Woonsocket Head Start family worker Kinte Howie recently shared his story on a RIght from the Start Zoom event focused on legislation to improve the pay of Rhode Island’s early educators. Read his full story below on the importance of investing in our early childhood educators and the work they do:
My name is Kinte Howie, I’m a Family Worker at Woonsocket Head Start. I’m a 2019 graduate of the University of Rhode Island. I have been working with children since I was 18. I have worked in a classroom as an assistant, to being a site coordinator of an Before and After-school Program, to now a family worker.
A constant theme that I have noticed in all of these places are that education is deeply devalued not just in this country but in this state. Especially Early Childhood. I don’t think these are new issues but I think these are issues that were pushed under a rug until the pandemic made it apparent that not only do we need Early Childhood Education but that our teachers are severely underpaid and undervalued. Many Early Childhood educators have made the decision to dedicate their lives to teaching children at the earliest and the most important time of their development, and yet are being paid at rates that don’t encourage them to stay in this very rewarding field.
The amount of work that Early Childhood teachers put into their classes far exceed what they are being compensated for. Some Early Childhood teachers are having to evaluate / screen children, implement behavior plans, and manage severe behaviors due to education deficits created by the pandemic.
To be an Early Childhood teacher requires you to have knowledge about child development so that children can be monitored to make sure they are developmentally on track both. It usually takes a college degree to have knowledge of that. Many teachers, both Early and Public are mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausted, in addition to being stressed out about not being paid more to be able to put food on table, or not being able to pay their mortgage, or student loans. To be an Early Childhood teacher is to have the power to mold young minds, and to support those young minds into growing up and being valued citizens of our society.
However, if there is no incentive for our teachers and other Early Childhood staff such as family workers, behavioral specialists, and occupational therapists to continue in this field, they will continue to flock to low stress high paying jobs. The issues that we are seeing in this field will continue to become more prominent. I ask you to consider carefully your support for this bill. Support for this bill, to compensate Early Childhood teachers and staff for their expertise will help to alleviate some of these issues.