What does it take to succeed in early childhood education?
“Loving children counts, but it’s not enough,” said Sereeta Cantres, the first Gold Standard Specialist (GSS) to conduct a Site Visit Review (January 2019) on behalf of the Council for Professional Recognition. She also is the first GSS to conduct the visit on-site and online (FaceTime).
“You also have to be interested in building the foundation for them to learn,” she said. “And if you’re willing to take on the challenge, it’s a great way to make a difference in a child’s life.”
Cantres took on that challenge in 2004 as an early childhood educator, then as director of an early childhood center. In 2009, she began teaching candidates for the Child Development Associate (CDA®) credential.
“I enjoyed working with adults,” she said. “It’s a chance to build a community of learners, share experiences and exchange ideas on what’s important.”
As part of her work teaching adults, she attended a conference where she learned more about the Council. What she heard at the meeting just strengthened her conviction that “the CDA is the best first step in in the early childhood field.”
It also has value, she added, for someone like her who’s been in the field for a while.
“It’s a reminder of why you do certain things or a validation of things you’re already doing,” Cantres said.
She’s learned even more about the CDA since becoming a Professional Development Specialist (PDS) in 2014.
“Being a PDS made me a better teacher,” she said. “It helped me see the whole process of getting a CDA, so I could make sure my students had everything they needed to get their credential.”
That’s the mission of CDA training programs such as the one Sereeta recently assessed for the Gold Standard. And “it was eye-opening to observe a program from the inside out,” she said.
After speaking to the program’s CEO and administrator, she observed a class, where she documented the high quality of the program and saw how “everyone was on the same page.” They were all committed to reaching out to the community, partnering with parents and filling the mission to meet students’ needs, she said.
These are hallmarks of Gold Standard CDA programs, and Cantres said she’s happy to serve them as a GSS.
“I feel that doing this,” she said, “helps high-quality programs get the validation and recognition they deserve.”
They not only help students, they help the community, too. And they train educators, such as Cantres, who want to give back by inspiring the next generation to learn.