Kyle Lewandowski | On Early Learning and the Lord

January 24, 2024

“I wanted to earn my Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ in high school,” Kyle says. “I knew that the sooner I earned my CDA, the sooner opportunities would come to me—which is actually true.” At the age of 22, Kyle already is the owner of his own preschool, the Learning Place Child Development Center in Midland, Michigan, where he works to provide cutting-edge early learning and care. Kyle and his staff of five use a play-based curriculum that reflects children’s abilities and interests, as he explains. “We also use a conscious discipline approach that teaches children to manage their emotions. So, we spend a lot of time talking with them and working through rough situations together. All our methods are up to date with the most current research and we’re constantly looking for ways to improve.”

Kyle wants to provide children with stellar care, and his commitment to them at first led him to plan on working as a children’s pastor. As a person of faith, he says that he embraces the message in Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” What lies ahead may not be what we imagine, and Kyle discovered a different way that he could minister to children during his sophomore year at Bay City Central High School. “I heard there was an opportunity to study early childhood education at Bay-Arenac ISD Career Center,” he says. “I decided to take advantage of it because it would relate to what I wanted to do as a children’s pastor.”

Kyle decided to become an early childhood teacher instead, and he had a personal reason for wanting to see children advance. “I struggled in school,” he says. “I wanted to prepare children so it would be easier for them than it was for me.” And earning a CDA allowed him to do so by building on his strengths instead of the areas in which he felt weak. “I’m not the best test taker,” he admits, “so I liked the fact that the CDA is not based entirely on a written test. Of course, there is an exam, but the observation part of the credentialing process gave me the confidence that I needed. It was very helpful in knowing where I stood and how I was doing.”

Kyle also received a lot of encouragement from Amy Hesse, the early childhood instructor at the career center who introduced him to the CDA. “I still talk with her to this to this day and have gone back to the program, spoken to her students about the CDA and helped them compile their CDA portfolios,” he says. Kyle knows the importance of getting support, like he also did from Jamie Debow, the lead teacher at the career center’s on-site preschool. “She had her CDA, and she was very helpful in cheering me through the process.”

Since graduating with his credential in 2020, Kyle has gone on to work at several preschools, where he gave young children the encouragement that they, too, needed to succeed. The one who still stands out foremost in his mind was a three-year-old girl named Morgan who wore leg braces since she had cerebral palsy. “We did a lot of work with her on climbing steps and getting on the playground equipment,” Kyle says. “And six months after being in class with me she was able to surmount many of the roadblocks she faced. Recently, her mom sent me a video of Morgan climbing a big rock wall on a playground and thanked me for her daughter’s achievement.” But Kyle doesn’t take all the credit. “It helped that my class had a good group of kids who would cheer Morgan on,” he recalls. “They would yell and clap for her when she was trying to do challenging things, and she was always able to succeed.”

Kyle faced challenges, too, when he decided to open his center last year after getting a grant from the state. “It was a struggle,” he says, “because the church we’re in was built before 1968. We needed a lead risk assessment and the inspector had to come out twice. Some of the church’s storage rooms didn’t have the approved fire doors, so we had to switch them out twice. The state licensing consultant came out and did their inspection. Then the health department had to come out and do its inspection. So, it was a lengthy ordeal. But fortunately, I had a lot of support from the early childhood community. People like Jill Harrison, the child development coordinator at Delta College which I now attend, helped guide me through the process, and my center finally opened in November of last year.”

Now the center is filling up with young learners and all the bureaucratic bother was worth it, as Kyle has seen. “The families we serve love us. They rave about our program all over social media, and news about our center is also spreading fast by word of mouth.” And the demand for his services has inspired Kyle to do even more to serve young children and their families. Though Kyle has only been open a few months, he is already making plans for improvements.

“I’m planning on expanding my infant program because I get phone calls each day left and right from parents who wonder whether I have an opening for their infant.” That will mean hiring more staff, he explains. And he’s also expecting more from the existing staff, including himself. Kyle is finishing up his associate degree in early childhood this semester at Delta College, then plans to move onto his bachelor’s degree. And he’s going to require all his staff to advance their education so his center can become accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. “In the next year or so,” he says, “I’m going to require all my lead teachers to earn an associate degree if they don’t have one. And I’m going to require all my assistant teachers to earn a CDA.”

Kyle is also working to advance the early childhood profession in his state through his community service. He’s a judge for the SkillsUS Michigan Early Childhood Competition, part of the Midland County Great Start Collaborative Early Care and Education Directors Workgroup and a committee member of the Michigan Association for the Education of Young Children. “Each year,” he says, “MAEYC hosts a conference, where I present breakout sessions. I’ve covered topics that have included social and emotional development, the importance of music and movement, and the challenges faced by men in our profession. Soon, I’ll also be doing a session on getting involved in professional organizations while continuing to pursue your own goals.”

One of Kyle’s future goals is to become a Professional Development Specialist, as he goes on to explain. “I’m planning to do this as soon as I graduate because there aren’t enough PD Specialists in the part of Michigan where I live. The closest PD Specialist is two or three hours away.” That makes it hard for people to earn a CDA and provide families with the quality early care and learning they need. So, Kyle wants to do his part to provide other rising teachers with the opportunities that he has enjoyed.

He’s well equipped to inspire and guide them since he’s made amazing leaps in reaching his career goals, especially for such a young man. But then Kyle is now convinced that there is nothing he can’t do. “I’m, a person who believes God provides miracles, and if there’s something he wants me to do, then there’s a way to do it,” Kyle says. He is convinced the Lord wants him to serve young children and give them exceptional early care and learning. His strong sense of belief has sustained him through his struggles in school and the tremendous hassles involved in opening the Learning Place Child Development Center. “If I didn’t have faith,” he says. “I don’t know where I would be.”


Recently Posted:

Blog - Text Search
Blog - Category Search
Blog - Search by Tags
Blog - Publish Date

Experts Speak: Autism and Apraxia

Experts Speak Autism and Apraxia with Elizabeth Vosseller Early childhood educators play a critical role in the lives of young children and their families around the world. As the administrator of the Child Development Associate®...