Where can you connect with CDA® holders and the wide range of folks who serve them? Turn to the Council Alumni Network (CAN), an online community that brings together current and past CDA earners, CDA PD Specialists, CDA Gold Standard Specialists and awardees, and CDA partners and stakeholders worldwide. “CAN is a space to trade ideas, discuss issues that affect the ECE field and give insights on ways to advance our profession,” says Katorra Enoch-Longshore, director of credentialing at the Council.
Katorra had been thinking about how to offer a virtual space like this for some time. “Up until now,” she recalls “we had no real touch points to engage with our CDA community members beyond the Council’s website and other static sources of information we provide. The communication went one way, and we wanted to give the people we serve a chance to reciprocate and have a voice. We wanted to find real-time ways for them to share their real-life concerns with colleagues and Council staff.”
The search made marked progress about a year ago when Alecia Carter joined the Council to provide Credentialing Academy support. Alecia took on the role of finding the right platform for CAN and did a lot of research to pick the platform that would work best for our community members. “I ended up with Hivebrite,” she says, “because it allows us to engage in a wide range of ways, including themed webinars, discussion boards and even coffee breaks.”
“A CAN coffee break is an online version of the chat you have around the water cooler,” Katorra explains. “It’s a time to pour yourself a cup of joe or whatever beverage you prefer and talk about what’s going on in both your professional and personal life, like we did when we had our first CAN coffee break last month.” It was a lively discussion, Alecia adds, “where the talk ranged from books that we’re reading to what the Council is doing to reimagine the CDA process and improve it for the candidates we serve.”
The Council is always looking to work on behalf of our early childhood teachers, and CAN will also support this goal by hosting talks on our field’s big concerns. “So, each month we’ll be addressing topics that come under the broad headings of leadership, professionalism or wellness,” Alecia says. “Last month, we discussed autism and challenging behaviors. This month we marked Teacher Appreciation Week by talking about how to support teachers and give them the recognition they deserve.”
That’s the Council’s goal, so CAN will also give updates on what’s going on at the Council, whether it’s new initiatives, programs or products. And like the Council, “CAN will provide a wide range of ways to engage the diverse people we serve,” Katorra explains. “Our community includes everyone from new CDAs with high school diplomas to folks who’ve gone all the way through higher ed to earn a Ph.D.”
And there are diverse ways for CAN members to contribute. They can write blogs, submit articles about their organization’s latest projects, or share case studies and research. They can even serve as CAN Ambassadors to recruit members in different regions of the nation and address their specific concerns. CAN Ambassadors are participants who’d like to serve as leaders in their region. “They fill an important role,” Katorra says, “because what’s going on in our field is different in Michigan than it is in Maine. Early childhood education is not the same in New York City as it is on a Navajo reservation.”
Still, as part of the wider Council community, we all share a commitment to serving young learners in the best possible way we can, Katorra explains. “And I believe CAN will empower its members to make an impact that improves the landscape of ECE. We can make a difference together, so I’m thrilled that we now have a way to join on a deeper, closer level. CAN is the place where connectivity happens.”