United Way opens Early Childhood Institute

United Way opens Early Childhood Institute

January 18th, 2014 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Mariah Stoudemire, left, Marilyn Perez and Marceria Cox execute a child learning exercise with letters of the alphabet following an instructive presentation by Early Childhood Institute coordinator Cara Woodall. The women represented the Newton Development Center, the Children's Academy and the Volunteer Community School, respectively from left. The program was the first expanded Early Childhood Institute group beyond the initial group that had previously met at United Way headquarters, according to Kelley Nave, director of public relations at United Way of Chattanooga.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


Preschool teachers interested in signing up for the United Way's next Early Childhood Institute should call 423-752-0312. Reservations should be made so that the staff will have materials available for all participants.

The United Way knows how to get toddlers ready for kindergarten and wants to share its information at no charge with every preschool teacher who wants to learn.

The next six-week class at the agency's Early Childhood Institute starts this spring.

"We're opening it up to reach more centers in at-risk communities, trying to get them [to] improve the quality in their classrooms," said Cara Woodall, United Way's Early Childhood Institute coordinator.

The nonprofit agency started its early childhood intervention initiative in 2012 by helping to fund nine inner-city early childhood centers while making sure those centers use teaching methods that prepare children for kindergarten.

Studies show that children from low-income families enter school at either the same academic level or higher than children from advantaged areas when the children have had a high quality preschool classroom experience, Woodall said. And their high level ofacademic achievement continues on through third grade and beyond, she said.

Of the 147 pre-kindergarten children who participated in the United Way's Ready to Read program in 2012, 92.7 percent had literacy skills on level to enter kindergarten, she said.

The United Way uses standardized assessment tools to evaluate the strengths and areas for improvement in a classroom and then brings experienced educators to share information on those areas.

Improving literacy, teaching children problem-solving skills, building helpful teacher-child relationships and behavior management are some of the issues that have been previously targeted.

Teachers use role-playing and games to improve their skills and help youth prepare for school.

Sixty two teachers participated in the institute in 2013.

Moneka Norwood, a preschool teacher at the Maurice Kirby Child Care, is participating this year.

"I enjoyed it," she said after attending a class at the United Way office this month.

The institute helps make teachers more aware of teaching opportunities that they get with children in routine tasks. Instead of just eating lunch with students, the teacher could talk about the shape of the table, if it's round, square or rectangular. The conversation makes students aware of geometric shapes. And they can talk about the color of the table.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.