Cynthia Hudson of 21st Century Child Development Center uses bright flags to teach colors.

Early childhood educators created a Stinky Cheese Men during a "Celebration of Learning".

Vivian Hudson of Tendercare University dons a magician's costume for her presentation.

Ginger Johnson shows the Friendship Rules book she made for her students.



Early SUCCESS leads to Celebration of Learning

Local early childhood educators are wrapping up 16 weeks of formal training in early language, communication, literacy and social skills to help their young students learn about reading and writing before they reach kindergarten. The training was provided through Strategies for Urban Child Care, Education, Support and Services (Early SUCCESS), an early childhood educator professional development grant from the U.S. Dept of Education, secured through the UTC Children’s Center.

"We have over 70 early childhood educators who work with children from low-income families in the program. These participants are very dedicated and have come for 16 Monday evenings to learn how to better teach their children. While the formal training is ending, they will continue to work with early literacy trainers through October in refining their skills in fostering language, literacy and social skills in children. They will also observe at the Children's Center and view videotapes of best practice," according to Anne Gamble, Director of the UTC Children's Center.

Participation in Early SUCCESS means early childhood educators can receive training and $1,000 worth of books and other literacy and language development resources for the classroom. The money is given during the course of the training so teachers can begin to purchase materials they are learning to use.

Early SUCCESS participants have a unique opportunity to improve their ability to teach and to improve children’s lives as literacy learners, according to Gamble. A "Celebration of Learning" brought the first group of teachers together to present what they have learned.

After attending the Early SUCCESS training sessions, Pearlene Kelly, supervisor at 21st Century Childcare Development was inspired. “I’m ready to go back to the classroom! It has been a wonderful class,” Kelly said.

Kelly has been a supervisor for one year, and had been a day care teacher two years before, and she said she learned a lot of ideas that she took back to her teachers. “I made a book of things people love to do. The words ‘people love to eat’ are on a page with pictures of people eating. Another page says ‘people love animals’ and there are pictures of people with animals. Children as young as two and three years old can understand these concepts,” Kelly said.

Kelly is requiring all the teachers at her school to make letterboxes. “The letter on the box will change, and the pictures inside the letter box will coordinate with the featured letter. I started with the letter ‘m’ and had pictures inside the box of Mickey Mouse, motorcycle, man, and the children loved it,” Kelly said.

Recruitment for second year participants is beginning now and by November, 100 early childhood educators will begin training.

Chattanooga is one of nine sites in the country to receive the Early SUCCESS Grant. Grant guidelines required 100 participants for this, the first year of the grant, 100 participants are needed for next year and 100 teachers serve as a control group.

Applicants must come from early childhood centers where at least half of the children are living in low-income homes. Teachers of children age 30 months to five years are best served. The teachers who apply must commit to 80 hours of professional development training at no cost. This includes: 32 hours of direct instruction in fostering language, communication, literacy and social skills; 48 hours within the classroom environment implementing and refining the new strategies learned. Directors of participating programs must also attend all training sessions. To evaluate the teaching skills administered through the grant, students’ progress will be assessed to determine the quality of the training prior to and post teacher training.

Early childhood educators are encouraged to participate in the second year of training. If you would like more information, please call or email Early SUCCESS project manager Kerry Guess Hofer at (423)425-5375.