CDA® Highlight: Missouri Teacher Wants to Light Up Children’s Lives

August 22, 2019

Published by CounciLINK on August 22, 2019


Jenae PolokSeventeen years ago, Jenae Polok sat in a college classroom and wondered how she could make her mark on the early childhood education field. After graduating with a burning desire to make the world a better place, she began her career in ECE. Along the way, a lightbulb went on in her mind as she realized people didn’t value her role. “I had failed to educate them,” she said, “about how I was shaping the lives of their children.”

Despite society’s failure to understand her work, Jenae has touched the lives of many children by filling a wide range of roles: home visitor, childcare services coordinator, staff development coordinator, and trainee as a facilitator for Darkness to Light, a program that gives in-depth knowledge to parents, educators and community members about how they can prevent children from being abused.

These eclectic endeavors in ECE have led Polok to come up with a few guiding rules: Stay informed about the latest developments in the field, always be professional and prepared, look for the best in challenging children or students, be enthusiastic, and — most important — “always honor the child.”

Polok passes this advice to others in her current role as a teacher with the Carthage Technical Center and the Workforce Investment Board of Southwest Missouri. Her program works with job seekers who need a steppingstone from high school to a career in ECE and gives them the chance to earn a Child Development Associate (CDA®) Credential, a proven way to achieve success in the field. The program also helps participants find employment and chances to volunteer with local Head Start centers.

Polok cheers these educators on as they forge their own path in ECE, and watching them make their own mark on the field has finally allowed her to answer the question she asked herself in college. “When people ask what I do,” she said, “I have a new answer. I tell them that I have the world’s most precious gifts in my hands, and I am lighting up children’s lives.”

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