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Child care center director gets lifeline from the Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Registry

Debbie Rolph’s career took an unexpected turn in 2017 when the child care center in Springerville where she worked announced a monumental change.

The center would be shutting down at the end of the week.

“It was devastating,” Rolph said. “Where are all these children going to go? What are these families going to do?”

Thirty-two working families with 47 kids that needed child care were about to lose essential support. One of the parents called Rolph and told her that the parents wanted Rolph to run the center. Her initial thought was that she wasn’t qualified.

After some deliberation, Rolph changed her mind and purchased the eastern Arizona center and renamed it, You Are My Sunshine Daycare.

It also started Rolph on an uneasy journey.

Even though she was the owner, Rolph needed six college credits to become the center’s director.

“When I first took over the center, the former center’s chief executive officer came on as my director,” Rolph said. “I was not qualified to be a director, because I lacked my six credits.”

As she struggled to find help and pursued her education, Rolph met Mark Becker at the 2017 First Things First Early Childhood Summit. Becker is the director of the FTF-funded Arizona Early Childhood Workforce Registry, which helps early childhood professionals grow their skills and advance their careers.

Navigating the registry

“Mark helped me with navigating the registry, scholarships and he connected me to other local supports,” Rolph said. “He showed me how to get a scholarship to get my books paid for my college class.”

Becker, who is also the associate director for education and community impact for Arizona PBS, went beyond providing Rolph with information.

“He also stopped in on that snowy day to help me get my staff’s information into the registry,” Rolph said.

Becker and his staff visit child care centers throughout Arizona to help directors and teachers learn about the registry and other resources to help professionalize the early childhood field. He said he has a soft spot for the directors serving in rural areas.

“They don’t have the resources or access to the same supports that directors serving in Phoenix and Tucson have,” Becker said. “The directors are also isolated. They don’t have other directors to talk to, so they need someone to answer their questions and give them support. Just knowing someone showed up is a huge comfort.”

Becker also helped Rolph learn to reach out for help. Since then, she’s joined a Facebook page for directors and uses the FTF-funded Arizona Early Childhood Career and Professional Development Network website frequently for resources and community.

“Debbie and I will sit one-on-one, or she’ll give me a call,” Becker said. “I might help her with an administrative tool to look up her staff.”

A personal portfolio

The registry provides a database that child care center directors can use to manage their staff’s education transcripts, certifications and trainings. Early childhood professionals can find trainings and professional development opportunities, as well as keep a record of their trainings and credentials in one place.

“The registry is like a personal portfolio of education and experience for early childhood educators,” said Becky Johnson, FTF’s professional development systems specialist. “It also provides trainings and a way to find scholarships.”

As members of the registry, early childhood professionals have access to FTF College Scholarships to take classes toward a degree or credential in early childhood education.

“All of my staff have to go through health and safety trainings, and if it wasn’t through the registry, we wouldn’t we know where to go,” Rolph said.

Renee Targos is the director of brand advancement at First Things First. You can reach her at​

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