October 2022 Council Letter: Through the Eyes of a Child

October 27, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

Immigrant children who don’t speak English are scared and struggle to cope after recently being placed at a New York City school. The lack of enough bilingual teachers who speak Spanish puts severe limits on what the children are able to learn in their classes. “They’re only in English. I don’t understand it, and it’s hard and scary for me,” explains Fernanda, a first grader at PS 33 Chelsea Prep. “I don’t talk to not one friend, so I stay quiet,” as does Lida, her mom. She, too, finds communicating with the school to be a huge challenge and frets that her daughter can’t understand what’s happening in class.

The struggles of children like Fernanda are making the news because of the ongoing flow of Hispanic families to the U.S. But our population of immigrant children is much more diverse. Far from New York, in Santa Fe, NM, the public school system is trying to welcome an influx of new arrivals. The schools are offering English language classes and bonding activities to better serve children, many of them refugees, who come from Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Russia, plus several Central American nations.

Meanwhile in Washington, DC, there’s a large Ethiopian population, as we discuss when we profile Desta Wendirade, an educator at a DC public school and a Professional Development Specialist for the Council. She earned her Child Development Associate® (CDA) Credential™ at CentroNía, a bilingual child care center that provides CDA® training in Amharic, the Ethiopian native language. And Desta now works with them to help Amharic speakers in also earning the credential. “The number of Amharic-speaking children keeps growing,” she says, “so we need more qualified bilingual teachers to serve them. The Amharic CDA program is good for the children and it’s good for the teachers, too.”

Earning a CDA, as you will read, launched Ines Ben Cheikh on a successful career path that has convinced her she can do anything through hard work. “I could barely speak English when I came to the U.S. from Tunisia in 2010. I was a stay-at-home mom and had never been out of my homeland before. Now, 12 years later, I have a master’s degree and I’m the site manager for Wayne Metro ACCESS Head Start in Dearborn, MI, where I empower other immigrant moms to enter the ECE field by earning their CDA, too. I mainly work with Arab American women, who remind me of myself, and I’m happy to do this since it’s a way to give back to the people and programs that helped me.”

Ines and Desta both have a strong sense of community, and not just because of their immigrant roots. A commitment to others is a hallmark of our profession and that was clear at our Early Educators Leadership Conference this month. The theme was equity for children and the teachers who serve them, an ideal that crosses continents and cultures to bring educators together. Over the years, our conferences have drawn educators from Jordan and Egypt, China and the UAE, along with states across the U.S. They come for information, inspiration—and fun—as you’ll see when you read about this year’s EELC.

Conferences like ours are a great place for educators to explore common goals, concerns and solutions, as Dr. Calvin Moore says in his blog. The chats that take place there can spark creative thinking and serious questioning of the status quo, as he points out. So, conferences build the community’s greater good by being catalysts for needed change.

As a profession, we’re committed to changing a system that fails to ensure equity in early learning. And that’s also the Council’s goal. All children deserve skilled, credentialed teachers, like those who earn a CDA. And that includes our immigrant children. They have a moral and legal right to high-quality education, regardless of where they come from or what language they speak. No child should ever struggle and be scared, like little Fernanda, because they just can’t understand what’s going on in school.

Saludos cordiales,
The Council for Professional Recognition


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