Western New Mexico University’s early childhood teacher preparation program received a $42,000 grant in order to develop a master’s degree and a salary structure to incentivize staff members to continue their educations. From the Brindle Foundation, this grant award will help WNMU fill the gap in the state’s early childhood workforce.
“There is a demand for high-quality early childhood educators in New Mexico, especially with the additions of home-visiting programs and various state-funded initiatives like pre-kindergarten. Research says educators with higher levels of degrees are better prepared to support improved outcomes for children,” said Executive Director or WNMU’s Early Childhood Programs Shannon Rivera.
Over the next couple years, WNMU will use this award to create an Early Childhood Master of Arts program and to set up a salary structure similar for recruiting and retaining staff at WNMU’s Child Development Center and Growing Tree Infant/Toddler Program.
While WNMU does, as of this fall, offer a Master of Teaching with a specialization in early childhood, the new master’s degree is geared toward those with early childhood education bachelor’s degrees who want a more in-depth study of early childhood philosophies, particularly for supporting children dealing with adverse childhood experiences or trauma. It’s the only program of its kind in New Mexico.
“More and more children and families are dealing with difficult situations such as divorce, death, drug abuse, domestic violence, incarceration, homelessness and food insecurity. Many of these children do not qualify for services, and teachers do not have the training to support their needs. The focus of WNMU’s new master’s program is to provide educators with more specific and in-depth practices to support children as resilient learners,” Rivera said.