Teach For America’s early childhood education initiative aims to address the opportunity gap at its root. Through this work, we aim to make strides towards better outcomes for low-income children and their families, build respect for and interest in the field, and contribute to a robust, diverse leadership pipeline of talented early childhood educators committed to ensuring that students get the educational foundations they deserve
Research shows that the opportunity gap between low- and high-income students begins before kindergarten and widens over time. This makes early educators a critical first line of defense against educational inequity.
Early childhood is an especially important time for learning that sets the foundation for future academic success (the young brain forms more than 700 neural connections every second!). Studies show that ECE teachers play a pivotal role in the trajectory of young students’ education, shaping their initial understanding of what it means to be a successful student and an active member of a learning community.
Teach For America’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) initiative launched in 2006. Since then, over 1,000 highly committed pre-K corps members have reached students at a key stage of development, helping to prepare them for a lifetime of academic success.
ECE corps members receive targeted support in developmentally appropriate teaching strategies at our training institute and throughout their corps commitment. Corps members also have access an online library of thousands of ECE-specific resources, such as exemplary lesson plans, videos of effective teaching practice, and communities where they can get advice from highly successful ECE teachers.
We focus on continuously improving training and support in areas critical to the success of our ECE teachers, such as inquiry-based instruction and equipping parents with the tools and knowledge to promote learning at home. We do this by partnering with local and national organizations to develop the highest-quality training and support model for early educators in our highest-need communities and classrooms. Through this work, we aim to make strides towards better outcomes for low-income children and their families, build respect for and interest in the field, and contribute to a robust, diverse leadership pipeline of talented early childhood educators committed to ensuring that students get the educational foundations they deserve.
We also support our ECE alumni beyond their two years to bring their leadership, talent, energy, and innovation to the front lines of this important work, both inside and outside of classrooms.
- Eli Pessar (Chicago ’11) received the 2012 Sue Lehmann Award for Teaching Excellence while teaching pre-Kindergarten at the Young Scholars Developmental Institute community-based organization on Chicago’s Southwest Side. “Mr. Eli” also coached the Small Fry basketball team, organized a bus of parents and teachers to travel to Springfield to advocate for funding for early childhood education programs, and worked with parents to help them pursue their own educational advancement. Pessar is currently pursuing a graduate degree in Education Policy and Management at Harvard and plan on opening a community center for low-income expectant mothers.
- Vanessa Lugo-Acevedo (Colorado ’10) was named by President Obama and the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics as one of 10 White House Champions of Change Latino Educators. The White House Champions of Change program honors everyday Americans doing extraordinary things in their communities. The first in her family to attend college, Lugo-Acevedo taught pre-kindergarten at Denver’s Cole Arts and Sciences Academy, where she currently coaches teachers.
- Sophia Pappas (Greater Newark Corps '03) is the Executive Director of the NYC Department of Education Office of Early Childhood.
- Rocky Sodetani (Las Vegas Valley Corps '09) serves as a mentor to teachers and assistant site director at a Head Start center with Acelero Learning, in Clark County, Nevada.
We work with various hiring partners to place corps members in pre-K classrooms across the country, including Head Start programs. Yasmina Vinci, the Executive Director of the National Head Start Association, notes that "dedicated, effective teachers in pre-K classrooms are essential to expanding educational opportunities to our youngest students. Teach For America is an important talent pipeline for Head Start classrooms."
Download the Early Childhood Education Overview
Join our ECE community in conversation on twitter, @TFA_ECE