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Would you pay someone more to park cars or teach kindergarten?

CINCINNATI – Nadine Thompson-Triblett always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

As a student in the State of Cincinnati, she got a summer job as a preschool teacher in 1996. She fell in love with the job and has done so ever since.

“Not only am I like an English teacher, but it’s like a jack of all trades,” said Thompson-Triblett. “I am becoming a musician. I become a cook. I am becoming a scientist. I am becoming a bit like a mathematician. So it’s like all the things I always thought about as a kid, I can do it now and share this love of learning with kids.

But for most of the more than 25 years that Thompson-Triblett has taught, his salary fell far short of his passion for the profession.

“When I started in early childhood I think it was around $ 4.75 an hour,” she said. “It wasn’t until maybe 15 years that I started getting paid in double digits.”

It is finally changing for her.

Lucie May | WCPO

Nadine Thompson-Triblett

Learning Grove, where Thompson-Triblett has worked for almost 15 years, raised the minimum wage it pays to all of its teachers, created a career ladder to help teachers earn more over time, and added a benefit free childcare for the educators who work there.

“Right now, I’m proud to say that no teacher earns less than $ 13 an hour, and we’re on track to hit $ 15 an hour,” said Shannon Starkey-Taylor, CEO from Learning Grove. “Ninety percent of a child’s brain is formed by age five. We believe they are the brain architects that enable the child to be successful throughout their life.”

However, the compensation of early childhood educators has not reflected the importance of this work, said Starkey-Taylor, and Learning Grove is committed to closing that gap.

“We have a long way to go,” she said. “But we are really committed.”

Raising the wages of early childhood educators isn’t just a matter of properly paying brain architects, Starkey-Taylor said, although that would be reason enough.

The COVID 19 pandemic has also made it clear that early childhood educators are the workforce behind the workforce, she said, and working parents need child care. quality with committed and trained professionals who teach their children.

“We must tell the truth”

“It doesn’t feel good to say this, but you know we have to tell the truth,” Starkey-Taylor said. “Some (teachers) were making $ 9 and $ 10 an hour. And then the national average is $ 11.6, $ 11.62. So some weren’t even making $ 12 an hour.

Now, many teachers at Learning Grove are making well over $ 13, based on their education and experience, she said, and many have gotten big raises to get there.

She noted that about half of early childhood educators receive government grants and said teachers at Learning Grove in the past had refused increases because small increases would have resulted in the loss of government benefits worth superior.

Shannon Starkey-Taylor smiles in this portrait.  She has long, straight brown hair and wears a blue top and a silver jewelry necklace.

Courtesy of Learning Grove

Shannon Starkey-Taylor

“They also earn the same amount of money as parking lot attendants,” she said. “We appreciate the parking attendants. But, again, there is this divergence that this is a manpower issue, a brain issue. We believe it is a moral imperative.

Learning Grove is funding the increases, she said, with philanthropic support, funds from the Cincinnati Preschool Pledge and higher reimbursement rates from providers in Ohio and Kentucky for families eligible for child care. government subsidized children.

The organization has also initiated tuition fee increases for parents, Starkey-Taylor said.

“Child care has very thin margins,” she said. “It depends on a number of funding sources, and obviously we can’t pass it all on to parents. “

It’s too early to say whether the higher salary and additional perks will help reduce turnover, Starkey-Taylor said, but she’s betting it will.

The national average for industry turnover is 33%, she said, and that’s not good for child care companies or families.

“We truly believe that with the increase in wages and the increase in recognition comes with an increase in the respect and dignity they will feel,” she said. “I think we’ll have a higher retention rate just because they know it’s at the forefront of our strategic plan, and they actually see us take action and see their paychecks increase and their benefits. to augment.”

‘This is my mission, my ministry’

In addition to providing free childcare, she said, Learning Grove also has coaches to support teachers, give them advice on curriculum and other classroom issues, and help teachers with a additional perspective on how they interact with children and families.

“We need our teacher to feel really good and really engaged and not feel a little bit down,” Starkey-Taylor said. “If you don’t earn a living wage and don’t have enough support, you are probably going to look for another job. And we want to make sure they stay with us and don’t go to Target. “

Thompson-Triblett said she earns over $ 15 an hour now and is grateful to work for an organization that delivers on its commitments to its teachers.

“For me, it’s not about the money. This is a job that I really enjoy doing, ”she said. “I feel like it’s my mission, my ministry to be here for these children and families because they really need it.”

A Learning Grove early childhood educator sits with three students as they play a game.

Lucie May | WCPO

A Learning Grove early childhood educator sits with three students as they play a game.

Still, the bigger salary has been a big help for Thompson-Triblett’s own family, like covering the costs of his son’s wrestling activities in high school or providing his daughter with some extra help in college. when she needs it.

Then there are the big family goals.

“It gives us a little more freedom to think about, you know, like getting a house. We are really planning to do it now, ”she said. “We bought a car a few years ago, so we can almost have it paid off – my husband and I say, ‘Yes! “”

The higher pay came after years of friends urging her off the field for a more lucrative career – advice Thompson-Triblett said she never considered following.

“I stayed in this game because I was dedicated, because I love working with early childhood,” she said. “The salary increase at this point is just a bonus. I just praise God for this because it helps me to have a little more light in my future on what I can do with regard to my family.

Learning Grove, said Starkey-Taylor, hopes these steps will shed more light on the profession as a whole.

More information is available online about Learning Grove and its employment opportunities.

Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the tri-state great and highlight the issues we need to address. Poverty is an important goal for Lucy and for WCPO 9. To reach Lucy, email [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.

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