Leslie Love Smith always brings her Child Development Associate (CDA®) training and expertise with her – whether she’s teaching in her 1st-grade class at Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary-Middle or serving in her role as a school board member for the Southfield (MI) Public Schools.
“The CDA has been a valuable and essential asset throughout the trajectory of my career,” says Smith, who is also a CDA Professional Development Specialist, initially sought the credential while enrolled at both Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College where she was planning to earn a degree in special education, with a concentration on emotional impairment. “I saw the CDA as a pathway for gaining valuable experience and immediate skills for working with children and families while earning my bachelor’s degree.”
Earning a CDA also led her to a career focusing on young children. After her undergraduate degree, she earned a master’s degree in early childhood as well as a K-8 teaching certificate. The CDA’s focus on “child appropriate engagement and child development” has influenced her work with 1st graders. The credential, Smith says, has been an “anchor” throughout her career over the past ten years, leading to teaching and director positions in four counties.
As a school board member, Leslie’s CDA and PDS training and experience helps her to advocate for high-quality early childhood education programs and experiences for children as part of their learning pathway. She can also advocate for others in the early childhood education profession, whether they are working in schools or not. She remembers her first CDA instructor warning the class that people would try to treat them like “glorified babysitters,” but also assuring them that they were “trained early childhood educators” instead.