Thoughtful Parenting: What do early childhood educators make? |

Thoughtful Parenting: What do early childhood educators make?

Stephanie Martin
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Joyce DeLancey began her career in early childhood 40 years ago. She started in elementary education and quickly realized her passion was working with the younger ages. She was told you will never make money in the early childhood education field. Sadly, that’s still the case 40 years later for early childhood professionals.

After directing at three preschools/child care programs in Kansas City, Fort Collins and Denver, it was “the skiing, of course” that brought DeLancey to Steamboat Springs. She was a lift operator and interviewed to be a substitute teacher at GrandKids. She started subbing the next day, became the senior toddler teacher the next year, then assistant director a couple of years later, followed by co-director, and then director. DeLancey has now been in the director role for 20 years.

DeLancey is retiring after 35 years at GrandKids. The best part of the job is “the children, of course.” Another best part is watching the teachers grow and develop as professionals and having a passion for the field — especially those who started with no experience. Over the years, five teachers have been hired that were formerly GrandKids children. They also have parents who attended GrandKids as children bringing their own children to GrandKids. 

The hardest part of the job is recruiting teachers, especially finding qualified teachers to work with infants. GrandKids has had success with keeping staff because of health benefits, paid time off, retirement benefits, bonuses, plus most staff work 32 to 36 hours a week, which helps with burnout. The average teacher has been at GrandKids for 15 years, but they can go months before getting an applicant for a staff opening. On average, it takes three months to find qualified people. If the new hire needs child care, and they don’t have an opening, they can’t accept the position.

When asked if you had a magic wand, what would you change for our current early childhood landscape, DeLancey responded, “wages.”

“Wages comparable to public school teachers. Better wages based on education required and lower costs for families, as it is so expensive to pay for care,” DeLancey said. “More child care opportunities could be created if more businesses provided onsite child care and government provided more funding to create child care centers.”

Early childhood educators make a difference and deserve to be paid on parity with public education teachers. The field needs more dedicated early childhood professionals who make a lifelong career in a discipline that impacts the lives of so many during a critical time of human development.

How can we make this happen? Join First Impressions and numerous community partners to explore the importance of early childhood education through a powerful “No Small Matter” screening. All screenings have child care and dinner provided for free. Facilitated discussions following each screening are an opportunity to learn more about Routt County’s Early Childhood Community Plan and how to be part of the solution.

  • Monday, Oct. 28: Hayden High School, 6 to 8 p.m. (6 to 6:30 p.m. dinner and child care, 6:30 p.m. screening, 7:15 p.m. facilitated discussion)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 6: Bud Werner Memorial Library Hall, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (5:30 to 6 p.m. dinner and child care, 6 p.m. screening, 6:45 p.m. facilitated discussion)
  • Tuesday, Nov. 19: North Routt Community Charter School, 5 to 7 p.m. (5 to 5:30 p.m. dinner and child care, 5:30 p.m. screening, 6:15 p.m. facilitated discussion)
  • South Routt screening TBA

Contact Stephanie Martin to RSVP at 970-870-5270 and

Stephanie Martin is the program administrator at First Impressions of Routt County.


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