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“I’m not a babysitter and you are not babies.” That’s one of the first things I tell my students, because I want them to know we are here to learn. Early childhood educators focus on cognitive development, literacy, arts, math, logical thinking, relationship building—all the skills my students are going to need when they progress to kindergarten and beyond.

Recently a teacher wanted to meet me because one of her new kindergarteners kept telling her, “I already know that! Miss Kimmie taught me!” That’s my biggest pleasure—knowing I’ve set students on the path to the adults they might become.

Even though I tell the students they aren’t “babies,” they truly are my babies, and I have no shame when it comes to getting them the resources they need. Family, friends, neighbors—they’ve all been enlisted at different times to supply my classroom. I have one cousin who has “adopted” my room. It’s not uncommon for people to drop by my house with a little something and say, “I was shopping and I thought your students might need this.”

Any teacher will tell you we spend so much of our own money on our classrooms. When Amazon Prime delivers packages to the house, my husband will ask, “Is that for me?” The answer is always, “No, honey, it’s for my babies.”

The money we take out of our own pockets hits early educators harder because we suffer from a pay gap. Right now, early childhood educators with teaching credentials earn significantly less than our K-12 peers, which affects our schools’ ability to recruit and retain people.

Undervaluing early educators flies in the face of what we know about brain development, optimal time to learn, and how high-quality early education sets children up for future academic and life success. Wage parity is the right thing to do to lift up early educators and the students we teach.

Kimberly Hinkston
Early Childhood Educator


 

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