Education: Seizing an opportunity

  • Billie Owens, who graduated from NHTI in May, became the first New Hampshire recipient of the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood NH scholarship. NHTI

Published: 11/7/2022 7:16:15 PM
Modified: 11/7/2022 7:15:47 PM

Working full time and going to college while pregnant is a daunting situation to face, but for Billie Owens, it is her success story. In May 2022, Owens became the very first New Hampshire recipient of the T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood New Hampshire scholarship, which aims to provide a path to certification for early childhood teachers that is affordable and flexible.

T.E.A.C.H. NH, a scholarship program that began in January 2021, is a statewide program offered through Southern New Hampshire Services that partners with employers to provide support for early childhood teachers living and working in New Hampshire. Support through the scholarship includes tuition assistance, paid release time from work, book reimbursement, and a dedicated education counselor. Recipients can attend classes at any of the Community College System of New Hampshire institutions plus Granite State College and earn an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education or a CDA credential through the Council for Professional Recognition.

Owens said that due to the flexibility offered by the program, and help from the faculty while she was on maternity leave, she was able to graduate just a few months after giving birth.

“It wasn’t the easiest of situations, but T.E.A.C.H. NH made it so worthwhile,” said Owens. “Thanks to T.E.A.C.H. I was able to graduate in front of my baby boy and my fiancé, something that meant the world to me. I am now an assistant director of a preschool, and I am loving moving forward in my career.”

To date, 74 early childhood teachers from across the state have pursued their education through a T.E.A.C.H scholarship. Of that total, more than 30% of the scholarship recipients have chosen to pursue their degree at NHTI as part of its Early Childhood Education program.

New Hampshire’s need for early childhood educators is only increasing. Pre-pandemic there were 54,019 children under 6 needing care and 32,884 licensed childcare slots, leaving a gap of 21,135 children according to a report submitted to the state by EConsult Solutions and the National Center for Children in Poverty, a problem that has only gotten worse since COVID-19. Many believe it can be solved by expanding childcare options across the state – which is what T.E.A.C.H. aims to solve.

“As early childhood programs struggle to find qualified teachers throughout New Hampshire, T.E.A.C.H. NH can be used to recruit and retain teachers who are vested in helping children learn and thrive,” said Diane Manning, M.Ed. and T.E.A.C.H. NH counselor. “NHTI has been a strong supporter of the T.E.A.C.H. NH program and we look forward to continued collaboration.”

For Owens, her degree does not signify the end of her journey, but the beginning of new opportunities in her field of early childhood education. Because of her dedication and excellent coursework at NHTI, she was recognized by her childcare center’s director with a promotion.

“I will forever be grateful for the opportunities this program has given and still gives to me. The classes all benefited me in more ways than I can count, and the NHTI professors are all always willing to help. This is something every student deserves to experience.”

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