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‘An Awesome Opportunity’ - Pilot Apprenticeship Program In Pennsylvania Set To Launch For Teachers & Child Care Workers

Published Thursday, December 26, 2019
by Mark Presto/The Johnstown Tribune-Democrat
‘An Awesome Opportunity’ - Pilot Apprenticeship Program In Pennsylvania Set To Launch For Teachers & Child Care Workers

(JOHNSTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA) - The Learning Lamp will soon launch an Apprenticeship Program designed to allow some aspiring Teachers to earn a college degree in education without incurring debt, the head of the Johnstown-based education and child care non-profit says.

Six Employees of The Learning Lamp will begin earning college credits on-line through the Pennsylvania Rural Early Childhood Education Apprenticeship Program when the pilot program is launched in January, said Leah Spangler, the President and CEO of The Learning Lamp.

Spangler called the program “a ‘real game-changer in terms of making college possible for people it might not otherwise be possible for.’”

One of the six Apprentices, Danielle Leibfreid, works with toddlers at The Learning Lamp’s child care center in Johnstown.  Her first job was in child care, she said, but after she had her own children, she went back to school to study cosmetology and spent some time working as a hairstylist.  “I ‘just wasn’t as fulfilled by that as much as I was by working with children,’” explained Leibfried, a resident of Johnstown’s Roxbury section who has now worked for The Learning Lamp for a little more than a year. “There’s ‘nothing that can bring more joy to your day than a child.’”

She called the chance to participate in the Apprenticeship Program “an awesome opportunity.”  “Whenever I was asked about it,” she recalled, “I ‘didn’t even hesitate in saying, yes, I was interested in it.’  It’s ‘awesome’ that The Learning Lamp ‘even offers this opportunity where a lot of employers wouldn’t.’  ‘It’s something that I’m very thankful to be able to advance myself.’”

The Apprentices will take their first three courses in Early Childhood Education toward their degrees on-line through Shippensburg University, with no tuition payments required.

At the same time, they will be paired with Master Teachers at their work locations who will provide on-the-job training, helping them learn and apply their skills.

Tuition is funded through the state Office of Childhood Development and Early Learning, Spangler said.  Program coordination is funded through a grant from the Pittsburgh-based Grable Foundation, as are expenses that apprentices may incur, such as laptops or travel costs.

Kristen Burns, who serves as the Associate Director of the Grable Foundation, said in a press release that the program “offers early educators support for their own continued professional growth, access to valuable credentials, and the chance to complete required coursework on-line - important in rural communities where attending regular classes at a university campus may not be feasible.”

The pilot program is modeled on an Apprenticeship Program in Philadelphia that, in Spangler’s words, “has been ‘really, really successful in helping people working in early childhood (education) to build their skills, increase their wages and also stabilize the workforce.’”

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