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Ohio's largest Head Start program, Cleveland's 'Step Forward,' urgently needs teachers

'Step Forward' is in desperate need of staff. They are hoping to fill 100 positions, nearly 90% of which are teachers. And there's a good chance you may qualify.

CLEVELAND — Labor shortages have affected nearly every industry you can think of. Early childhood education is no exception. 

Ohio’s largest Head Start program, Cleveland-based “Step Forward” is in desperate need of staff. They are hoping to fill 100 positions as soon as possible, nearly 90% of which are teachers. And there's a good chance you may qualify. 

"To be a lead teacher, you need a college degree. You need a bachelor's degree," explains Step Forward's Dr. Thea Wilson. 

Even if you don't have one of those, Dr. Wilson says Step Forward can still utilize your services. "With an associate’s degree, we will pay for you to move up to a bachelor’s degree. If you are freshly out of high school, we can bring you in as a teacher’s assistant. And yes, we want parents as well."

Step Forward - the largest Head Start program in Ohio – is just one of many Head Start programs across the country struggling to fill teacher positions. Thousands closed during COVID, then reopened with restrictions and new rules. Workers moved on to different industries. Cuyahoga County saw teachers leave and new applicants become few.

"We had a lot of people who, during COVID, if they could retire they did retire. A lot of people are not going into the field now. When I came through, it was all kinds of people," adds Dr. Wilson.

Step Forward hopes to hire a hundred Head Start and Early Head Start staff before school begins September 6th. That number includes 86 teachers. But there’s one hurdle that’s perhaps been the hardest to overcome.

"We can not compete with Cleveland Schools (Cleveland Metropolitan School District) or the school districts," says Dr. Wilson. "Many head starts across the country can’t compete with the school districts that they are in."  

For example, the median income of a Cleveland public school teacher is around $54,000 a year. The typical Head Start lead teacher with a bachelor’s degree makes about $34,000.

"It’s not an easy job," Dr. Wilson adds. "Just like parenting, it’s not an easy job. But it’s a rewarding job." 

Head Start helps prepare low-income children, six months to three years old, for school. Dr. Wilson says Step Forward could fill 24 classrooms if they reach their hiring goal. So, if you’re interested in becoming a head start teacher, part-time or full-time, click here, or call the main office at (216) 696-9077.

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