Date of Conferral



Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)




Terri L. Edwards


A growing number of children entering early childhood classrooms are experiencing toxic stress. Early childhood teachers are responsible for meeting the educational needs as well as fostering their social and emotional development. The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to explore early childhood teachers’ perspectives of being challenged to support the emotional and academic needs of young children who are experiencing toxic stress in the early childhood classroom, which the research questions focused on. The theory of social constructivism was the conceptual framework for this study. Purposeful sampling was used to select 10 early childhood teachers to share their perspectives through semistructered interviews. Participants included K-3 teachers with experience teaching children experiencing toxic stress. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis. Three themes emerged from the data analysis: (a) teachers lack strategies to help children with toxic stress manage emotions, (b) children with toxic stress struggle to maintain relationships with teachers and peers, and (c) teachers are challenged and need training and resources to support children experiencing toxic stress. The implications for positive social change include a better understanding of the challenges of early childhood teachers to meet the emotional and academic needs of children experiencing toxic stress. The findings may be used to develop strategies or professional development to improve the educational experiences of children experiencing toxic stress in the general education classroom.