September 26, 2023
The Child Development Associate (CDA®) credential is an important tool to support a more confident, well-prepared, and knowledgeable early childhood educator workforce in our community. Thanks to generous funding from the John & Janice Wyatt Foundation, Fairfax Futures launched a CDA® Mentoring Program in June 2021 to help keep participating educators on track for completing the CDA® in a timely manner. Participants work in small groups and individually over a six-to-twelve-month timeframe with program mentors, Jill McFarren Aviles and Ana Hoover. Participants are provided with many resources and supports, such as tools for tracking course and classroom hours, space for crafting competency statements for their portfolio, and test-taking strategies. Fairfax Futures covers the costs of the application fees. A subset of educators who earn their CDA® are also invited to serve as peer mentors. Peer mentors participate in a series of workshops and individual coaching sessions with the program mentors to equip them to support their peers who are working toward their credential.
Through the stories we share, we elevate the voices of participating educators who have worked tirelessly to earn the credential. Our team recently sat down with Sandra Myers, a family child care provider in Centreville, Virginia. Ms. Sandy’s Fun to Learn Family Home Childcare serves up to five children, ages twenty months to four years.
Fairfax Futures: How has earning the CDA® credential supported your professional journey as an educator?
Sandra Myers: The CDA® has supported my professional journey as an educator by allowing me to revisit the roots of child care. What I mean by roots is the eight subject areas that the CDA focuses on: 1.) Planning a safe and healthy learning environment.
2.) Advancing children’s physical and intellectual development.
3.) Supporting children’s social and emotional development.
4.) Building productive relationships with families.
5.) Managing an effective program operation.
6.) Maintaining a commitment to professionalism.
7.) Observing and recording children’s behavior.
8.) Understanding the principles of child development and learning.
Earning the CDA®, makes you ask yourself “What do you stand for?” The CDA® helps me to better understand that as an early childhood educator, I have a great role. The CDA® has helped me to become more of a coach, guiding the kids toward positive behaviors: helping, sharing, and cooperating through the approach of guidance and modeling. I reinforce this approach by strengthening the interactions I have with the children.
Fairfax Futures: How do you plan to apply what you learned with the children and families you work with?
Sandra Myers: I plan to apply what I have learned from earning my CDA® by encouraging greater teacher/child and family relationships and collaborating with the families to plan what’s best for the child and set clear goals.
Fairfax Futures: What have you learned about yourself through your participation in the CDA® mentoring program?
Sandra Myers: I’m going to refer to the great Maya Angelou who said, “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” I learned that I still have passion for the field of early childhood education. I still want to help children express the best part of themselves. I want to help them uncover what is special about them. I want to encourage them to make decisions.
Fairfax Futures: How do you feel about becoming a peer mentor?
Sandra Myers: I feel proud. I feel encouraged. I feel motivated. I feel seen. I am honored to be a peer mentor.
Fairfax Futures: As an educator participating in Virginia’s Unified Measurement and Improvement System, VQ-B5, how has the CDA® helped improve your classroom practices and interactions with children? Has it supported your CLASS score observations?
Sandra Myers: It has improved my classroom practices and interactions with children. It has supported my CLASS score observations by encouraging me to ask more open-ended questions and be responsive to children’s feelings. It has helped me to encourage the children to accept the uniqueness that they each bring to one another. It has helped me to promote positive interactions.
Fairfax Futures: What do you know now that you didn’t know when you started?
Sandra Myers: I have much more power as an educator than I realized. This sentiment is summed up best by this quote by Haim G. Ginott: “I’ve come to a frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As an early childhood educator, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated, and a child humanized or de-humanized.”
We are so honored to have you share your story with us Sandra and we hope that other early childhood educators feel as encouraged as we do. Stay tuned for more CDA® stories from the early childhood field.
Tori Ongodia, Manager of Programs & Communications, Fairfax Futures and Sallyann Rodriguez-Sawao, Executive Director, Fairfax Futures contributed to this article.