Josie Vincent: Lessons from Mom—and Pete the Cat

June 26, 2024

Josie was one of the first high school students to earn a Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ at Sanilac Career Center in Peck, MI. She spent the afternoons at the career center taking her CDA® courses and gaining her experience hours at Sanilac’s on-site preschool. In the mornings, she attended her other classes at the Peck School, where her mom was the preschool teacher, Josie recalls. “It was against the rules for me to do my experience hours with her, though she did give me my first experience working with young children.”

When Josie was in eighth grade, she went to the preschool at Peck each day with her mom before her classes started elsewhere in the building. “I had the chance to chat with the children for about a half hour in the morning,” she says. “Then I would read to them for a while in the afternoon since I got out of school before them in the afternoon. I really enjoyed the time I spent with the children since they said the funniest things and told you exactly what was on their minds,” Josie recalls. And the kids’ sense of honesty and humor convinced her to make early childhood education her career.

“I began the CDA in my junior year with five other students,” Josie recalls. There weren’t a lot of students because Josie lives in a very rural part of the state and the CDA program was new to the CTE program at her school. But the students who did sign up for the program saw the value of the credential for opening doors into different careers. “A couple wanted to be pediatric nurses, others wanted to teach high school someday,” Josie recalls, “but they all ended up earning their CDAs.” Josie did, too, and in the five years since then, she has continued working in the early learning field.

And the CDA has helped Josie succeed in her career, as she explains. “The classes I took for the credential showed me that each child is different, so you have to teach each one in a different way. I learned a lot about the importance of hands-on learning and really got to like it. In addition, doing my experience hours with different teachers exposed me to different styles of teaching and gave me practice leading the different activities that go on in an early childhood class. Each CDA student had a job, like running circle time or reading books, so I got to work with the children a lot. Meanwhile, I also gained college credits, which gave me a jumpstart on earning a bachelor’s degree while working at the Peck School as an assistant teacher.”

Josie became a lead teacher after graduating college and now mentors CDA students who gain their experience hours at the Peck School. “I have a special connection with these students,” Josie says, “because we all live in a small community and some of them knew me as an upperclassman in high school. So, I’m only five or six years older than the students I mentor, and I can identify with how they feel while tackling all the work required to earn a CDA. Still, I urge the students to finish their CDA by telling them how the credential helps you reach your goals. And it’s less costly for today’s high schoolers than it was for me since the Proud Michigan Educator LAUNCH program now funds scholarships that cover all the credentialing fees and even helps pay for college.”

Josie also touts the program when she goes to Sanilac Career Center to speak with its CDA students. “I encourage them to take advantage of the funding and start by earning their CDA. It’s good to have in your toolbox if you have any plans to go into teaching.” So, Josie urges the high school students to press on with the CDA and talks to them about the satisfaction you get from teaching young children, though it does take a lot of persistence and hard work.

This is also a message she conveys to children at the Peck School, while reading them some of her favorite books from the Pete the Cat series by James and Kimberly Dean. “There’s always a lesson,” Josie says, “like in Pete the Cat and the Four Groovy Buttons, where Pete loses all his buttons, one by one, while he dances and sings. But then he realizes he has his belly button so he’s still happy. And the point of the book is to make the best of what you have. Then there’s I Love My White Shoes, where Pete loves his white sneakers so much that he sings about them and wears them every place that he goes. When he steps into a huge pile of strawberries, readers might expect him to cry. But he keeps singing and walking because he knows you just have to keep going on no matter what challenges you face.”

And when Josie faces challenges in the classroom, she’s often able to figure out the problem. But she sometimes turns to her mom and that’s convenient since they’re now teaching in different classrooms at Peck. “My mom gives me great advice,” Josie says, “because she’s been teaching since she was young, like me, and some of the adults who she taught still remember her as their favorite teacher. The secret to my mom’s success, as she points out to me, is to learn from the roadblocks you face when working in class”—a lesson that Josie has taken to heart. “It takes experience and time,” she says, “to learn how to handle different situations, as I’ve come to see. So, I don’t give up on children, I try different things and just keep going on”—an approach that should make her the kind of teacher who students remember, too.

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