Honoring Hispanic/Latinx ECE Champions

September 24, 2020



By: Savannah DiMarco


This month, the Council for Professional Recognition is delighted to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month! We are grateful for the Hispanic/Latinx individuals who comprise 24.6% of child care educators and 14.9% of preschool and kindergarten teachers nationwide, and we join the chorus of voices within our community to celebrate the Hispanic/Latinx educators and influencers who have pioneered key advancements in our field.

To commemorate our Hispanic/Latinx community’s invaluable contributions to the field, we have invited Hispanic/Latinx ECE champions to reflect on the importance of Hispanic Heritage Month. Hear the stories of those who have gone before and those trailblazing progress in early education and growth of the CDA® credential today.

Below, our featured partners at Head Start, NAEYC, and RCMA— Maria Fatima Castro, Jorge Saenz De Viteri, Luis Hernandez, and Isabel Garcia— offer special words of gratitude for the Hispanic/Latinx community.



Nydia M. Velázquez














Nydia M. Velázquez is the first Puerto Rican woman elected to serve in the United States Congress. She is passionate about early childhood educational equity, and has emerged as an outspoken advocate for Head Start. “No parent should lose sleep worrying that their child will miss out on a safe and nurturing early childhood education,” she said in 2018. “The work of Head Start is instrumental in shaping the next generation of leaders. In a climate of threatened budget cuts, I will remain a steadfast champion of the Head Start program.”


Isabel Garcia

















Isabel Garcia is the Executive Director of the RCMA, a migrant organization that purposes to “make the dreams of children in migrant farm working and low-income families our focus.”

A special note from Isabel Garcia:

“Together with the teachers I supervised, I first obtained my CDA when I was a center coordinator in Bowling Green. The most satisfying aspect of being a Latina leader and role model at that time, for that group, was knowing that we were all former farm workers. The accomplishment may have seemed small for others, but for us, to become recognized Latina professionals, it meant the world. For years after initial credentialing, each renewal of my greatest accomplishment was exciting. Today at RCMA, helping our staff obtain their national credentials is still a priority. For an organization as large as RCMA that serves predominantly Hispanic children and is made up of predominantly Hispanic staff, the CDA helps thousands of children and adults succeed!”


Luis Hernandez
















Luis Hernandez is the founder of the NAEYC Latino Caucus, and has worked on behalf of the early childhood Latinx community for over 35 years. He is an advocate for the CDA credential and an active member of the CDA community as an early childhood education specialist.

A special note from Luis Hernandez:

“It is that time of the year when we celebrate all things Hispanic. And what better time to highlight individuals across the country and Puerto Rico who have persevered, contributed, and adjusted during this health crisis and pandemic.

Loud cheers to the thousands of Latina women in ECE who continued to provide care to the children of essential workers. Special recognition to the many Latina home-based providers, social workers, infant/toddler specialists and many others who continued to work virtually by making regular contact with Latino families isolated by the pandemic. And let’s not overlook those who work with migrant families – the people who harvest the fresh food we consume daily. Their professionalism has provided a cultural link of care, concern, and connection. Not to be forgotten, the many other Latinos/as who have volunteered in food banks, who continually advocate for housing and employment rights, as proactive neighbors and citizens.

As difficult as this year has been, the celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month highlights the unrecognized strengths of language and culture that shape individuals to be active participants for the common good of the nation. Along with this special recognition, an extra note of gratitude to all ECE professionals who have guaranteed the safety and well being of children and families under their care. This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration will truly be unforgettable!”


Sylvia Mendez












Image: NPR Illinois

Sylvia Mendez’s courage led to the 1946 integration of California public schools, nearly a decade before the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision mandating school integration. Prior to the 1946 legislation, 8-year-old Sylvia Mendez was not permitted to attend an “all-white” school in Orange County, CA. Her family’s bravery to contest segregation policy has been part of the critical movement toward racial equity that young students benefit from today.


Maria Fatima Castro













Maria Fatima Castro is the Director of Central California Migrant Head Start Santa Cruz. In addition to her work with Head Start, Castro also teaches undergraduate-level courses in early childhood education.

A special note from Maria Fatima Castro:

“In Santa Cruz County, California we work with over 70 excellent family child care providers. Through the CDA process, our Latina providers learn to create safe, healthy and nurturing child care for the over 500 children of our local farmworkers. The CDA credential has supported our Head Start programs over the past 20 years. Without the CDA, it would be impossible for many providers to qualify to work with Head Start. Many of our providers have continued their education to obtain teacher permits and college degrees—the CDA was the crucial first step!”


Jorge Saenz De Viteri














Jorge Saenz De Viteri, MSEd provides guidance to staff in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as the Regional Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Region II Coordinator for the Office of Head Start/ACF. Jorge is co-facilitator for the NAEYC Latino Interest Caucus, a founding member of the Latino Coalition for Early Care and Education (LCECE) and a member of NAEYC’s Latino Leadership Advisory Group. In addition, Jorge is a member of the New York City Citizen Review Panel for Child Protective Services and has taught graduate-level courses in early childhood education.

A special note from Jorge Saenz De Viteri:

“From September 15th through October 15th, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. This is a special time of the year in which we acknowledge, recognize and celebrate the many contributions that Hispanic/Latinx individuals have made in our lives and in our early childhood profession. As we reflect, please remember our Latinx trailblazers from our communities who led efforts around language, culture, equity and social justice. They set pathways and created opportunities for those of us in the field who hold leadership roles and are emergent leaders in our communities. Let us not forget the investments that each one of them made in our professional careers and most importantly the responsibility bestowed upon us to make a difference in the lives of all children and families, as well as our responsibility to mentor, support and invest in future leaders in our early childhood profession. Our children, families, and Latinx ECE professionals are counting on us!”


Martha Bernadett
















Image: Molina Foundation

Martha Bernadett, M.D., MBA, is the President and CEO of the Molina Foundation, a non-profit devoted to improving educational and health equity. Since 2004, the foundation has served thousands of schools, including many preschool programs, and has donated over 5 million children’s books. One of Martha Bernadett’s proudest achievements was creating a bilingual Spanish-English activity book called “On My Way to Kindergarten/En Camino al Kinder, a valuable resource for families the foundation serves.


Rebecca Palacios











Image: US News

Dr. Rebecca A. Palacios is the first Latina to receive the National Teacher Hall of Fame Award, celebrating her 34 years of preschool education in the first district to integrate Latinx and white students. Dr. Palacios is a first generation college graduate who continued her education to earn her doctoral degree in curriculum and instruction, and is a founding member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Learn her insights on preschool education in the September 2020 Atlantic article, “What Makes a Good Preschool Education: Rebecca Palacios on the importance of including parents in their children’s earliest schooling.”

Our community is fortunate to include Hispanic/Latinx educators, politicians, and foundation directors who advocate for the CDA and early childhood education. Thank you for your passion for serving our world’s youngest learners. Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!


Savannah DiMarco is the Digital Marketing Manager of the Council for Professional Recognition, which works to ensure that all professional early childhood educators and caregivers meet the developmental, emotional and educational needs of our nation’s youngest children.


Recently Posted:

Blog - Text Search
Blog - Category Search
Blog - Search by Tags
Blog - Publish Date

NAFCC and the Council

Bill Hudson, newly appointed Chief Executive Officer for the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC), visited the Council’s office to discuss potential partnerships and to share information about his organization with our community.  NAFCC,...