Working with kids "doesn’t feel like a job”

Joseph Rosa-Molina knows he is one of the outliers within the early childhood education field. Most studies indicate that females make up roughly 95% of the workforce in early childhood education. Yet Rosa-Molina has found a career as an early childhood educator, even if he is usually the only male in his classroom or worksite.

“There’s something you have to have inside of you to have that caring impact,” Rosa-Molina said of the qualities that make a good early childhood educator. “You have to have the patience. Having that empathy with children, I want them to grow up to be loving, caring human beings and to also have that empathy.”

Rosa-Molina credits his mother for stressing the importance of empathy and patience at an early age. Now he is hoping that his story can help influence more males to join him in the early childhood field. He said it is important to reach males at the high school level and early in their college career, particularly for students who are unsure of their career path, to let them know that a career in early childhood education is a viable option.

“We have to break the mentality that is a female-only role,” Rosa-Molina said. “It’s not just a mom that raises kids. When you get older, you are going to have kids and it’s important for them to see that early on.”

He said it will also be important to increase the pay scale for teachers across the board to generate potential interest for newcomers in the field.

Rosa-Molina’s own journey into the early childhood profession began at Truman College, where he completed a certificate and associate degree in early childhood education in 2015. While at City Colleges, one of his professors helped him obtain a position at the Jewish Council for Youth Services (JCYS). He has worked at the JCYS Lincoln Square location for the past eight years and has spent the last five years as a lead teacher for toddlers aged 3 to 4. He credited his professor at Truman for helping him network to find a job placement at JCYS, especially since he was new to the early childhood field.

“Every day is different. You are always going to learn, even from the kids,” Rosa-Molina said of his role at JCYS, where he typically oversees a classroom of 14 children. “To be able to instill that empathy and kindness in them makes me happy to come here every day. It doesn’t feel like a job.”

Rosa-Molina is set to complete his bachelor’s in early childhood education at National Louis University in the winter of 2021. He also has a minor in administration and hopes to become a site director at a child care center one day.

While at National Louis, his tuition and books have been covered by the Chicago Early Learning Workforce Scholarship (CELWS).

The monetary help from the CELWS program has been an obvious benefit to Rosa-Molina but he said the guidance from advisors, professors and fellow students have helped guide his path.

“Sometimes it not just about the money, it’s about that support system,” Rosa-Molina said, who also added that he is interested in forming a group to help new students come through the program.

He said the flexibility of the scholarship and his worksite have helped him juggle classwork, work and raising his 6-year daughter with his wife.

To learn more information about the CELWS program, visit the Chicago Early Learning website.