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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Meet Debbie Karlstrand - PD Specialist Child Care Aware Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri

Debbie Karlstrand is a Professional Development Specialist with Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas and Western Missouri. Debbie conducts training for early childhood professionals, assists Candidates interested in earning their CDA and works on child advocacy issues. She has been in the field of early childhood education for 20 years and holds a Masters in Public Administration for Early Childhood Leadership from the University of Missouri. In her 20 years of early childhood experience, Debbie has known many individuals, children and families who have benefited from the CDA Credential. She began working with CDA Candidates within the last five years through the online learning options at Child Care Training Academy. This training is used to assist CDA Candidates in meeting the 120 training hours required to earn a CDA Credential. Debbie has taken advantage of the many opportunities to learn more about the new and improved CDA 2.0 credentialing system through the Council's website, emails and the online PD Specialist training. Debbie stated, "Professionally and personally, it has been my honor to assist individuals who are working to obtain their CDA. It is such a pleasure to help people achieve their professional development goals and to observe the impact the CDA Credential has on their classroom practices, professionalism and relationships with families. I truly wanted to become a PD Specialist because I wanted to be a highly qualified resource for individuals seeking their CDA." After becoming a PD Specialist, Debbie attended NAEYC's PDI Conference where she attended a number of training sessions about CDA 2.0, her role as a PD Specialist and creating partnerships. Debbie said, "It was so helpful and a pleasure to get to interact with many of the Council's staff and to have the opportunity to ask them questions in an individualized setting." Debbie also said, "When I informed my daughter, age 7, that I was going to NAEYC PDI, she asked me 'Are you going to learn about that new program, the CDA 2.0?' When I said that I was, she replied, 'Good because we need to learn all about it!' I was so pleased that she too shared my enthusiasm and recognized the importance for learning about the new process and my new role as a PD Specialist."
- Debbile Karlstrand
Congratulations to Tammy Squires from Jacksonville, Florida, our first Preschool CDA  to earn her credential using the new online system. Tammy, a paraprofessional at Timucuan Elementary School, applied online and from application to award she was able to complete the credentialing process in just 3 days!  When asked what she loved most about her job, Tammy stated, "The children. I love to watch them grow and develop. It is very rewarding." Tammy was encouraged by a fellow teacher at Timucuan Elementary to apply for her CDA credential, but it wasn't until the teacher was promoted to District Coach for Early Childhood that Tammy was finally motivated to apply. Tammy stated she worked very hard to earn her CDA and that the entire process took a lot of "dedication, determination and work" to accomplish what she did in such a short amount of time. When asked about the online application she stated, "It wasn't hard at all," and that she felt, "comfortable and confident during the verification visit. The PD Specialist was very inspiring and a great help." She was able to schedule her test time and location online with no problem. Although she was a little nervous about taking the exam, her overall experience was very good. "Applying for the CDA credential through the new process was great" says Tammy. "I feel you can never learn too much and I learned a lot through my experience." Tammy is excited about what the future holds now that she has earned her CDA Credential. Tammy is excited for what the future holds now that she has earned her CDA Credential and is encouraging her 23 year old daughter to invest in her professional development as well in Early Childhood Education.
- Tammy Squires
Congratulations to Briana Kennedy from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our first Infant and Toddler CDA to earn her credential using the new online system. Cheryl is a head teacher at Noah's Baby Barn in New Jersey. Although she has only been at the current center for a short time, her interest in early childhood education began much sooner. Briana comes from a large family of 12 children and it was the combination of helping out at home and volunteering with her aunts Family Child Care business that really gave her the early childhood education spark. When asked what she loves most about her job, she said, "...it's the reaction of the children. I love being greeted in the morning 'Good morning Ms. Bri'."Briana's experience like most CDA's started with her training, she stated, "(My trainer and PD Specialist) were so helpful from the beginning and made the process so much easier." Applying online, Briana said was super easy, stating "Everything I needed was right there." Briana could not get over how fast she went through the process, "I was shocked," she said. Briana's stepmother is a CDA Credential holder, so she knew how unusual it was that she completed the process so quickly. Her stepmother couldn't believe it either, saying "How did you earn your CDA already, you just finished the class!" There was no doubt how proud Briana feels to have earned her CDA and faster than she ever thought possible. Briana enjoyed the CDA credentialing process from start to finish. Even the test site, she stated was, "relaxing and calm." Pearson took very good care of her during the scheduling and testing experience, giving clear instructions and having a clean, spacious desk area for testers. Briana's final advice to potential CDA Candidates, "Applying for your CDA online is a must, it's more convenient and in the end you will receive everything a lot faster."
- Briana Kennedy

Congratulations to Cheryl Shelton from Edmonds Washington, our first Family Child Care CDA to earn her credential in the new online system. Cheryl has owned Edmonds Daycare, a Family Child Care business in Edmonds Washington for 5 years. With a 5 member staff, she cares for 12 children between the ages of 0-5. In speaking to Cheryl, affectionately called "Grandma Cheryl" by children in her care, you could hear the passion and the enthusiasm for children in her voice. It is because of this passion that Cheryl transformed from a stay at home mom to a Family Child Care owner,stating, "I know I am in the right place every morning. I'm doing the right thing, at the right time, it is my passion."There is no doubt Cheryl truly loves what she does and is willing to go what is necessary to maintain her business and grow professionally. She was incredibly grateful for the "Managing an effective program" portion of the CDA credential. She said she really learned a lot, she stated, "it helped me put things together and make my time in the office more productive." She continued in saying that the professional portfolio has also been a great resource for her to refer back to and acts as reassurance to the provider and parents.

Cheryl had only positive things to say about the new CDA 2.0 credentialing process. Even stating that although she is not very computer savvy, she found everything, "simple, very step by step and pain free." After receiving her "Ready to Schedule", she enjoyed being able to go her own pace to complete the exam and CDA Verification Visit. She used the online PD Specialist Directory to find her PD Specialist, Darlene Cook, who she said was, "very professional....and great with the kids." Cheryl says Darlene made everyone feel very comfortable and took lots of notes, which Cheryl appreciated.
Cheryl is an up and coming Family Child Care advocate. She recognizes that there is a great need for quality child care, education and resources in her field. In addition to pursing her own professional development, her goal is to work to help Family Child Care businesses gain recognition, resources and funding to be successful and meet state child care regulations. Cheryl is proud to be a model for others, now that she has taken the first step in earning her CDA Credential, anything is possible.

- Cheryl Shelton
Tamra Merrill has proven that not only is age just a number, but that you shouldn't let life's challenges get in the way of you accomplishing your goals. In her middle 40's, Tamra "had no intention of going back to school." She along with her husband had raised four beautiful children and after leaving the field of nursing, she was ready to "stay at home and help raise the grandchildren." When Tamra's children began to move away due to military careers, she found that her plans of staying at home changed. Tamra says, "I found myself lonely and longing to be with children. (That's when) I started working in the childcare field and loved it!" Excelling in the classroom the owners of the child care center where Tamra worked, asked her to become the Assistant Director. Although Utah does not require credentials for an Assistant, Tamra quickly found that if she wanted to advance in her career she needed to get her CDA. The decision to start taking Child Development courses was not an easy one. Tamra worried of the challenges she might face as an adult living with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Tamra says, "Growing up with no medication for this, I had to learn to control it on my own, but school! I was scared!" Working with children is what gave Tamra the courage she needed to get started. Tamra stated, "seeing how they overcome every obstacle in their way encouraged me to push forth." After completing her Child Development courses, Tamra felt the classes gave her the needed skills to work daily with children. She stated, "The research and writings for my CDA competency goals really helped me to identify my strengths, and gave me the confidence to go (through) with the process. I recommend to all the teachers at (a school) or center that they get the classes and go after their CDA, what they will learn in the classes is so valuable and holding a CDA is the greatest feeling in the world." Tamra's story does end there; she has continued her commitment to professional development and recently renewed her CDA credential. In response to the education requirements necessary to renew her CDA credential, Tamra says, "yes, I did the classes and am proud to say that I passed them with the highest scores I have ever received!"

- Tamra Merrill
"Put a little PEP in your step!" is a motto Sue Erpelding lives and works by. Sue not only runs her own Family Child Care business out of her home, but is also the Statewide Coordinator for Providers Empowering Providers (PEP). PEP is the statewide Family Child Care network for Cheyenne, Wyoming. One of the reasons Sue is so dedicated to the Family Child Care field is because the majority of child care programs in Wyoming are provided in a Family Child Care setting. As part of Sue's dedication to her field, she is working to "help eradicate" the mindset that Family Child Care providers are equivalent to "babysitters." As an 11-year veteran of the CDA credential, Sue states, "Family Child Care providers are early care and education professionals." This understanding is something Sue hopes that not only non-child care providers will grow to recognize, but also other Family Child Care providers themselves. Sue says, "We need to help others realize the important role we play in the lives of the children and families we serve. I think obtaining a CDA helps Family Child Care providers understand and recognize the importance of their work and helps them to feel more professional." Sue Erpelding was also the Council's first applicant for the PD Specialist program and the first to complete the PD Specialist training online. Having previously served as a CDA Advisor, she stated, "I felt it was important to become a PD Specialist because observing Candidates in the Family Child Care field (I believe) requires a unique perspective." When asked her thoughts on the PD Specialist online training, she had nothing but positive things to say. Working in the Family Child Care field, Sue liked that the training was self-paced. She found the content to be thorough and the system very easy to navigate. Having renewed her CDA credential just last year, Sue is truly a model of commitment to the Family Child Care field and the professional development of ECE providers.
- Sue Erpelding