A Moment with Dr. Moore

July 27, 2022

CDA Now, CDA for the Future

Many famous folks began their careers by teaching children. Before Sting crooned his way to success as the front man of the Police, he was a certified primary school teacher and soccer coach in England. Rhythm and blues legend Roberta Flack and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda worked as English teachers while building their stellar show business careers. Sheryl Crow taught music to special needs children at a grade school in St. Louis and went on to become an icon of country music and rock. Then there are politicians like President Lyndon Baines Johnson, whose first job was teaching Mexican immigrant children in a desolate Texas town, and Senator Patty Murray, who worked for several years as a preschool teacher in Washington State.

Granted, it’s a long road from the preschool classroom to the halls of Congress, but qualified early childhood teachers, like those who’ve earned a Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™, can rest assured of a job right now. The early childhood field is projected to grow 18 percent from 2020 to 2030, much quicker than the average of all occupations. It’s also the starting point for a wide range of careers that include school counselor, art or music therapist, educational consultant, policy analyst, literacy coach, child care administrator and even head of a large public institution.

That’s because working in an early childhood classroom builds leadership skills like confidence, competence and courage, along with a strong sense of social justice. And former preschool teachers who’ve really flexed their leadership muscles include Dr. Shirley Raines, the first woman president of the University of Memphis, and Sue Russell, former executive director of T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood National Center, which funds scholarships that let educators grow in their field and beyond. T.E.A.C.H. helps teachers earn their CDAs and college degrees to establish a qualified, stable, fairly paid early childhood workforce for our children.

The educators who T.E.A.C.H. has supported have gone on to become college professors who guide rising teachers, contract managers for early childhood organizations, policy analysts and advocates for the early child profession. “Like some of these people, I started out as a teacher making very little money working in a classroom of two-year-old children,” Russell says. And the experience showed her “the absolute need to have the best educated and effective early educators working in classrooms, homes, community agencies, colleges and universities, state and federal agencies across the country.”

There’s a wide range of prospects for those who gain the professional development they need. And there are several ways to get it. You can go back to school, a step that will keep you abreast of new trends and ideas in the field, while gaining added qualifications to advance your career. You can attend seminars and meetings—like the Council’s ECE Practitioner Day—great venues to hear from industry experts, enhance your personal growth and learn how to help children perform better. You can join professional organizations, groups that often supply members with access to exclusive events, industry news and the latest research studies. These organizations also provide early childhood teachers more chances to connect with likeminded people in their field.

And if these structured activities don’t appeal to you, there are also informal ways to advance your skills. You can study on your own since learning doesn’t have to happen in a classroom. Your independent study can be as simple as keeping up to date with early childhood education blogs and communities online, or you may choose to read industry journals, publications and research studies. And if you do choose to go it alone, it helps to find a trusted colleague who can serve as a mentor. Your mentor can be a resource for feedback on issues you encounter at work and someone on whom you can bounce off new ideas. And whether you find a mentor at your child care center or outside of work, building an open line of communication with a seasoned colleague will help you grow.

I know the tremendous role that mentors have played in my ECE career by helping me know I was in the right place. They include Helen Taylor, a former bureau chief in the Office of Head Start, and Ed Green, a great early childhood educator. My heroes also include two former Council CEOs, Drs. Valora Washington and Carol Brunson Day, whom I’ve always looked up to and admired.

Dr. Day was CEO of the Council when I was a young man looking for an entry into the early childhood field. At first, I thought I’d go right into school to get my bachelor’s degree, but my aunt said, “Why don’t you work at Head Start? It will give you the experience to make sure teaching young children is something you really want to do.” I took her advice, and straight away Head Start put me into a CDA program at the local community college. I went on to earn a Ph.D., work in Head Start administration and become a nonprofit leader. Now as Council CEO, my goal is to reimagine the CDA process so we can serve future candidates even better and keep connecting with teachers throughout the credentialing process and their careers.

The people who choose ECE as a profession play a key role in building the future. They lay the bedrock for lifelong learning and school success when children are at the most formative stage in their lives. And making a difference in children’s lives requires teachers to develop certain traits—including creativity, a sense of organization, communication skills and dedication—that can help you advance with added training and education. The CDA is a great starting point on the career ladder since it helps teachers pick up some pivotal skills that are vital for many professions. Sure, our CDA holders might not aim to become senators or rock stars, but they do have a strong foundation that will help them rock at whatever they choose to do. The CDA is for now and for the future.


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