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T.E.A.C.H. Celebrates 20 Years – Part 2


As we begin the 20th anniversary year of the T.E.A.C.H. Minnesota scholarship program, our Communications Director, Diane Benjamin, took time to interview our Director of Financial Supports, Val Peterson, who was there at the beginning of T.E.A.C.H.

The T.E.A.C.H. program began in Minnesota in 2002, with support from 14 different funders. These included statewide and regional foundations, with a small contribution from The Minnesota Department of Human Services. As the program demonstrated success, it became part of the regular state budget allocation for child care.

In the early 2000s, there was increasing interest in the science of early brain development. This helped make a case for the need for highly qualified and educated early childhood professionals. However, Val said that they had a tough time getting people to sign up at first. “Some local child care associations were strongly opposed because they thought we were going to force people to get a degree, but it didn’t take long before a few brave souls jumped in and saw the value of higher education.”

“Back in the beginning, we used to do a banquet at the end of the year and honor the people who graduated,” remembered Val. “It started as a marketing strategy to promote the program, but it ended up helping us see the heartwarming nature of scholarship recipients’ journeys. We would hear about the hurdles they had overcome to get where they were. Many were first-generation students, single parents, working for low wages but still making it because of the scholarship. Almost all of the women talked about what it meant to them and how it changed the trajectory of their lives.”

Next up for T.E.A.C.H. is developing an apprenticeship program to help students new to early childhood smoothly transition from college to work. Val sees this as a logical next step for a program that hopes to continue changing the lives of early childhood educators well into the future.