Xochitl Ortega is a bilingual family child care provider and a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipient. She owns X’s and O’s Educational Child Care, an Accredited 5-star rated program, in Milwaukee, WI. She is also a member of the the T.E.A.C.H. & REWARD Steering Committee and a board member of the Wisconsin Family Child Care Association. She is active in the Wisconsin Early Learning Coalition and the West Allis Family Child Care Association Support Group, and serves as an Ambassador for The Registry. She received her associate’s degree from Northwest Technical College in Green Bay and is completing her bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Q: We know you’ve been a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship recipient. Tell us a little about your T.E.A.C.H. experience. What advice do you have for any child care providers thinking about applying for a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship?
A: I first found out about T.E.A.C.H. at a training in 1996. T.E.A.C.H. was a new program at the time. I wanted to further my education and decided to apply. I was accepted and have since completed several credentials: Infant & Toddler, Administrative, Inclusion, Pre-school and Leadership. I have earned my associate’s degree and will soon graduate with my bachelor’s degree. Without T.E.A.C.H., I would not have been able to receive an education nor would I have been able to build my family child care program.
My advice is: Apply for a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship. It allows you to give back to the children in your program through the skills and knowledge you acquire. Find a system to stay organized while working and going to school and build a strong support group—whether family, friends, or peers—to help you stay motivated.
Q: What school courses have been most valuable to your career as a child care provider?
A: Really, all of the credentials are important because they each cover different areas of child care. The Inclusion Credential was valuable because I could assure parents that I was qualified to care for children with special needs. Since completing the credential I’ve been able to work with children with asthma as well as create a more handicapped-accessible program.
Q: Going back to school can be overwhelming. For providers thinking about returning to school after being in the workforce for some time, what support do you recommend seeking out? What support has professional organizations such as WECA or the Wisconsin Family Child Care Association (WFCCA) provided you?
A: To start, if you don’t use technology too much in your day-to-day life, learning the basics of using a computer would be very helpful. I worked with friends to learn new technology skills which have helped me to get through school and manage my child care program. I’m also a member of both WECA and WFCCA and those two communities have provided me a lot of support. Through WECA’s membership director, Mary Babula, I’ve been introduced to new people and expanded my personal support network. Also, through members of WFCCA and my former instructor at UW-Milwaukee, I’ve grown a lot of relationships that I would have never made without these organizations.
Q: The Wisconsin State Journal cover article states that 64% of child care programs received a 2-star rating. You received a 5-star rating through the accreditation process as a family child care provider. What advice do you have for programs thinking about getting accredited?
A: I’m all for accreditation. It’s the way to go if you are committed. I became accredited prior to Young Star and was reviewed by the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC). It was a good experience. What I liked was that NAFCC specifically focuses on family child care providers and understood my needs as a provider while really looking for quality in my program. One thing that helps while going through the accreditation process is to find support, whether from your personal contacts or through a community resource center. This support can help you through the accreditation process.
Q: Any final thoughts to offer Wisconsin’s early childhood workforce?
A: A 5-star rating doesn’t make me perfect and I know I always have more to work on to better my program and the children I care for. There is always room for us to improve and there is always more for us to learn. The health of my program is important on a daily basis. Being focused on child care issues and staying motivated as a provider will move us forward. We can reach our potential as child care providers buy staying aware of issues and concerns in the field of early childhood. Safety first! Education always!
If you have questions for Xochitl Ortega, please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org