Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Committee Chair/Advisor

Dr. Dolores Stegelin

Committee Member

Dr. Susan Limber

Committee Member

Dr. Jonda McNair

Committee Member

Dr. Cassie Quigley


The purpose of this research study was to understand the emotional impact of teaching in a high poverty school on first-year, early childhood teachers in rural South Carolina. The research also explored the extent to which these emotions either empowered or constrained the teachers in their work. The study used photo-elicitation with interviews to generate data. Participants in this study took photographs that represented emotional experiences, wrote captions and discussed their images in an interview session. The data analysis focused on honoring the participants' voices and included first and second cycle coding strategies. In Vivo coding and Emotion coding were used during first cycle coding. Axial coding was used during the second cycle of coding. The findings of the study revealed five major themes. Theme # 1: The Responsibility for Child Well-being indicated that the teachers were often sad, worried and concerned about the well-being of their students, and felt an overwhelming need to meet the students' basic needs for food, clothing, personal hygiene and school supplies. The second theme, Realization of Sociocultural Differences revealed that teachers grappled with the differences in their backgrounds and upbringings versus the backgrounds and upbringings of the students. As the teachers reflected upon their first-year experiences, they helped the researcher discover three important pathways. The three pathways included: Pathway #1: Connections to Empowerment (Theme 3), Pathway #2: Disconnections to Constraint (Theme 4), Pathway # 3: Overcoming Obstacles- Moving from Constraint to Empowerment (Theme 5). In order to cope with taking on many of the responsibilities for child well-being and their realizations of sociocultural differences, teachers began to look for connections that would support them in their efforts to become empowered as a teacher. As the teachers found the connections and the sources of support that they needed, they would travel along the first pathway- the one that led them from connections to empowerment. Likewise, some teachers were unable to make connections or find sources of support. As a result, they traveled along the pathway that led from disconnections to constraint. Additionally, some of the teachers who experienced disconnections used their creativity and resiliency and found ways to overcome obstacles. Implications for further research and implications for practice were described.



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