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Drexel and TEACH PA Scholarship Helps Early Childhood Educators Earn Degree and Avoid Debt

Drexel University School of Education

Kimberly Speller Drexel Student

August 7, 2020

Kimberly Speller is not your typical undergraduate student. A longtime resident of West Philadelphia, Speller owns her own home-based childcare program where she teaches six children. Her program is one of 25 providers who make up the membership of Drexel’s Action for Early Learning Alliance of Childcare Providers. Members of the Alliance receive technical supports and resources to improve the quality of their program. Oh, and by the way, she also has a side hustle as a real estate agent.

One thing Kimberly does not have that she says is holding her back is a bachelor’s degree. Now, thanks to Drexel’s partnership with the TEACH Pennsylvania Scholarship program, early childhood education teachers like Kimberly can receive funding to cover the cost of their degree.

“I believe I have enough experience, but when it comes to the credentials, that’s where I’m lacking. I am up here with the experience, but down here with the credentials, so you need to have a balance with what you do, that is why I am pursuing a degree.”

Kimberly says she always wanted to earn a degree but there was one major hurdle that held her back: debt. Thanks to the scholarship, she can avoid taking on loans to pay for her classes.

“That got me excited and motivated to pursue that dream that I always had. I always had the dream, but I said ‘no’ and put it to the side because I didn’t want to take on student loans.”

The TEACH (Teacher Education And Compensation Helps) Scholarship is a state program managed by the Pennsylvania Child Care Association. It is funded through grants from businesses, foundations, and government. The goal is to provide funding to allow childcare center teachers earn PA teacher certification in grades preK-4. Students then apply their newfound knowledge in their childcare programs and help children receive a higher standard of education.

Drexel students who receive the TEACH scholarship can choose from a variety of programs depending on their level of education. Students can enroll in the bachelor’s degree in elementary education where they can earn prek-4 teacher certification from the state of Pennsylvania. Students who already have a bachelor’s degree can enroll in the post-bachelor’s teacher certification program where they will take state-required courses for teacher certification. The credits earned in the post-bachelor’s program can also be applied to Drexel’s MS in Teaching Learning and Curriculum degree. Through reciprocation agreements with local community colleges, students with associate degrees can transfer to Drexel to complete their degree in elementary education. All of the courses are taught online and TEACH provides funding to allow teachers to receive their normal salary while they are away from work to complete student teaching requirements.

For Kimberly, the scholarship is what drew her to Drexel. “I never thought I would be here today. When I started, I never wanted to go to school, but if I do go, I am not going to be in debt. So now, I have nothing to hold me back. I have the finances to pay for it. I just need the time to move forward with it.”

Kimberly is taking classes part time while she continues to operate her home-based program. She is on schedule to graduate in 2022. Her biggest challenge now is balancing life with school. She credits her support system at home for keeping her focused.

“You have to have a support team to do anything, and hopefully they will be there until I get my degree, but time management is important. I have to be strict on myself and disciplined in order to get things done.”

Kimberly has managed her time quite well. She made the dean’s list last spring while taking classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has some advice for childcare center teachers like her who want to go back to school and earn their degree but are worried about costs and other factors.

“Anything that you put your mind to, you can accomplish it. A lot of times, I believe we make excuses or find reasons not to do things, but if you want it bad enough, you’ll figure it out.”

For more information about the TEACH PA Scholarship including how to apply and answers to frequently asked questions, please visit,