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Program helps preschool teachers go back to school

December 7, 2014
Patty Machelor

To that end, the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona has teamed up with several local agencies to offer free classes, seminars and books to people working with young children. Great Expectations for Teachers, Children and Families, funded through Arizona’s First Things First’s tobacco tax funds, also links local teachers to financial aid and scholarships so they can earn associate’s and bachelor’s degrees. (Learn more at Through the program, and the networking and support it provides, the number of Pima County college graduates in the field nearly doubled in five years. In 2009, the year the program started, between 22 and 25 people earned associate’s degrees in early-childhood education from Pima Community College. In May 2013, the number of graduates had risen to 47. Great Expectations also provided funds to begin a new University of Arizona master’s program in the field, and five have graduated so far. . . 

In 2012, the median income for Arizona’s early-childhood teachers was $10 per hour, with Head Start teachers earning an average of $16 per hour and public preschool teachers earning $14.50 per hour, data provided by First Things First show. Of those teachers, bachelor’s degrees were held by about 31 percent of the Head Start teachers, 45 percent of public school teachers and 23 percent of those working in nonprofit schools and for-profit centers, for an average of 26 percent.