We often hear the challenges of adult learning. The constant balancing act required to work full time, attend school, and care for a family all at once. These challenges, a once in a lifetime pandemic, and widespread calls for social justice have burdened our recipients and sponsors. And yet, through it all, our scholars are persevering and finding success.

This year, we plan to kick off a blog series where we share stories from early care and education professionals, we serve through various WECA programs. This month, we’re pleased to highlight Tammy Dannhoff, who as a T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® WISCONSIN scholarship recipient, is sharing her journey.

Remember your "Why" Tammy Dannhoff's T.E.A.C.H. JourneyWhen I started my career in Early Childhood as a licensed Family Child Care Provider, I never thought I would be where I am today and part of that is because of T.E.A.C.H.

In spring of 1997, I became aware of the T.E.A.C.H. Wisconsin program. I had been in the early childhood field since 1989 with only the required education, and I knew I wanted to learn more about the profession, so I applied for a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship and was awarded. In September of 1997, I enrolled in the Child Care and Development Associates program at Fox Valley Technical College. I went to school 2-3 nights a week from September 1997 until May 2001 when I graduated with my Associate’s degree in Child Care and Development AND my Administrators Credential and a GPA of 3.84. It was a lot of work as I was also running a household with children in middle school and I was working 60+ hours a week.  I would not have been able to do it without the support my family gave me. They rocked at helping with household chores, giving me time to do my studies, and my husband even had to take over my child care program for me at the end of the day once per week so I could get to class.  It was a family affair when I graduated, as we all worked for that degree!

Completing that degree and credential was a lot of work and I did not think I would ever go back for more education. But in 2016 when I was talking to a fellow provider about T.E.A.C.H. and possibly taking courses again, she suggested that I take the Leadership Credential.  I applied again for a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship, was awarded, and in January 2016, I started at UW Platteville with the Leadership Credential. My professor for that course was Linda Boss, whom I now call a friend. She has played an important part in my education by encouraging me to go beyond my comfort level, not only in education, but also advocating for children and their right to play.

After I completed my Leadership Credential, there was no stopping my drive for more education. I got another scholarship with T.E.A.C.H. in January 2017 for the Family Child Care Credential at UW Platteville and received my Credential in October 2017. In Fall 2018, I received another T.E.A.C.H. scholarship and started my Program Development Credential at UW Platteville and completed that in June 2019.  I was still seeking more education when I found out about the pathways to a degree program at UW-Whitewater.  I inquired and found out I would be eligible, so I applied right away for another T.E.A.C.H. scholarship – this time to get my bachelor’s degree in early childhood! I was so excited and scared. I was going back to college at age 54! Could I really do this?  I started in September 2019 with 9 credits per semester but then I took 12 credits during the fall 2020 semester and was considered a full-time student. With my 3.668 GPA, I made the Dean’s list! This accomplishment was only possible with the wonderful support of my husband. He is my biggest fan, encouraging me when I get down and reminding me that a ‘C’ is still a passing grade.

I feel so blessed to be learning about and staying on top of new research in early childhood education field and bringing that into my program for the children and families that I serve as well as sharing what I learn with colleagues. If it were not for the T.E.A.C.H. program, I would not have met some of the most amazing people that have inspired me to grow into who I am and what my program is today!  It means everything to me knowing that my education is making a difference for the children and families I serve.

If you are thinking of taking the step and continuing your education through T.E.A.C.H., I advise you to make sure you share your goals with your support network and make sure they will be there to support you! Make sure you can put aside the time and energy you will need to complete your course work. It is a lot of work, but achievable. Ask for help from your professors if you need it; I have found all to be very accommodating and understanding, especially with going to school through a pandemic and not knowing what is going to be thrown at you!  Also, stay in contact with your T.E.A.C.H. counselor; they are there for you and will help you if they can and if they cannot, they will find out who can.

I am hoping to graduate from UW Whitewater in December 2021, only 2 more semesters. Let my words of wisdom be your biggest supporter and remember your “why”. My “why” is because I have always wanted to make the world a better place for children than what I had as a child and with the support and help from the T.E.A.C.H. program, I am able to do just that!

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