‘Education is addicting; I’ve caught the bug’
“T.E.A.C.H. is the best program that ever happened,” says Rebecca Repoza, who has worked in the early childhood field since graduating from high school 29 years ago. “It gave me the opportunity to do what I wanted to do my whole life – going to college and earning a degree.”
In May 2016 Rebecca saw her dream realized when she received her associate’s degree in early childhood education from the Community College of Rhode Island. “It was one of the happiest days of my life,” she says.
Another happy event occurred right after graduation day; Rebecca was promoted to director of A Little Red Schoolhouse, the center in East Providence where she has worked for the past three years as a teacher. It was the associate’s degree that made the promotion and the accompanying pay increase possible.
“I probably wouldn’t have had the option to go to school without T.E.A.C.H.,” Rebecca says. “I had been taking a course here and there, but I didn’t have the money to get serious about it. And the support I got from Maura [Pearce, T.E.A.C.H. RI director] and Samantha [McCormack, T.E.A.C.H counselor] was phenomenal. I was always calling them with questions, and they always had the answers.”
Rebecca first learned of the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program when she was with The Children’s Place, which was then in Rumford. In 2012, she began her coursework, taking two courses in the fall, two in the spring, and one each summer while working full time. Most of her courses were held on CCRI’s Providence Campus, an environment she found particularly warm and welcoming to older students. “The younger students were all familiar with technology,” she notes. “The last time I had to write papers I used a typewriter. But the tech people on campus really helped me out, and I’m now using much more technology in my work.”
Rebecca oversees a staff of five at A Little Red Schoolhouse, including her youngest daughter, Tara, who is also a T.E.A.C.H. scholar and halfway toward earning her associate’s degree at CCRI. With 39 children, the center is at full capacity and has a waiting list. “When I came three years ago, one of my goals was to increase enrollment,” Rebecca notes. “It’s nearly tripled since then.”
While attending college, Rebecca says she became increasingly interested in program planning and teacher development. “I’ve always loved teaching, but this has become a new focus of mine,” she says. She enjoyed writing two quality improvement grants for her center, which were both approved by the state’s Center for Early Learning Professionals.
As someone who overcame obstacles to achieve her goals – motherhood at 18, breast cancer that required numerous surgeries and chemotherapy – Rebecca is always encouraging other early childhood teachers with no college to follow her lead and pursue an associate’s degree. “It gets overwhelming when you’re facing 63 credits,” she says, “but I always say, tackle it one class at a time.
“As for me, I’m not done yet. I’m planning to go for a bachelor’s degree now. Education is addicting and empowering. I’ve caught the bug.”
Shown at top is Rebecca with her daughter, Tara Repoza, also a T.E.A.C.H. scholar.
T.E.A.C.H Early Childhood® RI awards scholarships to early childhood educators across the state who are pursuing coursework or seeking degrees in early childhood education. It then connects this increased education with increased compensation, which leads to better teacher retention. T.E.A.C.H. RI, a project of Ready to Learn Providence, is a licensed program of Child Care Services Association. T.E.A.C.H. currently operates in 24 states and the District of Columbia.
Back to Top