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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I received my CDA in 2009, and the process was long and arduous. I went to class every Thursday night. Since I work from 8-5 every day, and my class started at 6:00 pm, my day was extremely long on Thursday. But I worked hard on my CDA. Some of us at the child care center were asked if we wanted to go back to school to get our CDAs. Most of us answered “No, thank you. It takes too much time.” The owner of the center said she would like for at least three teachers to go.button The more she talked, the more interested I became. I had the idea that I wanted to return to school anyway the next fall. She said “Why don't you try for your CDA?” The classes were only one night a week plus some Saturday classes. I said I would try. I had been out of school since 1991, so I was nervous when my classes started in August. I just walked in the classroom and told myself “Tammi, you can do this.” I am glad I did. I had a lot of support from my own family and from parents at the center. They would always ask me how my classes were going. When I took my test for the CDA I was nervous, but the Council Rep said, “Tammi, just be calm. These are things you do every day with the children you work with.” The test took about two hours, and when I was done, she said you did a good job. She said you should hear from the Council in about three weeks. About three weeks went by, and when I got my certificate in the mail, I was like “WOW, I did it!” I was so happy, I cried for an hour. My mom had told me I could do it. I showed the children’s parents my certificate and many of them congratulated me. I received so many nice cards from the parents. I was the only one from my center who received the CDA and it was a very nice experience for me. And I enjoyed meeting teachers from other centers. When our last day of classes came to an end, the students in the class had a big party. Everyone passed the class and we hugged each other. Many of us were crying, fearing that we won't see each other any more now that class is over. But a lot of us do keep in contact with each other. One girl said to me it's like losing family because that is how close everyone was in our class. Everybody pulled together and we helped each other. My teacher explained that this is what it is all about — we are all here for the same purpose. I am currently working on getting my bachelors degree from the university in Early Childhood Education with a dual focus on preschool and toddlers. Earning my CDA was a rewarding experience. I would recommend it to anyone working in the child care field. And then they can say “WOW, I did it!”
- Tammi Spellman, Pennsylvania
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 buttonwas 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, Florida
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 Lorinda_Sowellcareers. 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 incorporationbutton of Shoshone Bannock culture into the classroom practices. Such dynamic teaching and professional development environment helps me find my work very rewarding.  
- Lorinda Sowell, Idaho
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.button 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, Oklahoma
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.button 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, Kentucky
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.button 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, Virginia
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, Georgia