PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Preschools, as well as grades K-12, are dealing with a dire shortage of teachers, and in response, the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando counties is offering free tuition to whoever wants to pursue their early childhood education certification, thanks to a federal grant.
“We have several zip codes that just have some critical shortages for high quality educators, so I volunteered our coalition to pilot an apprenticeship program in partnership with Marchman Technical College, which is connected to Pasco schools, just to try to educate our younger teachers and any teacher in our community,” said Dr. Steve Knobl, executive director of the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties, Inc.
One preschool in Holiday has already hired several graduates from that program, and its owner said having these qualified teachers ready to work is helping ease the shortage already.
Alexis Cimmino is the assistant director of Little Rascals Preschool in Holiday. Her class starts the day playing a quick game of “Pirate Ship,” and while she admits she’s always loved kids, her initial goal wasn’t to work with them.
“I always would babysit my cousin and nephew and stuff, and I was always good with kids,” Cimmino said. “Originally, I wanted to be a nurse, but I wasn’t good at chemistry. I was good at kids.”
Then, when she had her daughter Mia Rose, she discovered her true calling — working in early childhood education.
Cimmino is a graduate of Marchman Technical College, and she was able to attend and receive her certification thanks to the federal grant that paid for her tuition.
“I ended up working at McDonald’s, I wasn’t even going to go back to childcare, but I missed coming to work and actually having fun, not coming to work like, ‘Dang, I have to go to work.’ ” Cimmino said. “I was actually able to come, and shake my sillys out and have fun with the kids.”