Council Letter

January 27, 2021

Dear Colleagues,

Martin Luther King, Jr. believed “character plus intelligence—that’s the objective of true education.” These words still ring true as we mark King’s birthday this month. It’s more important than ever for children to have character, to feel empathy and respect for others in a nation that’s on edge. COVID-19 lockdowns, protests and lingering election strife have left our country at its most divided since the Civil War. At this turbulent moment, we should remember the title of King’s final book: Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?

As we choose the road ahead, we should recall how King used the power of peaceful protest to advance justice and equity for all. We should also honor his vision for the future. “I have a dream,” he once said, “that one day little Black boys and girls will be holding hands with little white boys and girls.” That dream lives on at the Council, where we are committed to building a sense of community for all teachers and children. “We should fight systemic racism and make equity a key part of how we credential new teachers,” as Dr. Calvin Moore points out in his blog, An Equity Lens on Early Education.

“Children learn best from educators who look like them,” he says, so the Council is striving to make the ECE workforce more diverse.” So is Sebawit Yirsaw, an early educator and CDA® coach who we profile this month. She plays a prominent role in training Amharic-speaking teachers who can meet the needs of the District’s growing group of Ethiopian families and help their children connect to the wider community around them. “Most of the children I’ve worked with were not from around here,” Sebawit explains. “So, it’s very important for educators to understand the children’s different cultures and backgrounds.”

The CDA is all inclusive, thanks to educational leaders like Leah Shapiro. In her 50-year career she wrote a widely used CDA assessment instrument and taught many CDA courses. She also worked as a Head Start teacher, CDA PD Specialist™ and developmental therapist who helped vulnerable children. This work taught Leah “to accept other families’ lifestyles and cultures,” she says. It also took her into some of the roughest parts of Chicago, neighborhoods rife with drug abuse and gang violence. She did it because she wanted to save the world by serving children.

Many of our early childhood teachers share Leah’s sense of commitment. They don’t all work in neighborhoods where gun shots ring out, as she once did. But they are facing danger as the pandemic goes on, and they confront a tricky choice between their livelihood and their lives. Early childhood teachers are returning to the classroom despite concerns about their health, and their sense of persistence has made people realize that early childhood teachers are frontline heroes. States have also acknowledged this by releasing the COVID-19 vaccine to early childhood teachers. “These educators are indeed essential workers, and we appreciate the recognition of their role,” Dr. Moore says in a press release this month.

He knows the CDA gives rising teachers a passion to work with young children, and that’s especially needed now as the pandemic puts more pressures on our profession. So, the Council has launched a new effort to help high school students earn their credential. The CDA not only gives them the skills they need to teach young children; it also puts a premium on training teachers who can serve our increasingly diverse population, New America said in a recent report.

Much is certainly new in America these days, and we’re again asking, “Where do we go from here?” Our profession can respond by teaching the citizens of tomorrow to choose community over chaos—and someday build a nation where “children will be judged by their character, not the color of their skin,” as King once hoped and prayed. Over the past year, our early childhood teachers have shown they have the passion and the persistence to make King’s dream of equity and justice come true.

With hopeful dreams for the coming year,
The Council for Professional Recognition

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