provider who hired him as a teacher ten years ago, for an experience that had a tremendous impact on his life.
“She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and offered me an opportunity to work in the infant and pre-K rooms at her center,” said Nathan. “Today, with partnership from Early Learning Indiana, we have the privilege to pour into the lives of other aspiring educators of color and give them a chance to accomplish their dream of pursuing a career in education.”
In addition to increasing diversity in early childhood education, Educate ME Early seeks to create a new talent pipeline to address workforce challenges in the field. There is a projected shortfall of 9,120 child care workers and preschool teachers in Indiana by 2027, with 16% of current early childhood education teachers indicating they plan to leave the field in the next three years. Educate ME Early is part of a broader talent development strategy by Early Learning Indiana that includes creation of a competency-based degree program to accelerate teacher preparation, a partnership with Ascend Services supported by the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation.
“There is an opportunity here not only to widen our talent pool, but to fill open positions with teachers who will help the communities of color we serve to be more represented,” said Early Learning Indiana President and CEO Maureen Weber. “It is important that families see themselves reflected in the individuals caring for their children and essential for children to have access to well-trained and highly-effective teachers. This partnership allows us to accomplish both.”
To apply to become an early childhood educator through Educate ME Early, visit http://educatemeearly.org/. Selected applicants for the first cohort will be notified in late March.