To the Editor:
In response to “Scholars Split on Pre-K Teachers With B.A.s,” (March 28, 2007):
I am a retired early-childhood teacher, and my career started as a child-development major. In 1956, you could pursue that major through three channels: psychology, education, or home economics. The core curriculum was the same for all, but the emphasis differed as you selected your minor. I started my work with young children in a private nursery school at a ridiculous salary, and in 1969 went into the public school system, pursuing a master’s degree, and earning a living wage. I retired in 2000.
Through the years, I worked with young women with junior-college courses, college degrees, and no degree (but good intentions—and, often, the personal experience of mothering). Properly trained early-childhood teachers do make a difference, because they combine a real interest in the development of young children with content-course knowledge. It’s the combination of experience and learning that benefits the children most. It results in a stimulating, nurturing, caring environment that allows each child to grow and learn.
High-quality teacher training for early childhood is critical, because working with preschoolers is specialized. Good, better, best—you want best? You must pay for it.
In my mind, there is a direct link, proven or no, that puts educated teachers and preschoolers together. I’ve seen it through the years, even if the University of North Carolina researchers whose paper is quoted in your article haven’t.
Nancy K. Webster
A version of this article appeared in the April 25, 2007 edition of Education Week as In Pre-K: Want the Best Teachers? Then Pay for It.