Breaking Down Barriers to Help Parents Become Teachers

Mon Aug 14 11:39:00 PDT 2023

41 Head Start parents now have the education and training to enter classrooms as assistant preschool teachers.

Through a new program offered by the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) 41 Head Start parents now have the education and training to enter classrooms as assistant preschool teachers. LACOE honored these brand-new childhood educators at the Assistant Teacher Pathway ceremony on August 9 in Santa Fe Springs.  

This program is part of LACOE’s Universal Pre-Kindergarten Career Development Initiative (UPK-CDI) launched in the 2022-23 school year to break down barriers that may keep these parents out of the workforce. The Assistant Teacher Pathway was the first of six career development tracks of the program to launch. In the first year of the program, 41 participants completed their required educational credits and in-classroom hours to receive their Associate Teacher Permit from the State of California. More than a dozen parents have already been hired to work in Head Start classrooms.

“This successful first year is a testament to Head Start’s promise not only to prepare children for school, but to disrupt the cycle of poverty by changing trajectories and transforming lives,” shared Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Debra Duardo. “I am so proud to celebrate the 41 of you who rose above all your unique challenges and lived experiences and were able to finish as part of LACOE’s inaugural UPK Career Development Initiative cohort.” 

LACOE’s Head Start program has partnered with the University of California Los Angeles, West LA College, Teachstone and Waldorf University to address the early education teacher shortage by developing a variety of pathway options that meet participants’ individual needs. Head Start serves many of the county’s most vulnerable children and families, including those with income under the federal poverty level, receiving public assistance, experiencing homelessness or in the foster care system. 

Classwork for the Assistant Teacher Pathway is completed remotely, allowing participants to work around existing responsibilities as parents of young children and to participate in cohorts even when spread throughout the county. One UPK-CDI participant even completed the first three weeks of classes from her hospital bed as she recovered from cancer surgery and treatment. 

Through a mix of federal, state, county and philanthropic funding, LACOE covers tuition fees and textbooks as well as barriers to enrollment that preclude many low-income individuals from participating in career growth opportunities, such as: 

  • Laptops 
  • Tutoring supports 
  • Permitting and credentialing fees 
  • Fingerprinting 
  • Childcare reimbursement
  • Transportation and  
  • CPR certification. 

Following classwork, participants engage in an in-person and online Teacher Prep Academy, as well as in-classroom hours supervised by Head Start teachers at three local school districts—ABC, El Monte and Pomona—and five nonprofit agencies—Foundation for Early Childhood Education, Mexican American Opportunity Foundation, Pacific Asian Consortium in Employment, Plaza de la Raza Child Development Services and St. Anne’s Family Services.

The UPK-CDI initiative continues with a new cohort of 42 parents on the Assistant Teacher Pathway, and several additional pathways have also launched. Seven current assistant teachers and classroom aides are working toward their Associate Teacher Permit on the Associate Teacher Pathway, 16 current associate teachers are working toward their Teacher Permit on the Teacher Pathway and three credentialed teachers are completing their required 24 early childhood education units on the Transitional Kindergarten Pathway. Additional pathways are in development for leadership roles—such as coach, coordinator and supervisor. Together, the UPK-CDI pathways will help ensure a robust system for recruitment, retention and advancement in the field.

“Qualified, passionate Head Start teachers set children on the path to success in school and life. I want to congratulate all of our new early educators as they embark on a very fulfilling and rewarding career ahead,” added LACOE Head Start and Early Learning Division Executive Director Luis Bautista.