Current and future child care workers now have access to a comprehensive training and coaching program that prepares them for their job and provides the education needed to increase their career opportunities. University of Nevada, Reno Extension recently introduced “Spiral Up,” a program that aims to elevate the child care profession and support individuals in receiving the tools needed to provide high-quality early childhood care and education to the youngest population in the state.
Offered at no cost, the Spiral Up Academy is a seven-week program designed to set new child care professionals up for success as they begin their career. It consists of weekly virtual trainings, individual coaching and independent online trainings. At the conclusion of their participation, individuals will have completed all the initial State of Nevada Child Care Licensing required trainings that workers in the field must complete within the first 120 days of their employment, with the exception of CPR and first aid. They also receive 14 hours of additional training that is not mandated, but will help improve their skillset as they begin work in the early childhood education field.
Extension’s Spiral Up Academy is open to early child care educators working with children 0-5 years. The academy is offered five times a year, with its next session beginning on March 14. Currently, in order to enroll, a newly hired employee must be referred from a licensed child care center director or administrator.
“We condense trainings into a seven-week training period and closely support those new hires as they complete the required training they need in their first 120 days,” Cathy Peshlakai, Extension early childhood education senior coordinator, said. “But the biggest difference between our program and others is the coaching component.”
Each week, individuals spend 30 minutes with a coach discussing the training topic and setting goals for improving practices in the early childhood classroom.
“Having an early childhood coach and setting aside the time to discuss action planning helps teachers to acquire, enhance or refine specific teaching skills,” Peshlakai said. “We’re combining education with support to help individuals as they begin their career. We build relationships with new hires to help them feel like they are a part of a community.”
In addition to providing training for new professionals, the program provides support to center directors by ensuring their new hires complete the required training in their first 120 days and removing some of the administrative burden of tracking their progress. Previously, it was up to the directors to track and help new hires navigate and find classes. With the introduction of Spiral Up, that work has been done both for the director and the new hire.
“The Spiral Up Academy has been an incredibly valuable asset to me as a director,” Chelsie Shurtleff, director at University United Methodist Child Development Center, said. “I have had four new employees go through the program, and the support and resources they get from Spiral Up is amazing. The instructors go above and beyond to help them complete all the initial training hours and give them the tools they need to be effective teachers in the early childhood education setting.”
Since the program launched in August 2022, more than 60 individuals have enrolled. It is currently in its third session since its inception.
Once professionals complete their initial training, Extension offers continued workforce training to keep them on track for meeting annual job training requirements. Workforce training topics include Best Practices for Intentional Teaching, Targeted Social Emotional Supports in Early Childhood and Building Nurturing Responsive Relationships, to name a few.
Twenty of the training hours that individuals receive from the Spiral Up Academy meet the requirements for the Child Development Associate Credential, which is a nationally recognized credential from the Council for Professional Recognition. This credential provides an opportunity for promotion and pay increases in early childhood programs such as Head Start. The credential also meets one of the qualifications for the position of early childhood center director and helps an early childhood provider qualify for more positions by showing potential future employers that they have reached a professional level of skill and knowledge.
After receiving this credential, early childhood professionals are encouraged to continue their education by completing associate, bachelor’s or graduate degrees. Extension also offers the Adult Learning Academy for Trainers, Leadership Professional Learning Community, and Coaching Circles and Community of Practice programs. These programs build a community of early childhood professionals who collect and share information and discuss best practices in their field. Members assist in developing and sustaining learning, and use what they learn by integrating it into their work to effect change in the early childhood field.
A hands-on learning lab also recently opened at Extension’s North Las Vegas location, where professionals can receive coaching and learn more about creating engaging spaces for early childhood centers.
Extension has been providing child care training for more than 25 years as part of its professional development for child care providers programming to help fill a gap in this training that existed in the state. In 2017, the program was expanded to offer online trainings to reach a larger population. The COVID-19 pandemic further expanded the reach of these programs by introducing more remote classes via Zoom, which opened the doors for those in more remote areas of the state.
To learn more about Extension’s early childhood education programs for professionals, contact Peshlakai or Sarah Wright.