Go back

APSU’s TECTA program breaks down barriers to support early childhood educators

By: Ethan Steinquest and Megan Simpson March 7, 2024


APSU TECTA Coordinator Gerrika Calloway works with students during an Infant/Toddler Orientation session hosted on Feb. 22. | Photo by Sean McCully

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - The Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance (TECTA) program at Austin Peay State University is helping child care professionals advance their careers through affordable education and training.

TECTA provides a statewide support system for students working in early childhood education, including financial assistance for tuition, textbook loans, tutoring and more. This project is funded by the Center of Excellence for Learning Sciences at Tennessee State University through a contract with the Tennessee Department of Human Services.

“Our goal is to promote high-quality child care in Tennessee,” said Dr. Noelle Cannon, the director of Austin Peay’s TECTA program. “We do this through our orientation classes and by making higher education attainable for early childhood educators. We walk students through every step of the process and do whatever we can to support their educational journey.”

How does TECTA work?

To qualify for TECTA assistance, applicants must be employed at a licensed Tennessee child care facility. Candidates can apply here to complete a free orientation that provides 10 training sessions before beginning their studies, and then TECTA offers scholarships for college courses.

“We start them out with funding for courses at the community college level, where they’ll work through four classes to get their Child Development Associate credential,” Cannon said. “They’ll do four more classes to get a technical certificate in early childhood education and then finish up their associate degree.”

From there, an articulation agreement with the Eriksson College of Education or the Department of Sociology and Community Development allows students to transfer their credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree at Austin Peay.

“We also advise our students and walk them through every step of the process,” Cannon said. “If they don’t know how to fill out an application to go to college, they can contact us. If they need to come to our office to print something for a class assignment, they can use our computers. We’ll help them with tutoring if they need it ... everything we do is about building relationships with people, so we have this group of students who trust us.”


Students enrolled in TECTA at APSU can network with other child care administrators to learn new professional strategies. | Photo by Sean McCully

What do TECTA students gain?

Yonara Barnett, a director at Kids Depot in Clarksville, enrolled in TECTA's Administrator Orientation this spring. She became a child care administrator in spring 2023 but has been working in the field for 20 years. 

"It has opened my eyes,” she said. “The reason why I'm taking it is because I am a brand new director at Kids Depot, so the state makes you take the administrative course. But I believe that if you truly want to be an administrator, you should go into it due to the fact that it's not just about administration. It also talks about different ways to be able to reach kids, and I like the fact that I can talk to other administrators and ask, 'Hey, how is this? How do you guys do this?'"

Barnett complimented TECTA's staff for their professionalism and knowledge throughout her orientation experience.

"I think [the facilitator] has brought in some great things because she's been in the classroom,” Barnett said. “That also helps her to be able to share some of that input. She's also able to give examples and share some of her real-life experiences."


TECTA provides a variety of resources for students - including scholarships - to set them up for success. | Photo by Sean McCully

How much does TECTA cost?

According to Cannon, TECTA students pay $50 for each class they take at a community college, and the program also provides scholarships to students when they begin their program at Austin Peay.

“Success for some of our students might just mean completing our TECTA orientation,” Cannon said. “That fuels them to realize that they can do college classes ... We have some students working on bachelor’s degrees right now, and others finishing up associate degrees this fall. We’ve had students who were homeless or in difficult situations who have persevered to complete their education through TECTA, so those are success stories we see.”

For more information on Austin Peay’s TECTA program, call 931-221-7585, email tecta@apsu.edu or visit the website at apsu.edu/tecta.