I love to reflect back on 1989 when I entered the early childhood field. I was living in what was called ‘base housing’, which is a term used on military installations where housing is provided to servicemembers and their families. One day I was babysitting my neighbors’ children and received a knock on my door. The kind woman who was at the door informed me that I had been reported for illegal childcare. ‘Not to worry’, she said, as she continued to explain to me that the Military Child Care Act had recently been passed and anyone caring for children in their homes needed to become a ‘Certified Family Child Care Provider’.
As a stay-at-home mom at that time, I was already enrolled in school part-time and studying early childhood education. Yet, the new requirement was that I would have to become CPR and First Aid qualified, learn about child abuse prevention and reporting, and allow for the Family Child Director to conduct monthly inspection visits to my home. The visits would focus on health and safety and would also allow for conversation about what curriculum should look like for children ages birth-age 5. I became a proud Family Child Care Provider, continued on to earn my Associates Degree, and fell in love with my work with young children and their families.
Fast forward to 1992, I decided that Family Child Care was not for me as my spouse received orders to Naval Air Station, Keflavik, Iceland. Upon arrival, I thought it would be best for me to get out of the house during the day when my daughters went to school, and I accepted a teaching position at one of the Child Development Centers. My first day at work, the ‘Training and Curriculum Specialist’ met with me to review my qualifications and handed me thirteen books (yes, this was prior to the time when we used computers for e-books or training), which were referred to as my ‘Modules’. ‘What’, I stated…. ‘I already have an Associate Degree. I felt for sure that I had already learned more from my two-year degree program in ECE than I would ever learn in from a set of training modules. Boy, was I wrong!
I took my Modules home and decided to approach the training with an optimistic mindset. About a year after starting my training, completing the required observations to demonstrate my competencies, and passing each assessment, I was awarded my training certificate. I was so proud of this certificate because I knew that the training I had completed advanced my job qualifications. I actually learned what I needed to so that I could best support children and their families. What I came to realize is that CDA Training is actual ‘job training’.
The Department of Defense Child Development Program was modeled after the CDA Credential. Though I am no longer part of this exemplary worldwide program, the training program I came to love in 1992 became the training program that I would use to develop teachers that I would work with over the course of my career as a program director. As I advanced to the position of program administrator in Iceland, then moved on to accept the same position at an installation in California, then on to Bahrain and eventually to Guam, I knew that CDA Training was job training. Whenever I transferred to a new installation, I knew that I and the teaching team that I worked with would be ‘speaking the same language’. Health and safety requirements, design of learning environment, understanding of the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development of young children was the same. Working with families had the same relevance from one installation to the next, as did the need for writing effective classroom observations and continue to develop as professionals in our newly emerging field.
The DoD commitment to quality in child development came with me once I left my work as a program director in Guam. During my time as a center director in Connecticut, I continued to use the CDA Training model as the model of quality for working with new teachers who needed to learn about developmentally appropriate practices.
So, though I remain a strong advocate for the advancement of college degrees for teachers in our field, I remain steadfast in my commitment to promoting the CDA as a training model. Training on the 13 Functional Areas of the CDA has helped DoD to achieve its goal of high quality for all children of servicemembers around the world. If DoD can find a way to create a model that works worldwide, then the model can certainly work for individual states or programs who may commit to developing their early childhood workforce.
Atlas Training, Inc. is a newly accredited training program for child development that is modeled after the original CDA, similar to the model I experienced as a teacher when I first worked for DoD. The training program does not offer one-at-a-time workshops that do not allow for transfer of learning, but rather, requires participants to advance from one module to the next by reading, watching videos, participating in discussions, creating activities related to each of the functional areas, and completing assessments. The participant that completes the Atlas Training Program will be knowledgeable of best practices in early childhood education and will be able to transfer the training to practice.
As I reach out to facilitate training in an online format for teachers and family childcare providers, my goal is to continue to develop Atlas Training so that directors know that when they hire someone to fill a vacant teaching position, that the applicant is well trained and ready to do the work of teaching and caring for young children. We hope that in time, directors will be able to call us and to ask, ‘do you have any teachers preparing to graduate?”, or ‘I have a new teacher and she needs to enroll in training’.
If we can all get on the same page and begin to train teachers, first, when they do not yet have a college degree, then we can do so much to improve the outcomes that we all desire in our work with young children.
Questions about Atlas Training? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (860) 788-3646.