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An Op-Ed by Suzan Gage, Guest columnist

We’re facing a severe shortage of childcare teachers. Here’s how you can help.

August 14, 2022

What were some of the first early learning experiences you remember? Maybe it was singing a nursery rhyme, counting building blocks, or showing your budding artistic flair with finger paint. Whatever it was, it was special — your introduction to education, lifelong learning, and relationships beyond your family.

About 17,000 children under the age of 5 live in Northwest Florida, and all of them deserve bright early learning experiences of their own. Unfortunately, many of them may face difficulties accessing early learning opportunities because our area faces a severe shortage of child care teachers. 

How severe? Among parents with kids under the age of 5 in the seven-county region of Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties, nearly 3 in 4 say they’ve had difficulties arranging adequate early learning education opportunities for their child, due to a lack of available educators.

What is Kickstart Success?

To help address this shortage of child care teachers in the area, the Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida (ELCNWF) recently launched a campaign — called Kickstart Success — centered on encouraging individuals to become child care teachers. By becoming a child care teacher, they can kickstart the future success of Northwest Florida’s children, as well as their own success in a gratifying and fulfilling career in early education.

Early education helps both children and the dedicated adults who teach them. Early learning is proven to help children lead successful lives — research has shown an annual 13% return on investment per child through better education, economic, health, and social outcomes for children who are enrolled in high-quality early childhood education programs.

Career is early education is attainable

Additionally, a career in early education is highly attainable through training and certifications. Child care teaching is a career like no other because of the clear and meaningful impact it has on children’s lives. It’s a child care teacher’s job to introduce kids to learning, set them up for educational and lifelong success, and be a positive influence in their lives. Nearly 9 in 10 parents in Northwest Florida say their child’s child care teacher made a positive impact on their future.

Having worked in early education for years now, I’ve seen firsthand the many benefits that early learning has had on kids and their teachers, as well as the harm this shortage has caused to children’s education, well-being, and development. I encourage anyone with a heart for children and an interest in a rewarding career to consider becoming a child care teacher.

You have the special opportunity to create awe and wonder for a child by introducing them to the magic of education. Don’t let a child in your area miss out on their first learning experiences, and don’t miss out on a meaningful career opportunity for yourself.

Suzan Gage is executive director at Early Learning Coalition of Northwest Florida, Inc. If you have an interest in becoming a child care teacher in Northwest Florida, visit

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