Early Childhood Education Stories (ECE)

Here are stories from our ECE community members — we invite you to share your story, too


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More than just a job ... it's a career.

After ten years in the early childhood education field, Renee Hillian decided she needed to take steps toward making what was once just a job, a career - she decided to get her Child Development Associate Credential™.
"I'd been in childcare for a long time and when I moved to Maryland, everyone asked if I had my CDA," she said. I decided to earn my credential because "I thought it was a good way to continue my education and I knew it would look good on my resume." Renee began building her portfolio as part of the application process. When she learned she could finish earning her credential through the Summer 2012 CDA Pilot Program, she said she was excited to give it a chance. I take online classes and I thought, I'm on the computer anyway, so why not? she said. The CDA Pilot Program was designed to simulate the experience of taking the CDA exam in a PearsonVUE testing center. The program mirrored the way the CDA exam will be administered in the CDA 2.0 process, which will begin in June 2013. Overall, Renee said she was really impressed with the new certification process.  "It was a much easier process," she said. "I think it was a good way to do the CDA." Since completing the Pilot Program and earning her CDA, Renee advocates for CDA and encourages her co-workers to earn The Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential.™ "If people really want childcare to be their profession, they should get a CDA," she said. "Anybody can do it at any age and I think it's a good professional step in your career."
Renee Hillian CDA recipient – August 2012
- Renee Hillian
MaryEllenMaryEllen Fritz's 20 year career in early childhood education began with a simple question: Why are some children more engaged than others? As a nurse at a tribal clinic in rural Alaska, MaryEllen said she would routinely see children come to the clinic that were happy and inquisitive while others hid behind their parents and had poor social skills. MaryEllen's soon learned the difference was in a child's early childhood education. "Teachers who had their CDA had a curriculum on developing social skills and responsibility, while those who didn't often struggled with behavioral problems," she said. When she became the director of her local Headstart center, MaryEllen said she wanted to ensure that all students could grow from having a CDA Certified teacher in their classroom. "When I first started as a director, only one teacher had a CDA and all of the other teachers went to her for advice. A year later we had six CDA's in the center," Fritz said. “We saw a jump in the quality of education. As teachers were gaining their credentials, we would see children who were initially scoring low on national exams, score higher.” Inspired by the progress of her teachers, MaryEllen decided to earn her own CDA. “I saw the benefits of the CDA in my classrooms and I wanted it for myself. I wanted to understand how children learn, even though I was a director and not in the classroom.” Since earning her CDA, MaryEllen has gone on to earn her Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education. Today, she serves as the Program Director and Administrator of the Anchorage Vineyard Early Learning Program where she oversees multiple centers throughout rural Alaska and continues to advocate for the CDA and early childhood education for Alaska’s tribal community. “I really fell in love with the way the process helps families and new teachers grow and learn,” Fritz said. “The CDA is a great first stepping stone for the professional development of early educators.” - MaryEllen Fritz Anchorage, Alaska

- MaryEllen Fritz
Hello! My name is Kendra T. Barnes, and I wanted to share my story, because I was very fortunate to become a CDA at a crucial point in the history of Early Childhood Education. I had a chance to become a CDA in 2003 but decided to pass on it because at the time I was pregnant and did not want to go to the late night classes that were being given. Thank heavens my employer at the time (NAS Jacksonville Child Development Center) gave me a second chance and offered to pay their employees' fees for the process of becoming a CDA. I partnered with a great friend/co-worker (Sylvia McBride), and we tag-teamed in getting all the information for the resource file and helped each other with encouragement to complete those competency goals. If you have someone to tag team with, it is a great idea. After completing my observations and submitting the information to Washington, I was nervous as ever because I knew the next step was to take the test and submit all that I had wrote about myself, and how I gave back to the Early Childhood field in serving and caring for the children in my care. The test went fine and the CDA Representative made me feel comfortable enough that I was not so nervous when it came time for the test. I knew I did a great job, and so I waited to here from the Council. When I received the award letter and my credential in the mail, it was a feeling of accomplishment and made me want to continue in going much further with my career as an Early Childhood caregiver.button All those nights of putting my daughter to sleep early so that I could work on the writing of my goals and the early Saturday mornings going to the library paid off big time. You see, at the time I did not have a computer at home and had to make several trips to the library for research and to make copies, I would have a purse full of dimes!!! (for the copier at the library). Once I received and renewed three years later, I went on and began my journey in obtaining my degree in Early Childhood Education, and I'm still pushing through in that journey. The great thing about having a CDA is that it is a national certification. I started in Florida and then moved to Louisiana where it was recognized and did help me in finding a job at the local Child Care Resource and Referral (Volunteers of America Partnerships In Child Care). In my current position I do work with people who work in child care, and I also conduct classes for child care centers and home providers that need a certain amount of hours to continue to be registered through the state. About three months ago, I got my acceptance letter from the Council to be an Advisor. In being an Advisor I can now help those in child care become a CDA also. My next step is to become a Council Representative and administer test to those aspiring people who want to make Early Childhood a better place for our children. I wish that I would have known about this program long before 2003, and because I do know about it, I tell all who work with children about it.
- Kendra Barnes, Louisiana
Starting a new job in the childcare arena was exciting! I knew that I enjoyed working with children, and it was a great opportunity to stay at home with my daughter. One year turned into two, and before I knew it two years turned intobutton six. On daily walks with the children I passed by Pratt Educational Services, which provided CDA training. This was my first time hearing about this type of training. I inquired and received information about the benefits of educating myself in the field of early childhood education and development. I wanted to provide the best experiences for the children in my care and offer activities that will help them when entering school. After careful consideration I decided to sign up for training. Participating in the five month training course was the best thing I ever did! I learned the fundamentals of early childhood education, learned what developmentally appropriate practice was, how to make interactive charts that align with curricula for the children, and most of all how to improve my verbal skills with parents when discussing their children. I had learned the verbiage and education that set me apart from being just a "babysitter" to a Professional Childcare Provider. The CDA training was a plus when I interviewed families and I had evidence of specialized training; that set me apart from other providers. Furthermore, my passion for early childhood education grew, and I soon enrolled in college. I have an associates degree in ECE and a bachelors in Child Psychology, and I became an advisor for the Council of Professional Recognition! My home has been used as a learning station for a vocational program that teaches ECE to high school students. I have truly gone beyond my expectations, and I know the CDA process was a base for my enthusiasm.
- Traci McNeil, Ohio
My CDA journey began in 1985, when I was a classroom teacher at Taylor County Head Start program. I was the first person to receive a CDA in my town, and 535th person to receive a CDA in the nation. Even then, I knew that CDA was a precious God-given gift that would enable me to make a difference in the lives around me.button I was chosen in 1986 to attend Advisor’s Training through Elmira College, where I was trained to be a CDA Advisor. I then began serving as advisor for my co-workers. In 1989, I became the first CDA trainer for the Taylor County School District Title I program, helping the first CDAs in the District. I later opened my own business called "Elizabeth Bines Training Center," and I began meeting the needs of teachers at the local child care, pre-k, and Head Start programs. I still continued as a classroom teacher at the Head Start. Today, I am no longer in the classroom, but I continue to train others, and serve as an advisor in my town of Perry, Florida. Since receiving my CDA in 1985, I now am a licensed State of Florida Advanced Director. I received my A.S. Degree in Early Childhood from North Florida Jr. College, B.S. Degree in Human Services Management from the University of Phoenix, and will receive my Masters Degree in Education and Teacher Leadership from University of Phoenix, on June 4, 2011. The CDA motivated me to make a difference in the lives of others and it made a profound difference in my own life. I am continuing to prepare teachers for excellence through CDA in Perry, Florida, in Taylor County. I once heard: “They said it couldn't be done, but we couldn't say so until we tried" — that’s what is happening with CDA. In Taylor County, we tried and we succeeded!
- Diann McClain, Florida