“Through challenges they have found solace and strength in one another and extended arms of support to the children and families that pass through their doors.” – our partners at All Our Kin on the work of Latinx early educators.
Early educators play a key role in their communities. They provide safe, secure, and nurturing environments for young children, support busy and oftentimes overwhelmed parents and caregivers, and keep our economy going by providing a much-needed resource in our country. Moreover, early educators are trusted resources for information and instruction when families face new experiences and challenges. This can be particularly meaningful for educators serving immigrant communities where their compassion, empathy, and cultural competence are deeply valued. As Nancy Carrillo, an educational coach with All Our Kin shared with us, “In my experience families look for [child care] providers who are from the same culture, same country. It helps the family to feel less isolated because some may not have family around.” By supporting and connecting families, early educators serve as trusted community builders.
This Latinx Heritage month, we recognize and celebrate Latinx early educators. When families with young children are forced to navigate oppressive systems and threats to the safety of their families, neighbors, and communities, early educators are there to help. With nearly 4 in 5 Latino kids suffering one traumatic childhood experience, these educators spend their time singing, reading, and playing with young children, working to mitigate the effects of the stress and trauma on young children’s developing brains and making little ones feel seen and safe. They listen to parents and other family members, and they create opportunities for families to socialize and support one another. When catastrophe does strike, early educators are there to help. Following the awful ICE raids in Mississippi earlier this year, early educators cared for children when parents were detained and could not pick them up from their schools and child care programs. Early educators help to heal to their communities in the wake of fear.
However, many Latinx early educators need support themselves. They are not immune to the awful rhetoric in the media and threats of ICE raids in their communities. They experience the same fear as the families they serve every day. As Nilda Aponte, another educational coach with All Our Kin describes, “There is a lot of fear. Some providers have expressed that they don’t always feel safe going to trainings because of the current climate around immigration; some providers feel powerless and helpless. In those cases we’ve seen that relationships are so important–they need a network of support.” For all they do, Latinx early educators deserve our collective admiration and space to process and heal.
Latinx early educators also deserve compensation that recognizes the tremendous value they bring to their communities. However, far too many are not paid enough. According to NWLC’s 2017 report Undervalued, Latinas represent 21% of the child care workforce and 14% of pre-k teachers. The median hourly wages are $9.62 and $11.54 respectively. This level of pay fails to recognize the work that Latinx educators do every day. As a result, many struggle to make ends meet for their own families while still showing up for children and their communities every day. This is yet another reason why we need to raise wages and compensation for early educators and increase funding for child care assistance programs.
So while we celebrate the endless contributions of early educators year-round, we want to take time to highlight the specific contributions of Latinx early educators during this celebratory month and time when the Latinx community faces relentless attacks on their well-being. To the Latinx early educators around the country– We value you. We support you. We cannot thank you enough.