Why Join the Educator Workforce

Why Join the Educator Workforce
Impacting the Classroom
Why Join the Educator Workforce

May 02 2023 | 00:39:31

Episode 0 May 02, 2023 00:39:31

Hosted By

Marnetta Larrimer

Show Notes

Impacting The Classroom – Why Join the Educator Workforce

How can students get on the path to becoming educators, and why should they? In today’s show, you’ll learn about a program in Broward County, FL, that puts high school students on that path by allowing them to finish high school with their CDA credentials.  Our guest, Deborah Covard, teaches high schoolers as they learn to work with preschoolers, so she manages a very unique learning environment.  

Deborah is a high school Early Childhood Education Teacher and Early Learning Lab Director. She’s been a teacher in Broward County for 20 years and has worked with elementary schoolers and high school students. Her passion for early education and training the next generation of educators has resulted in strong relationships with both older and younger students. Listen to the episode to learn more about Deborah’s program, what excites her high school students, what graduates of her program do after graduating, and personal stories from her teaching experiences. 

Topics Discussed in This Episode

  • [00:01:04] Deborah’s experience over her time in education
  • [00:02:12] What Deborah sees high schoolers getting excited about
  • [00:03:34] The challenges that Deborah’s students have
  • [00:05:56] How to encourage a young person to join the educator workforce
  • [00:06:50] Whether graduates of Deborah’s program are likely to stay in the education field
  • [00:09:48] What Deborah would say to persuade someone to become an educator
  • [00:10:27] The importance of kids having mentors
  • [00:14:26] How parents interact with the students
  • [00:16:54] The age range of the preschoolers
  • [00:17:24] Helping high schoolers understand family engagement
  • [00:19:07] Challenges that Deborah has managing both high schoolers and preschoolers
  • [00:22:05] How Deborah’s class handles lunchtimes
  • [00:24:19] Whether Deborah’s class gets observed by CLASS
  • [00:26:54] Additional training that Deborah recommends for her high schoolers
  • [00:29:32] Training that new educators should take advantage of
  • [00:30:56] A personal story from Deborah’s work
  • [00:35:32] How that experience impacted Deborah’s approach going forward


Marnetta Larrimer

Deborah Covard


View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Marnetta: Hello, and welcome to Impacting the Classroom from Teachstone. If you're new to the podcast, we talk about all the policies, research and challenges that are impacting early childhood classrooms. I'm your host, Marnetta Larrimer. Today, we are also launching a special bonus episode live from InterAct. Stay tuned for other exciting updates and for ways that you can be involved in the Impacting the Classroom community. What's Impacting the Classroom? In the midst of a shortage of educators, plenty of people are still stepping into roles in early childhood education. We want to talk about why people are still excited to be educators and why people are joining the field. Joining me today is Deborah Covard, Early Childhood Education Instructor and Early Learning Lab Director at Cooper City High School with Broward County Public Schools. Hello, Deborah. Deborah: Hi. Marnetta: How are you doing today? Deborah: I'm good. Thank you. Thank you for having me. Marnetta: Anytime. Tell me and our guests a little bit about your time in education. Deborah: I started teaching in the year 2003. It's been 20 years. I started out teaching kindergarten. I taught kindergarten for about 13 years. I went in and pumped up to second grade for a couple years, then took the plunge, and now I'm teaching high school teaching and early childhood education at a high school level. I run an on-site preschool and teach my high schoolers how to be preschool teachers. They all get their industry certification here in the state of Florida, as well as their National Child Development Associate credential. Our program is a program, where we're taking kids from high school and making sure that they're career-ready when they leave and graduate. Marnetta: That's quite a transition from kindergarten, like beautiful faces. Now you're in high school. We've got high schoolers and middle high schoolers. I have so many questions. How do you get them excited about working with you, or do they already come excited? What excites them? Deborah: I think that the great thing about our school just in general is that we provide a lot of pathways for the high school students. We have options for that. The great thing about my program in particular is that there is a hands-on component. When they come into the classroom, it's not all your typical classroom in high school where you're lecturing, taking notes, or taking tests. It's very, very hands-on, whether you're with me or you're in our early learning lab. That entices them because when you're learning something and you're able to do something, hands-on, you're able to see things happen right there in front of you. There's more buy-in. Our preschoolers that we have on campus are [inaudible 00:04:46]. They're so sweet. The relationships that they build and things like that entices them. It's a little bit of a non-traditional classroom, but they get a lot out of it. Marnetta: That's beautiful. What are some of the challenges that they come to you with around this type of work? Deborah: I think, realistically, the challenge is just in general, any high school or school in general right now, is getting them motivated, getting them to come to school prepared, ready, willing to learn, wanting to be there, and sustaining that. My program is a four-year program. You have to be dedicated to do them. I say four years, it's four classes. We toggle up a couple classes so that they're able to finish and not necessarily drag it out from freshman year to senior year, but it is a process, so I have to sell it to them. You do that in a variety of ways. One of the ways is that they do leave with their industry certification. That's desirable to them. They leave with skills, they're employable. Again, the preschool sells it. I think that as a teacher, you have to bring it. You have to bring the energy. You just have to be different. I think that, for me, personally, that's my strength. You have to also build relationships with the kids. Any child is going to know whether you like them or not. Kids will do things for you, and they will show up and be there if they know that you like them and that you want them to be there. I try to make sure that all my kids know that, they feel it. I think I do a good job with that. Marnetta: Wonderful. Yeah, that motivation. High school is a sticky time, coming into your own. Especially, remember, when you're a sophomore, it's just like, ah, two more years, and it's just one day at a time. I imagine the challenge of motivating them to come and getting them excited about something. What a great thing to leave with something, a ready skill that can help them to infill right into the workforce. How do you help them or encourage them? Why would an educator or a young person join the educator workforce? Deborah: I think that you can see things happen. It's very rewarding to see little ones or any children come in at a certain level or ability. By the end of the year, you see so much growth, and you just know like, I did that. Be it academically, behaviorally, or just any of those things, I get that from our preschoolers. I get it out of my high schoolers, too. It doesn't matter. I always tell my children or my high schoolers, everything that I teach you here that we do with our little ones, it pertains to you, too. I try to make those connections. That growth and just you seeing that, I think, is motivating for them. Marnetta: Have you had a lot of success with them sticking to this field of work? Deborah: Yes and no. I would say, not everybody goes and says, I'm going to be a teacher. Maybe they won't be a teacher, but they want to work with kids in some capacity. Even those that say, well, I don't know if I'm going to work with kids, you're in high school, you're 15, 16 years old, who knows that that is their destiny? I jumped from thought processes like, where am I going to land when I was in high school? I always say to them, you may not leave here thinking like, I'm going to be a teacher, but you will work with children in some capacity pretty much no matter what job you choose to be. Even if you choose to just stay home, if you want to be a mom, you're going to be working. You're going to literally be with them 24/7. Any job that you choose, you're going to work with so there's a benefit there to taking this program. My students go on to their pediatricians, their speech pathologists, their teachers, their pediatric nurses. They've been messaging me recently and just updating me on what they're doing. Then I have students who tell me, this is not for me, I am not going to be a teacher. You love everything that you represent, and I love kids, but there's no way I can do this. Guess what, I get the phone call or the email two years later. Miss Covard, can you please write me a recommendation letter? I changed my major. I'm going to be a teacher, or I'm going to be subbing while I'm in school. You don't know. I like the fact that this opens a door for them. When they go to college, I always tell them, you're going to find your way. You're going to take a class, and it's going to remind you of me. You're going to think of me and you may change your mind. I think a lot of my kids, they leave and they go and work with kids in some capacity. They don't all become teachers, but they're all going to understand it. Hopefully, they'll be advocates. When they see things going on in our world, they're going to understand why these things are important and why we need to advocate for kids and for education. If I only get that, then that to me is a win. Marnetta: Yeah, I agree. Thank you for the work that you're doing with those students and helping them to be great stewards of the resources and the skills that you've given them with the children that they're supporting. Outside of your students, why else should someone join the educator workforce? What would you say to them? Deborah: We just need good people. This is our future. That's the bottom line. We need people that are passionate about making the world a better place, and you start with our youth. If not for something so simple as that, gosh, we need it. I think about it. Even not within teaching, people think of education as just academics. There's so much more to it than that. These kids need mentors. They need to be around people who love them, care about them, can be a role model for them, and can, hopefully, teach them something so that they can be smart and move on. That's why we have to do it. I think high school, in general, sometimes they get a bad rap high schoolers. I think they just do. That's how it is. I always tell them, they are so amazing if you listen to them, you care about them, and you talk to them. They're awesome. We need to have people that are willing to take a chance and just build a better future, really, because at the end of the day, what are we going to do? Marnetta: Yeah, they're just asking for what anybody would ask for, like I'd want you to listen to me, I care about me. Deborah: It's so simple. It can be challenging. Like anyone that you meet on the street, anybody can be challenging. We just need to really think about that because as we know, the world is changing. We definitely need people that are passionate, that care about kids to make sure that things get better because right now, they're not so great all the time. Marnetta: You were saying a lot in that last statement. One of the things that really stuck out that I want to remind the audience is, yes, our children need those mentors. They need people like them in those classrooms that represent them. They need to see the men in the classrooms to let them know that this is a space that I can occupy. It's a non-traditional role. They need people of color in the classroom so that they feel understood, and their communities are represented. Yes, mentorship, but also making sure that our children have access to people that really can have a really large impact on their lives. Deborah: Absolutely. I think that, also, people come from different backgrounds, different things that are going on outside of the classroom. They don't necessarily have people that they can talk to that they feel comfortable talking to. It's not that they're coming from a bad home or anything like that. What you can say to your mother, for example, or can't say to your mother, you can perhaps hash it out with somebody else because you don't necessarily feel comfortable doing that. Sometimes, they just needed somebody to listen. I just think about some of the things that the kids talk to me about. It's not anything terrible, but your mom's going to give you different advice than somebody who is neutral in your life. Just having that person. I remember when I was younger, there were things that I would never talk to my mother about. My best friend's mom, she knew it all. It's just having that person to be able to do that, I think that's important. Marnetta: Yeah, most definitely. I think that would be a great trait for an educator in the classroom to create this safe space, where children could express themselves freely and know that there was no judgment. They could just live their authentic selves in that space. That would be incredible. A lot of that is happening as we speak. Do the parents of the preschoolers interact with the high school students? You have the high school students and the preschoolers creating this great chemistry having these relationships. What about the parents of those high schoolers? Deborah: First and foremost, our parents are amazing. I always tell my high schoolers, these parents are coming into a high school and dropping their babies, many of which like this is their first time, first experience of school, and they're entrusting their whole world in our care. My kids take it very, very seriously. There are opportunities. We do family events, where the parents are involved. My high schoolers actually plan it, they put it all together, and they do the whole thing. The families are invited to come in. That's one example of that. For example, in December, we have a huge event. It's our WinterFest event. My high schoolers have the task of they have to create different winter themed hands-on activities that are developmentally appropriate for our preschoolers. We have Santa come on one of our fire trucks. He comes in, everybody's dressed accordingly. The parents come, we do breakfast. It's a big event. It's casual, not super structured. But my high schoolers, they are there running the show. They're talking to the parents. They get to play with the kids, share stories, and build relationships with that. Also, before school and after school, I'm super fortunate that my high schoolers volunteer in our preschool. A lot of my kids were there every single day on their record. When the parents come in, they talk to them. Some of them babysat for them. There's a lot of interaction and an opportunity for interaction for them, and they just love it. I do get a lot of really positive feedback with that. Marnetta: I love that. What is the age range? Because preschool, depending on where you are, can be different. What is the age range of the children? Deborah: The students in our preschool are ages three to five. They're three by on or before September 1st of that year, so they have to be three by then. Some of them are five because of their birthday, so they'll go on to kindergarten at five years old. Most of them stay with us for two years. Marnetta: That's beautiful. I love hearing about WinterFest. That leads me into my next question. How do you help high schoolers to understand the importance of family engagement in early childhood? Deborah: That's like a whole lesson. We build that up within our curriculum, so that's like a whole lesson. Many lessons throughout the year, and then we infuse those family events within it. We talked about it. We have all kinds of lessons with that. The cool thing is that, like I said, because it's a hands-on class, we might be teaching a lesson on family engagement and how to get parents and families within, to come and participate in events. Their thing is, we're going to put on a family event. Then we have that reflection piece with that. That's the cool thing. Everything happens very organically. They can see what the impact that that has. I'll send home a family questionnaire and have the parents read us on what they think our strengths, our weaknesses are, things like that. We reflect on that, and then we talk about, okay, how can we improve in these areas? Because if they're seeing certain things, then maybe we need to show them that these are the things that we're doing, and then we implement it. You get to see it all in real time, so it's super cool. Marnetta: That is awesome. I asked you about some of the challenges that the high schoolers might have with this type of environment or work, but I didn't ask you about any challenges you might have. What challenges come up for you in managing both high schoolers and preschoolers at the same time? Deborah: It's a challenge. It's the thing that's very, very busy. I am super, super fortunate that I have two amazing job coaches, adults, that work in the preschool. The way that my classroom is set up, I have my high school classroom, and then we have a fully functioning preschool attached with a doorway in an observation window. My job coaches there in the preschool the whole time coaching my high schoolers. Without them, it would be difficult. I know that in other similar programs throughout the country, they don't necessarily have that. Everything is in one room. I give them a lot of kudos. That being said, it's hard. Just managing everything in general can be a challenge. My classroom is not set up in a way where I'm the sage on the stage. I'm sitting there talking, and everybody's taking notes. Kids are organized in groups, so we set up teaching groups. While one group is in the preschool, I have another group working on lesson planning for the next time they go into the lab, then I have another group working on their portfolios, and another group working on our next family event and all the things that go in with that. I have to manage all of them to make sure that everything's getting done, make sure that the kids are going into the lab, and they're prepared and ready to go, making sure that families are happy, parents are happy. The whole budgeting of the preschool, I do all of that, too. I manage it all. It's super challenging, but it's like a well-oiled machine. Things are working good or working well. They flow, but then anybody who teaches high school knows that schedules change like this. I might have everything set up, and then, oh, we're testing, I need to pull these kids, I need to do this, I need to do that, the schedule is extended, so then I have to pivot. The preschoolers don't know any better because their day just continues on. Thankfully, I do have my job coaches. That part can be a challenge because the high school in general, the whole high school runs as it needs to run. We're just one little section of that. We have to really be able to accommodate the schedules, field trips, [inaudible 00:28:12], and things like that. Marnetta: Do your students eat in the classroom, or do they join high school students in the cafeteria but in a certain space? Deborah: No. Some schools do that. We have a very large school. Our high school is 2400 students. It's not the largest in our county, but I think it's a pretty large number of students. That would make me nervous. [inaudible 00:28:44] cafeteria. We eat in the classroom. My high schoolers go to lunch after we put our kids down for a nap. Thankfully, I have amazing administrators that take into account the fact that I have to accommodate preschoolers, and we need the girls in there and boys to assist us. They go in and they sit with the kids during snack and lunch. They assist in that when they have their lunch. But then when the bell rings, they then go to lunch. They're definitely not going to the cafeteria. Marnetta: Yeah, remind me to tell you a story one time. Deborah: What's a [inaudible 00:29:34]? If it was close right next to it, I would entertain the idea. They're 3-5 year olds, they're not 16, 17, 18 year olds. The kids that are in my program are appropriate. Kids that are not in my program might do things and say things that are appropriate for 16, 17, and 18 year olds, but not appropriate for 3-5 year olds. I try to make sure that it's a developmentally appropriate experience for everyone. Marnetta: I love it. There are a couple of things that stuck out to me. First, you mentioned this CLASS observation. I went to a private lab school when I first started high school. I just remember, there were always people back there watching to see what we're doing or whatever. You also said well-oiled machines, which brings me in to. I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about CLASS. Do you get observed with CLASS? Have you taught the high schoolers anything about CLASS in those interactions? Deborah: We don't get observed by CLASS, which I think it's important. It's been on my radar to have my high schoolers be exposed to that and learn about that, but we don't. We're Broward County public school. We're not private. We're licensed and insured. We follow Broward County School protocol. CLASS don't come in. We get observed by my principal. We get observed by me. I would want them to have that exposure and learn about that. However, we fall under a different observation. Marnetta: Wonderful. We could teach them without teaching them. Deborah: That's what I do. I follow the rules. I follow because I'm teaching them industry. We have to follow when industry standards are. I do all those things. I do have full autonomy over the programs. I like that because I get to do a lot of stuff, but I do think it's important. That is something that, within our county, when I talk to people that do what I do in other schools, we talk about that little piece. That's that missing piece for us because as much as people don't like to be observed, necessarily, it is a piece that we should have something, where all of us are on the same page, and we're all doing the same things so that we know what's expected, and we can teach that to the kids as well. Marnetta: That prepares them. It's another tool for them. They know this tool, I have it. There are lots of places that are using CLASS. They're ahead of the game in that regard and knowing about CLASS. Deborah: Absolutely. It's definitely a missing piece for us, I think. Marnetta: For your high schoolers that are really excited and get really just amped, like they are your partner in just this excitement, this love of ECE, what kind of other training do you recommend for them to elevate their love, their interest, and their knowledge on their journey? Deborah: One of the parts of my program is for the state of Florida, we have all our industry certifications so that they leave being able to have all their requirements to be able to be a preschool teacher. I provide any extras that the state provides for us to be able to do. We allow them to do that as well, and I facilitate that for them. Again, we do our national CDA. They leave with their credential. I'm proud to say that 100% of my students who complete all their requirements, who come in and they do everything that they're supposed to do, have attained their CDA since I started. I'm super proud of that. Those that are hungry, I find a way for them. I look up resources. We look at colleges or local places for them to be able to advance in their career. I partner with a lot of the preschools in the area. I also partner with Broward County Schools. I have a few students who are going to stay local. They're going to go to the college here close by. I'm working with them to get a job and make sure that they have those credentials so that they can start out as a teacher assistant and move on from there. Those that are hungry, they know where to go. They know that I will sit there and we'll map it out. I've sat there with them and helped them map out the courses that they need to take. Let's take a look at what's being offered and get you on a path. I was saying, I'm not your guidance counselor. But if I was your mom and I was looking at this, then this is the path that I would take, but then I would send them to the right person because I always am fearful. I don't want somebody saying, oh, you told my daughter, you told me, or whatever. This is what I would do, but I give them those resources. Anything that's free, sometimes the state will offer free courses, literacy courses, trauma-informed care, any of those things, I always offer that to my students. Marnetta: I love that. That leads into the question I was going to ask. It's almost like you're reading my mind. Aside from your students, you've been in this field providing this excellent work and just pouring your heart into it. In a mentorship type of fashion, what training would you recommend for a new educator to take advantage of? Where would they start? What would your recommendation be? Deborah: If you're right off the bat, I would always say, go get your degree. I would start with that. What are you passionate about? Early childhood, go further with your education. Start there. From there, you just have to find your passion. I'm big into literacy. Get your reading endorsement, take classes in that, specialize in that curriculum. There’s so many things that you can do within the field of education to go on from there. There's a lot out there. You don't necessarily have to be a teacher. You can be a guidance counselor. You don't even have to work in a school, but you can be an advocate. Marnetta: You've shared a lot with me and the listeners. I am just really curious. I'd really like to know about a personal story about a high school student or a specific interaction that is just true, like warms your heart and just made all the challenges worth it. What is your story? Deborah: I have so many, really. I, going and moving from elementary. I love elementary students. I love kindergarten. That is my passion. There's countless working with kids. Every year, it's something different. Just off the top of my head. I've had kids that come in. They're hard high schoolers. They're just hard. I had one girl. I was writing her like, you got to get your work done, hello, whatever. She just, one time, looked at me and she was like, I know you don't like me. I was like, [...]. That is the one thing, and I was like, wait a minute, pause. One of the things that I learned when going from elementary to high school and just interacting with high school students is that they take things completely differently. They receive things in a different way. Me being persistent and writing to her a little bit, she was like, this teacher doesn't like me. I was like, I think this is the furthest thing from my mind. She was tough. Not bad or anything like that, but sometimes they just don't want to do their work. I want them to be successful. I don't want to fail kids because you're not doing your work. That just made me pivot. This young lady is receiving my energy in a way that makes her think that I don't like her. It was so far from the truth, so I had to change the way I spoke to her. Not the way that I spoke to her, but just how I engaged with her. From then, I was like, oh, now you're my project. You said the words. I wrangled her in. She was tough. It's hard for her to finish and pass the tests for the state because that's one of my things. You knew you're going to leave with these industry certs. I studied with her. I would work with her after school. I had her just get her stuff together. I was like, if I can drag her across the stage with that industry cert, I'm going to do it, and I did. At the end of the year, they [inaudible 00:41:13]. She just loved me. She knew that I cared about her. I invested that extra time. I've had kids that tell me I hate kids, and there is no way I'm going to be a teacher. I liked the kids in the preschool, they would say. I love the kids in the preschool, but when I'm out in public, God, they annoy me. I have had them for multiple years. By senior year, they're like, I think I want to be a teacher. I'm like, I knew it, I knew it. You came in here saying, you did like kids, and look at you. They're like, I know. Those are the kids that you remember. I remember them all. They all have something about that. They keep me up at night. I think about them a lot. I've had some kids that have really tough lives. Things going on in their life that are so impactful. You can just see that getting through the day is difficult. I think about one in particular. Just that impact that you have on them and just trying to get them to come to class, get through the day, and just get through the school year, they come to my class, they don't go to others. Those are the kids, one in particular, that she wants to go and be a teacher. She wants to make an impact. A lot of the kids tell me, I want to be a teacher, but I want to do what you do. I want to work with the little ones, but also the high school students. They see that there's value there. I couldn't even just pick one. There’s so many. Marnetta: It was worth it. I appreciate all that. I do have a follow up question. When you were talking about your first story with the girl who thought you didn't like her, what from that experience shifted how you approached or interacted with students moving forward? Deborah: Kids have their own interpretation of things. I always use texting as an example. We use an app called Remind. I use that to communicate with them. They're always like, Miss Covard, you're so aggressive, you put periods. It's whatever. They interpret things so differently. I always try to give them a disclaimer. I'm like, listen, when I talk to you, when I text and I email, sometimes I'm just a matter of fact. Read the text, read the email, listen to what I'm telling you in a happy voice. I'm not going to speak to you. If I'm angry, you're going to know I'm angry. But if it's an everyday conversation, take it as me just giving you information. Sometimes they'll tell me. I was like, if you're thinking that I'm a certain way, just ask me because I want to make sure that you're clear with the tone, what my motives are, and things like that. I just disclaimer it, because some of them are like, I'm old. I put periods at the end of my sentence. I'm sorry. I can't just send you a message without a period, even though for you it's final. If I'm whatever, that's not how it is. It's me saying, don't forget to turn in your homework, not, don't forget to turn in your homework or something. You're going to make mistakes, too. We're working with live human beings, so I take it very seriously. It's not pottery where if you break a pot, it's broken, it's a pot, you'll make another one. We can't make new ones. I'm going to be a certain way when it comes to the safety of our kids and how we interact with them. If I speak to you in a way, if I don't like something, or if I critique something, understand where it's coming from,. After it's done, we're moving on. I'm not mad for the day, I don't hold grudges. They internalize that. I try to just remind them because I'm aware of it, and I can tell by their body language instantly. I don't want to use the word scold, but I'm like, who did this? Then they're like, it's me. Now she's mad at me throughout the day. I'm like, literally, it's not that deep. I'm not mad at you for the rest of the day. I just need you to fix it, and then we're moving on. Marnetta: You're just really proactive with the intent of your messaging. That way, they're prepared, and they don't take it seriously. Deborah: They get used to it. They always tell me, in the beginning, their first encounter with me the first few months, they're like, oh, I'm high energy. I'm direct. They're usually like, oh, goodness. Once they know me, they're like, she'll be all right. Marnetta: You are absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for joining me today. Deborah: Thank you for having me. Marnetta: It was great hearing why many high schoolers are choosing to join Early Education as a career path, but also how you've been mentoring them in their journeys, and hearing how you're inspiring the next generation of teachers and leaders. Listeners, you can find today's episode and transcript on our website, teachstone.com/podcast. Stay tuned for our bonus episode live from Miami at InterAct CLASS Summit. As always, behind right leading and teaching are powerful interactions. Let's build that culture together. Thanks again, Deborah. Deborah: Thank you.

Other Episodes