Evelyn Patino has heard all of the misconceptions about what it means to be an early childhood educator. One of her biggest pet peeves is hearing from others that teachers in an early childhood classroom are simply ‘babysitting’ kids all day with minimal teaching. She also hears that people assume teachers in an early childhood classroom don’t have any formal education. Not true, as Patino is quick to point out whenever she has a discussion with an uninformed person.
“It does get to me because I know how hard we work and what we do,” Patino said. “We have teachers with all sorts of educational backgrounds teaching in the classroom.”
Patino, for example, graduated from the University of Illinois-Chicago with a bachelors degree in psychology in 2012. She initially wanted to become a counselor for children but instead, she applied for a job at Kid’z Colony in Garfield Ridge. She has been there ever since and has served as both a lead teacher and assistant director. After serving in both roles, she realized she preferred the day-to-day interaction with the children and to see them grow academically throughout the school year.
“My heart is in the classroom,” Patino said. “You have to be able to love what you are doing.”
In order to increase her education level, Patino completed an Illinois Professional Educators Licensure (PEL) in fall 2020 semester at UIC. Through a partnership with the Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship Program, her tuition and books were all covered. She is now working towards an English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement at City Colleges of Chicago, which is also covered by the CELWS.
She has been able to use the skills she has learned at City Colleges and UIC in her pre-kindergarten classroom, particularly with a boy who only spoke Spanish at the beginning of this school year. He is now able to converse in both English and Spanish.
Patino said she definitely sees a need for more passionate teachers in pre-kindergarten classrooms, especially bilingual teachers who are able to establish a connection with children at an early age.
Patino said she encourages anyone who already has a bachelors degree and is looking for a career change to consider obtaining their PEL, especially if it is covered by the CELWS program.
“It can only help you accomplish your goals,” said of the scholarship. “It’s doable and it’s going to save you money. There is also some flexibility in terms of your work schedule and course load.”