The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated challenges facing the early childhood sector, leaving a lasting impact on the recruitment and retention of educators, especially those who teach Georgia’s youngest learners. Additionally, teachers face a new classroom landscape that not only impacts their students, but also their ability to meet their own needs, care for their families, and cultivate their skillsets.
To better understand the experiences of Georgia’s early childhood educators and how to support this crucial workforce, GEEARS: Georgia Early Education Alliance for Ready Students conducted a series of focus groups—16 in total—throughout 2022-23 with early childhood educators from a range of settings, including center- and home-based child care, Head Start, and Georgia’s Pre-K.
Georgia’s Pre-K is a unique and critical component of Georgia’s early care and learning landscape. It is a publicly funded program administered by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL), with classrooms in both local school systems and child care programs (see box), which directly employs teachers. Several key themes emerged from the focus groups including addressing children’s individual needs, the work environment and supports for teachers, compensation and benefits, and career development.