Empowering Early Educators

May 2024

Workforce Development

In the heart of every community lies a group of unsung heroes: teachers. They are the guiding lights, the mentors, and the catalysts for change in the lives of millions of children every day.  

This year, Teacher Appreciation Week /  Substitute Teacher Week falls between May 6-10, 2024 - a time for us as a community to extend our gratitude and recognize the tireless efforts of these dedicated individuals, especially as we navigate the challenges posed by the impending "funding cliff." 

The importance of stable funding for education, particularly early childhood education, cannot be overstated. Federal funding played a crucial role in stabilizing early childhood education programs in states like North Carolina during the tumultuous times of the pandemic. However, as the funding well runs dry, the looming uncertainty threatens the very foundation of these vital programs. 

In the face of this uncertainty, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County has emerged as a beacon of hope and support for early educators.

Recognizing the need for a concerted effort to recruit and retain a diverse and skilled workforce in the early care and education sector, Smart Start launched the Early Educator Workforce Development program in 2023. 

This specialized initiative is designed to address two critical areas within the early care and education landscape. Firstly, it aims to establish a clear career pathway for individuals interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education. By providing access to necessary training and supporting credential and degree attainment, Smart Start is paving the way for a more qualified and diverse workforce. 

Secondly, the program focuses on improving early educators' compensation and benefits, acknowledging their invaluable contribution to society. By implementing fair approaches to boost compensation, Smart Start recognizes the worth of these educators and works towards creating a more sustainable and rewarding profession. 

Central to the success of this initiative is the partnership between Smart Start of Mecklenburg County and the Charlotte Bilingual Partnership, which aims to create a robust teacher pipeline. The partnership has already yielded promising results, with the first cohort comprising 26 students of varying English-speaking proficiency levels. 

These students undergo intensive training and practical experience, including practicum sessions in MECK Pre-K programs, where they engage with teachers and gain hands-on experience in an English-speaking environment. This immersive approach prepares them for the classroom's challenges and fosters cultural understanding and inclusivity. 

As the first cohort prepares to enter classrooms as fully-fledged teachers, the success of the program is evident. With three teachers already moving full-time into the classroom setting after 12 weeks of training, the impact of the Early Educator Workforce Development program is tangible. 

Looking ahead, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County is poised to expand its reach and impact further. With plans for additional cohorts and a commitment to opening doors to individuals from diverse linguistic backgrounds beyond Spanish, the program is laying the groundwork for a brighter future for early childhood education in the community. 

During Teacher Appreciation Week /  Substitute Teacher Week this year, let us not only express our gratitude for the teachers who shape young minds but also extend our support to initiatives like Smart Start's Early Educator Workforce Development program.  


This content supports our vision that all children turn five ready to thrive.