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Advice / Career Paths / Training & Development

Teachers Don’t Have It Easy. KinderCare Built an Onboarding Program to Help Them Succeed.

From left: Tiffany Taylor, Martha Rivas, and Shauna Beard of KinderCare
From left: Tiffany Taylor, Martha Rivas, and Shauna Beard of KinderCare.
| Courtesy of KinderCare

On Tiffany Taylor’s first day of teaching pre-K in Houston, her students started running around the classroom as young kids are prone to do—but she didn’t stress. Rather than raise her voice or tell the students to cut it out, Taylor calmly suggested they use their “walking feet.”

“Those words have a better effect because they’re not so abrasive or harsh, yet it’s still straight and to the point,” Taylor says.

Taylor learned this strategy from her onboarding program at KinderCare, which owns and operates childcare and early childhood education facilities throughout the U.S. For all new hires like Taylor, the company provides a comprehensive virtual onboarding program before they ever step foot inside a school. The interactive program—which is called Teacher’s First 100 Days—lays the foundation for long-term success.

“Studies have shown the majority of new hires leave companies within their first 100 days,” explains Shauna Beard, a senior learning facilitator for KinderCare. “We believe if we give employees a great onboarding experience and have regular check-ins, we can retain more teachers. We also believe it is our responsibility to invest in our teachers’ development at the very beginning of their careers. They complete the training feeling supported and confident.”

According to a recent Gallup survey, only 12% of employees felt like their company did a great job onboarding new employees. “This is why the onboarding experience is so important to KinderCare,” Beard says. “Our virtual onboarding allows teachers to better acclimate to their new role, align with our philosophies around early childhood education, and step into the classroom with confidence. When teachers have the tools and resources to do their job and feel cared about as a person, they show up and perform better. ”

In 2021, in response to the pandemic, KinderCare took their existing onboarding program and made it virtual as a way to create a consistent, engaging, and informative experience for all of its new teachers. It now includes two-and-half-hour WebEx meetings over the course of three days and covers topics from classroom safety to teacher self-care.

By taking it online, hundreds of teachers can be trained simultaneously from coast to coast. More importantly, all recent hires receive the same information and training—and they start their KinderCare careers feeling equally prepared. “Teachers are having a solid experience at the beginning of their journey,” says Martha Rivas, a center director. “The program gives new hires an open, honest look at what KinderCare stands for as well as proper insight into what they can expect once they enter a classroom.”

The classes include a mix of videos, group discussions, and question-and-answer sessions. KinderCare instructors also walk teachers through classroom setups, health and safety measures, and activities for different age groups. For example, those who work with infants will learn about safe sleep, while others might be trained in building strong relationships with elementary-aged kids. In addition, the program focuses on strategies that can be used during one-on-one interactions with students.

The training also covers self care, an element that often gets overlooked for teachers, who tend to focus more on their students than themselves. “Teachers are given tools to reflect on their needs during challenging times,” Rivas says. After discussing different scenarios, trainees create their own list of self-care strategies they can use to manage emotions and prevent and recover from challenging interactions.

Taylor has experienced first-hand the benefits of this self-care training. “The onboarding taught me how to defuse stressful situations so that I don’t feel overworked,” she says.

Once the new hire onboarding is complete, the support doesn’t stop there. Over the course of a teacher’s first 100 days at KinderCare, they’ll have regular check-ins every two weeks for the first month and then once a month after that. “The check-ins are done by the center directors, and we supply the content and resources for them to use,” Beard says.

Beard believes that the KinderCare onboarding experience is the key to success for the company’s teachers. It positively impacts how they connect and build relationships with students, their families, and even coworkers, and also helps with teacher retention and overall job satisfaction.

“When onboarding is done correctly, we see the return in the time that we invest in our teachers,” Beard says. “Our teachers are more engaged, dedicated, and stay with us longer. We also see happy and engaged children and families.”