Fredericksburg Parent

March 2020

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18 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • March 2020 Virginia is starting the 2020s with a renewed focus on early childhood education. Gov. Ralph Northam has called for $95 million in new funding to increase access to early childhood education for at-risk 3- and-4-year-olds, and to ensure educators and care providers have the training and sup- port they need. "Early childhood education is one of the best investments we can make in our children's health, well-being, and future success," Northam states in a release announcing his proposals. At this moment of focus on developing the minds of Virginia's youngest residents, it's important to recognize that the task of improving early childhood education ultimately falls to those on the front lines: preschool teachers. "Early childhood educators are our heroes," says Courtney Harris, Virginia Quality Expansion Coordinator at Smart Beginnings Rappahannock Area. "Teachers are in the spotlight right now, and it's important to remember that this is not a highly paid profession, but a lot is expected of these teachers. They are not babysitters." To maintain a strong workforce of early childhood educators, preschools and other care pro- viders need access to resources where teachers can receive professional development, support and mentoring to help them grow in their careers. That's where Virginia Quality comes in. INTERVIEWED BY EMILY FREEHLING Supporting Teachers is to Improving Kindergarten Readiness KEY

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