Teacher of the Year: All children deserve quality pre-K
In a career that spans four states, two decades, and one Delaware Teacher of the Year award, I’ve seen the impact quality early learning can have on kids - up close and personal.
At a private early learning center in Bethesda, Md., I saw how affluent families and well-supported educators provided children with all the resources they’ll need for social and academic success.
Inside my kindergarten classroom in Denver, which was filled with 5-year-olds who were still learning English, I saw under-resourced kids and families who would have benefitted greatly from those same opportunities.
am dedicated to advocating for all students in Delaware, particularly our youngest learners, who cannot advocate for themselves.
Every stop along my career (currently I teach young students with disabilities at the Sussex County Orthopedic Program in Seaford, where I earned the distinction of Delaware’s 2019 Teacher of the Year) provided me with rich experiences, new knowledge, and best practices. Each chapter clearly illustrated how participating in high-quality early childhood education programs can positively impact children and families.
They’ve also shown me how the lack of access to high-quality, affordable early childhood programs can damage families, communities and educational futures.
According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, Delaware is ranked 38th in the nation for in-state-funded pre-K enrollment, well below all of our neighboring states. These are sad statistics, but we can do better. High-quality, early childhood education greatly improves the educational and social-emotional development of a child.
According to the Harvard Center for the Developing Child, “Ninety percent of brain development occurs before the age of 5,” yet in Delaware, we are not capitalizing on proven brain development research.
The National Education Association recommends providing full-day preschool as a strategy to close the educational achievement gap.
Unfortunately, fewer than half of Delaware’s children arrive at kindergarten having ever attended an early learning program.
National studies show that quality pre-K experiences and instruction benefits all children, including, English learners, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and children eligible for special education services.
Quality pre-K programs focus on experiences and instruction that improve language development, social-emotional learning, mental health and cognitive skills.
Our Delaware K-12 public school teachers strive to provide an outstanding education to our students, but our students would have a much stronger foundation entering kindergarten if Delaware would provide all children with access to high-quality, full-day, free pre-K - as is offered in many other states.
Throughout Delaware, teachers and parents support First State Pre-K (www.firststateprek.com), a non-partisan issue campaign dedicated to ensuring that every child in Delaware has access to high-quality, free, pre-K.
As the 2019 Delaware State Teacher of the Year, I am dedicated to advocating for our young children, both with and without special needs. I support legislation that provides voluntary, free, full-day, high-quality preschool programming, as does the Delaware State Education Association, the Delaware Parent Teacher Association, and more than 50 other organizations in Delaware.
Please visit www.firststateprek.com to read the national research regarding the benefits of universal pre-K, to learn how you can support this effort, and to learn about the community organizations already supporting universal pre-K in Delaware.
We must stop doing the same thing and expecting different results. Today, we must commit to providing high-quality, inclusive pre-K to all children in Delaware.
Dana Bowe teaches kindergarten through second grade at the Sussex County Orthopedic Program in Seaford, and is the 2019 Delaware Teacher of the Year.