By Michael McLendon
NASHVILLE, TN (TSU News Service) — Child care providers in Tennessee will have the opportunity to receive additional training thanks to a new $11.4 million federal grant secured by Tennessee State University’s Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences. The university believes better trained daycare providers will mean better daycare services for Tennessee families.
Dr. Kimberly Smith, the center’s director, says the grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will allow TSU to continue to serve as the professional development hub for the state as it relates to child development and early childhood training.
“We are expanding our online courses through the Tennessee Child Care Online Training System, and we will now be responsible for the state’s workforce registry for all child development professionals who work in the area of child care across the state,” says Smith.
Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance (TECTA), a statewide professional development system that provides assistance for employees at licensed child care facilities, is funded by Tennessee State University through a contract with the Tennessee Department of Human Services and is housed under the Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences.
Some of the additional courses that will soon be available include: Early Literacy Matters; Eat, Play and Rest; Inclusion; and Brain Development.
“One thing that makes TECTA so unique is that we work with early childhood professionals to strengthen the workforce within the state for child care. We get to work with the family home providers and the centers, and then we provide funding for students,” adds Smith.
Carmen Davis says without help from TSU’s TECTA program, she would not have been able to open her three-star childcare company, Ms. Carmen’s Precious Moments.
“I was working full-time and going to school, and I couldn’t afford to do both,” says Davis, who started her business in 2007. “TECTA came in to offset the price, which allowed me the opportunity to go and achieve my CDA (Child Development Associate) through their grant and their funding.”
Davis, whose company is licensed to care for seven clients, says she has taken advantage of many of the courses currently offered by TECTA.
“I went through all of the TECTA orientations which were very beneficial because I work with a multi-age group. I went through the infant–toddler training, the preschool training and the administration training, which benefits me as far as my business part,” she says. “I also went through the TECTA Business Administration credential which helped with putting together a portfolio, the taxes part of it, the business sheets part of it and being professional. It took me to another level of profes sionalism.”
Tonita Robinson’s children have attended Ms. Carmen’s Precious Moments since they were six-weeks old. She says her two-year-old and four-year-old have benefited from Davis’ experiences with TECTA.
“She does a good job identifying my kids’ triggers,” says Robinson. “She makes sure if my son is acting out, she doesn’t say he’s just acting out. She’s able to say why he was acting out, what she thinks might have caused him to act out, and what we can do to work together to fix it.”
Robinson, who works as a financial advisor at Napier Elementary School, believes the new funding is necessary for child care professionals to provide the best services.
“Everything changes everyday. Nothing stays the same,” she says. “The curriculum changes, and if the child care provider’s job is to help prepare kids for when they get into school, then they need to have the training that regular teachers in the school system have so they will be on one accord.”
Dr. Frances Williams, associate vice president for Research and Sponsored Programs at TSU, credits Smith, TECTA Statewide Program Director Lin Venable and the center’s team approach for TECTA’s success.
“Under Dr. Smith’s leadership, she and her team have grown the center, as well as the funding. In this case, with TECTA receiving a little over $11 million for the year, this is the largest award for TECTA to date,” says Williams.
Shelia Westbrooks, the Middle Tennessee regional advisor for TOPSTAR, says the advisors have found the “most-needed” areas for the new programs and TECTA services in general are rural areas.
“They are not familiar with the program, and if they are, they don’t have internet access,” says Westbrooks, who worked as a licensed childcare provider for more than 20 years. “We try to make sure that we get materials to them to keep them aware of how family child care is changing in the state of Tennessee.”
Westbrooks contends that many rural family care providers don’t know that there is funding available to assist them.
“TECTA helped fund my education. With the fund I got I was able to get my degree and now as an advisor, I work with over 239 providers in the Middle Tennessee Region,” she says. ‘It’s all about higher education and we want them to get their CDA credential and their accreditation credential, and TECTA helps to pay for all of that. A provider who works for themselves may not always have that extra funding, and so TECTA is that bridge to get them where they want to be.”
The Tennessee State University Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences was established in 1984, and began administering the TECTA Program in 1993.
For more information about TECTA, visit tecta.info or call 615-277-1697.