Earning and learning in early childhood education

Below is first person account of the power of apprenticeships for early childhood educators. Taryn Elliot shares her experience in the Child Care Innovations program offered through Red Rocks Community College. Early Milestones is proud to support the expansion of this program through the Transforming the Early Childhood Workforce in Colorado initiative.

By Taryn Elliott

(Originally published September 25, 2019, by Colorado Department of Higher Education via Medium

My name is Taryn Elliott. I was one of the first of six students accepted into the apprentice program through Child Care Innovations at Red Rocks Community College.

Growing up, I never really thought about college. Both of my parents dropped out of high school and so did my older sister. I was always a good student who loved going to school, but I always assumed I would just get a job and work after high school — that’s just what my family did.

Taryn works with an infant who attends La Petite Academy in Littleton.

When senior year came, there were scouts that would come into the school and talk to us about college. I received brochures, received essay prompts for applications and so much more.

It was overwhelming, and I felt lost in the crowd of students who have parents coaching them through the process. I decided that it was too much and getting a job would be more attainable for me.

When I graduated high school I went and got a few random jobs and then went into grooming academy. I began grooming dogs and enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my passion. When I sat down and thought about it, I always came back to working with children.

Taking care of children has always come naturally to me. I went in with some experience babysitting and was a temporary nanny for a child with special needs. I started with Colorado childcare substitutes, and I felt that I had nothing to bring to the table. All the centers I visited had teachers with so much skill and ability.

After a few months of traveling around to different centers, I fell in love with La Petite Academy in Littleton. There, I completed a Child Development Associate credential and various other classes, including the Expanding Quality in Infant Toddler Care Initiative and a master teacher program.

Colorado Department of Higher Education executive director Dr. Angie Paccione, back, tours Renaissance Child Center in Lakewood. The center hosts childcare apprentices like Taryn. Julia Brink, right, leads the program in Colorado.

But once I had finished those, I felt like I was at a dead end. I was frustrated because I loved to learn about ways to help the children in the program, but it looked like I had reached the end of my formal education. When the opportunity to attend college classes as an apprentice through Child Care Innovations at Red Rocks Community College arose, I was overjoyed.

I filled out an application before going in for two interviews. I was guided through the entire process. When I was accepted, I was thrilled! I jumped right in to attending provider post-classes.

I was still hesitant about college, but having someone as my journey worker helped. I had decided to take two gateway early childhood classes for the semester. I went into class the first day a bit critical of what new information I was going to learn. My original assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth. Every week of class, I was able to bring something back into my own classroom. I could slowly see my classroom becoming more manageable, and that was encouraging. By the end of classes I received a 4.0 GPA and felt much more confident as a teacher.

Red Rocks Community College offers an apprenticeship in early childhood education. Apprentices complete over 300 hours of related instruction and 4,000 hours of on-the-job learning.

The apprenticeship has truly changed my life. I not only use the information in my own classroom, but I also share and coach other teachers with best practices. I would have never been able to attend classes without the support personally and financially. Just one apprentice is able to make such a huge impact on the field of early childhood, through their classroom, center and councils.

The Child Care Development Specialist Apprenticeship requires apprentices complete more than 300 hours of related instruction and 4,000 hours of on-the-job learning. Child Care Innovations provides a multitude of training courses with information and resources on how to move towards early childhood courses at local community colleges.

Currently Child Care Innovations has apprentices in Adams, Douglas, and Arapahoe Counties. They partner with Triad Early Childhood Council, serving Jefferson, Gilpin and Clear Creek Counties; Alliance for Kids, serving El Paso County; Broomfield Early Childhood Council, serving Broomfield County; the Early Childhood Council, serving Yuma, Washington and Kit Carson counties; and the Early Childhood Council, serving Cheyenne, Lincoln and Kiowa counties.