Durham Tech alumna, former adjunct professor receives prestigious early childhood education award

When you walk into First Chronicles Daycare in Durham, you see cheerful, organized, educational stations for the children who attend. Their names are neatly placed at the table where they sit. There are books and bright colors to stimulate their young minds.  

“This is where all the magic happens,” said Pebbles Lucas, who co-founded the five-star daycare on Linwood Avenue in 2008, that her husband, Pastor William Lucas, founded. She has created a safe, loving environment at First Chronicles, where children thrive.

In recognition of her work, Lucas has been named the Child Care Services Association 2024 recipient of the prestigious Mary Y. Bridgers Early Childhood Teacher Award.

Pebbles Lucas at the daycare she co-founded.Lucas, who is a licensed birth-to-kindergarten teacher and a lead teacher in the NC PreK program and the Durham PreK program. After graduating high school, Lucas took classes at Durham Tech. She attended N.C. Central University and went on to graduate from Duke Divinity School, before her passion for early childhood education called her back to Durham Tech as both a student and an adjunct professor. She went on to receive her master’s in early childhood education leadership, advocacy and policy from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. She also is the author of two books.  

“I went back to school, and that really helped me help these babies,” Lucas said. “When I put on the early childhood education hat, I went to Durham Tech, and had some of the best instructors. I loved that program.”

Cathy Collie-Robinson, director of Durham Tech’s Early Childhood Education program, said the College was proud Lucas received the award from CCSA. “Pebbles richly deserves this award,” Collie-Robinson said. “She has contributed so much to early childhood education through her work and is extremely devoted to providing the best possible education foundation for the children she serves.”  

A native of Durham, Lucas attended Hillside High School. She became a teen mom while in high school.

“I had to grow up and become an adult,” she said.  

She said her passion for early childhood education started with her son. “I wanted him to survive and thrive in Durham,” she said. “I had to figure out how to take care of this child.”

Her son, now an adult, is an associate director at UNC Hospital with two master’s degrees. He and his wife have three children of their own.

Lucas also has a daughter, who is a Hampton University graduate now attending graduate school.  

“I see the mothers I serve reflected in my story. They look like me,” Lucas said. “I see their struggles. I see their tenacity. I try to provide resources, information and solutions that can help them. ... Everything I went through has equipped me for this particular journey.”

The majority of the students Lucas serves are Latino.  

“When they first came, they did not speak English, and I did not speak Spanish,” she said. “I started watching in my spare time videos of conversational Spanish. I would ask them when they came in the morning to teach me one thing every day in Spanish. I would say teach me how to say things so I can relate to the kids. I need to know when they are hungry or need to go to the bathroom.”

The diversity of her students also exposes the English-speaking students to conversational Spanish, Lucas said. They sing songs in both English and Spanish regularly.  

She works closely with parents, and offers learning tips, such as asking what color their clothes are and reading cereal boxes with them. Lucas said she wants to instill love and respect in her students and build relationships with them and their families. It’s important to start with the child where they are, she said.  

Lucas on occasion also has had to help her students deal with trauma. In one situation, she and her husband became foster parents after one of her students lost a parent so that the child and his siblings would not have to move to live with relatives in New York before the end of the school year.  

Lucas stays in touch with many of her former students and celebrates their success. Her first student, for example, had immigrated from Africa with his family. After graduating from First Chronicles, he went on to graduate from Durham Public Schools and earn his associate degree from Durham Tech.

N.C. Central University student Shaniah Smith nominated Lucas for the Mary Y. Bridgers Early Childhood Teacher Award. Smith, who has one last class to take before she graduates from NCCU, has worked with Lucas for two years at First Chronicles and attends the Lucases’ church, First Chronicles Community Church.  

“Mrs. Lucas has taught me how to work with the kids and how to be a good leader. She has an amazing approach,” Smith said. “She has such a great spirit, and I feel very successful with what Mrs. Lucas has taught me and how she is positioning our children for success, as well.”