New Birth to Kindergarten Teacher Education Program Coming to Campus

Rebecca Munday, Staff Writer

“In terms of early childhood education, holding a teaching certificate allows the individual to market themselves to higher paying jobs,” said Dr. Dina Walker-DeVose, an Associate Professor in the School of Human Ecology, regarding the financial advantage of enrolling in the new Birth to Kindergarten Teacher Education program. 

“Let me be clear, early child educators and K-12 teachers are not paid what they are worth,” said Walker-DeVose. “Those certification holders who are employed in public pre-kindergarten programs are paid on a similar scale as those holding certifications in K-12 education,” she said. In addition to working in public pre-kindergarten programs, graduates can apply for jobs in private childcare programs and programs serving children with special needs. 

The program will be housed on the Armstrong campus because “this program is fully designed for the Armstrong campus,” Walker-DeVose said. The superintendent of Savannah-Chatham public schools, Dr. Ann Levett, influenced the design of this program greatly. “She is well versed in what young children need,” said Dr. Tameka Ardrey, an assistant professor in Child and Family Development. 

Walker-DeVose went on to talk about what makes this program “the only one of its kind in South Georgia” and what sets it apart from other Early Childhood Education and Child Development degree programs. 

“The language is sometimes blurry,” Walker-DeVose said, regarding what Early Childhood Education means. “The language is often confusing as some K-5 certification programs are referred to as Early Childhood Education, rather than Elementary Education. This was common before the B-K certification became well-known. Now, Early Childhood Education generally refer to those programs preparing individuals to work with children 0-8 years of age,” Walker-Devose said. 

“The primary difference, in short, is a teaching certificate,” Walker-DeVose said about the difference between the Birth to Kindergarten program and a Child Development program. 

Another thing that sets this program apart from others similar to it is its focus on cultural identity. “It frames how we learn, what we think, what we believe,” said Ardrey. 

Through this program, “We’re equipping teachers with the necessary skills and tools to provide equitable education to all children, regardless of their background,” Ardrey said. “Representation matters,” Walker-DeVose said. “If little Johnny has two dads, that has to be represented in the classroom. It is important for little Johnny to have a sense of belonging in that classroom space,” Walker-DeVose said. 

Classes for the new Birth to Kindergarten program will start in Fall 2020. They will be offered online and, in the evenings, to accommodate teachers who already have a two or four-year degree and want to get trained in the birth to kindergarten population. 

“The program is being marketed in a couple of different ways,” said Walker-DeVose. “Our program is open to anyone who desires a B-K teaching certificate in the state of Georgia. The program is located on the Armstrong campus, so naturally, much of our efforts will focus on Savannah and the surrounding communities. We will be reaching out to local high schools, particularly those with Early Childhood pathways. We are also working with the Early Care and Education program at Savannah Tech.”

According to Walker-DeVose, the entire community stands to benefit from this program. “Research shows a positive return on investment for every dollar that is invested in quality early childhood education. This body of research is another reason that society should be looking for ways to support its youngest learners and fairly compensate those trusted with their care and education.”