Early Childhood Education Stories (ECE)
Here are stories from our ECE community members — we invite you to share your story, too
When I first started the journey to become a CDA, I did not realize how much I would grow and learn as a professional. I am currently the mother of five and I also take care of other children — because of the children, I continue to learn new things every day. The joy of watching a toddler when they first grasp the concept of “I can serve myself,” or learn to use the potty is a great experience. I now have a career that I can enjoy, and it includes morning aerobics and outside experiences like bug hunts. To think all this came from wanting to better understand my own children and the children I teach each day! Now I realize that they teach me so much in return. Because I work with these children, I am not stressed out in traffic any more. Once I was late to class and a fellow student asked “Why are you sad about the cars in your way? You got to hear music longer.” Ever since that day, I regard traffic as a chance to enjoy a favorite song.
- Lekessia Jones
A man working in the field of child care? How did that happen? I earned a BA degree in criminology in 1994, but I became interested in early childhood education (ECE) when my daughter was born five years ago. It was a challenge to find a good child care center for my daughter — not one seemed good enough. I researched acceptable standards in the ECE industry, and then embarked on the CDA process myself. My CDA fee was paid for by the Florida TEACH program. The required 480 hours of experience allowed me to work with children and discover how rewarding the ECE profession is. There were many challenges. I was the only man in the class and, at first, parents looked funny at me, but I did not get discouraged. I took CDA classes through the Florida Community College of Jacksonville. My wife also went through CDA training, and now we are planning to open our own child care center. Currently, I work as campus director for a private 1-12 grade school. The reason why I am not working in ECE is that I wanted to see the whole continuum of human development, and serve all ages in order to understand human development better. I plan to go back to school to get a degree in Special Education, because I believe special needs children do not get their fair share of quality education and positive reinforcement in the classroom. I want to encourage all people who are interested in how human beings develop to join the ECE workforce, get some ECE training, and practice in the field. The ECE field is not only for women, and advertising for ECE openings should not be geared only toward women.
- Bennie Cooper
I am a Native American from the Navajo tribe. I worked as a dental assistant until I moved to Pocatello, Idaho. After my move, I decided to change careers. My husband encouraged me to see whether the local university had a program in early childhood education. I visited Idaho State University where I learned about the CDA program. I benefited from a good relationship with a professor who helped many Candidates complete the CDA process. I earned my CDA in 2005, my Associates Degree in 2006, and now I am working on completing my BA degree in ECE. I became employed with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe Head Start program. Although Idaho State did not financially support my path to the CDA, the Idaho Stars program encourages and supports professional development. I know I must be in charge of my own professional growth. If I show the initiative to get more training and to get involved in professional activities, the state will support me financially. Opportunities for professional development are available to me. I currently work full time with 15 preschool children. I also work very closely with their parents — every year I have four visits with parents: two home visits and, two center conferences. I also encourage parents to volunteer in the classroom. I was positively surprised by the level of purposeful incorporation of Shoshone Bannock culture into the classroom practices. Such dynamic teaching and professional development environment helps me find my work very rewarding.
- Lorinda Sowell
Connection with the community is the key for us. The Head Start Center that I lead is more like a family, where all employees stay together, check up on each other, share best practices, and network. There is no significant staff turnaround. Pauls Valley, where the Center is located, has about 3,000 residents. The center currently serves 20 children. The work done at the center is done for local families; our mission is to be a resource for these families. The staff members realize it is important to be dependable and available. I have lived in Oklahoma my whole life. I was a stay-home mom. After the Head Start Center hired me, I developed the desire to further my career. My first step was to sign up for CDA classes at the Mid-America Technology Center. Last spring, I completed my AA degree in Early Childhood Education. I am also taking classes in American Sign Language, because few providers/teachers have that desired language skill. I attend conferences, and Head Start pays all expenses of my professional development. I take advantage of all opportunities to learn more. After earning the CDA, I felt more professional. Parents had more confidence in me, and I had new knowledge to apply in the classroom and even at home with my own children. I feel working as a Center Director is not only about professionalism, but about showing the child, through your actions, that you care. Working with parents is a challenge, so it is important to know how to approach every new question, every new task. CDA training gave me the confidence to be more effective.
- Crystal Doughty
I postponed getting my CDA because I already had a two-year degree in Social Work. However, over time it became clear that earning a CDA had value for me. Even though I have been working in early childhood education since 1987, I finally applied for the CDA. The reason was that I wanted to deepen my knowledge of child development and meet other professionals on a regular basis, which would help in my understanding of the profession. Being connected to my peers helped me realize that difficulties are common, shared, and can be better addressed together. Finishing the process of earning my CDA helped me see the big picture. It made me want to know how child development theory fits with the practice; it gave me clarity on best practices. I am now one class away from my Associates Degree in Early Education. I work as director of a center which serves 80 children, and I have found that continued professional development is crucial for me in this position. The program at our center is non-traditional, serving kids from birth through age 13. The Center opens at 5:00 a.m. and closes at 2:00 a.m., in order to serve parents working in factories, hospitals, and restaurants. Most children in the Center come from single parent households. In my center, I have put strong emphasis on professional development, and I encourage my staff to engage all the learning opportunities the state of Kentucky provides. When hiring new staff, I noticed that many people lack the confidence and skills to use a computer to facilitate their daily work. Now when hiring people, I help the individual become more comfortable and familiar with technology. Fear of new things has not hindered my staff, who are deeply committed to kids and to the profession. Some of my teachers started without even their GEDs, but then they pursued the Commonwealth Childcare Credential, the CDA, and even completed their AA degrees! Working together raised their confidence levels, and their examples encouraged others to join and go back to school. As an incentive, I raise the hourly wage by $1 for every additional training course completed. I am very active in the field of early childhood education. I am a co-chair of the Early Childhood Council which serves three counties. Through the Kids Now initiative, the Council offers mini grants to area providers to be used for classroom items and educational materials. My center is located in the middle of a community where everyone helps each other. Ten families helped our center move! I am proud of our strong connection to the community we serve.
- Sophia Eversole
I have been a family child care provider since 1998. I work very hard full time, and I am currently working with five children who are aged from 2 months old to 5 years old, including children with special needs. I earned my CDA in August of 2009 in the Family Child Care Setting. A few years before that, I had felt overwhelmed by the CDA process. I worried I would not be able to write quality essays, and I thought the CDA process was too much like going to college, and that it was not for me. I hesitated to enroll in the CDA preparation program. Then one day by accident, I ended up in a CDA class in the Office of Children in Fairfax, VA. The other students in the class encouraged me to stay and complete the CDA class with them. I was comforted by the support of my colleagues, and I understood that CDA would be a good addition to my resume. The group had six months to complete the requirements, and all the class members encouraged each other and shared tips and resources. Looking back, I now realize that the CDA process was not difficult. It seemed hard to find the Professional Resource File materials for Latinos, but I had a mentor, an experienced ECE professional who had earned her CDA a while back, who helped me in the process. I was encouraged when I successfully completed my CDA training, and I am no longer scared of continuing my education in a college setting. I worked with a group of professionals on college projects, and frequently used the Internet to connect with others. Now I have earned 16 credits through NOVA (North Virginia Community College), and earned my Certificate in Infant and Toddler Education. These college credits will transfer toward my AA degree in Infant Toddler Education. I am now waiting to see if I will be awarded a scholarship. This training has taught me very much about child development, dual language learners, and children with special needs. Because of my CDA preparation and assembly of my Professional Resource File, I can now direct parents toward resources which might have been difficult to find. The CDA process helped me learn where and how to look for resources online and within the community, and how to advocate for children.
- Aida Chavera
Deputy Director of Child Development ServicesJefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity Birmingham, Alabama In 1991, I was a teacher's aide for the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity in Birmingham, Alabama. Acquiring a CDA was a professional development requirement for the teacher's aide job – every teacher's aide had to earn one. Getting the CDA turned into a lifesaver for me because it was a competency-based credential and it provided me with the opportunity to document what I was doing in the classroom. I then developed a passion for working with young children and that inspired me to continue my education. Today I have a PhD. I went on to train teachers across the United States and share my own personal insights about education. It marked the beginning of a career that I hadn't even thought about up until that point. And it all started with the CDA. Acquiring my CDA gave me the confidence to do more — which is so important early in a career.
- Calvin Moore
I started out in early childhood education in 1990 while in high school. After starting out as an afterschool teacher, I decided to continue in this profession at other childcare centers along the way. After being in this field for several years, when my job offered the CDA class, I joined in the group so I could become a professional teacher in this field. I became knowledgeable of different aspects of the whole child so I can meet their needs. After receiving my CDA I was chosen to become a CDA advisor. I took the knowledge I learned to help other teachers become CDA Candidates as well in a quality care childcare center. All the Candidates I advised have passed their exam. I look at the CDA as a rung on a ladder to climb to the top of my career. I was chosen to be a mentor to educators and won a prize for it. Also, I have received several accolades from administration, co-workers, and parents of how well I work with children and how I take the time to meet the children’s needs. I have now been working in early childhood education for 27 years and still advising Candidates. I have an Associate Degree in Teacher Education and a Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood Administration. It will not stop there… I am currently enrolled to become certified as a trainer to help new and veteran educators to advance in the early childhood education field as well. I feel my CDA helped me to become an advocate for early childhood education while climbing the ladder to success.
- U. Dennis
... My CDA was my stepping point to help me believe that I could go back to college. In the Late 80's I made a career decision to go to school at the University of Cincinnati in order for me to earn my CDA. Now I have a BA in School-Aged Care, I have worked for the United States Army and I own a child and youth training service company called 2 C R Solutions. I loved the foundation of knowledge I gained while preparing for my CDA so much that I required all of my staff members to obtain their own CDA credential as well. I believe the CDA process gives you the words to talk to child care professionals and helps you to understand why we do what we do. If I had to give any advice to someone trying to get their CDA I would say just take it slow and take it serious. Don't get overwhelmed. Take baby steps - that's the key.
- Chris Schmidt
It was a big deal for me to receive my CDA. I was a Head Start child in one of the first pilot programs in Berkley Springs, West Virginia in 1965. I became a Head Start teacher in 1987. The requirement to be a teacher was a CDA. The CDA Verification Visit was an amazing professional experience that changed my life. The Representative inspired me to continue my career and become a Rep too. I later earned my Masters, became a CDA Rep/Advisor and a NAEYC Validator. I also taught the Early Ed and CDA courses for Head Start and vocational programs. I now am the director for all the Early Ed and CDA programs at Central Florida Institute of Training. I love my job! I was so glad to see CDA 2.0 launching. It is the best of both worlds with the old/new combined in a high tech way. Bravo! I am very excited about the new program and you have my support!
- Sabrena Smith