WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. - On Feb. 14, the First Things First Navajo Nation Regional Partnership Council recognized 17 individuals who have received their nationally recognized Child Development Associate (CDA) credential through the region's professional development strategy. The strategy includes scholarships that pay for coursework, books and assessment fees for early educators working with infants, toddlers and preschoolers.
"There are many individuals who have a passion for working with children, but didn't think that a CDA or a college degree was something that was possible for them," said Claude Endfield, the early childhood program chair at Northland Pioneer College who presented the CDA recipients to the regional council. "(The regional council) has helped these individuals achieve their goals."
Endfield said after the presentation that the CDA translates in to a better education for the young kids served by these teachers.
"They know much more about how to engage children, how to help children learn - through reading, through play, through any interaction they have with them," she said.
Research has shown that 80 percent of a child's brain development happens before age 3. The interactions between young children and their caretakers are a critical component of a quality early education. That's why the regional council has invested in professional development for those working with children birth to 5-years-old.
Hazel Wilson, a paraprofessional with the Ganado Head Start program and a CDA recipient, said she has enjoyed applying what she has learned with the children in her classes.
"I definitely feel like I am able to do more with them and that they are learning more as a result," Wilson said, adding that the achievement of her CDA has inspired her to study for her Associate's Degree. "I feel like the more I learn, the more I am able to help my students learn."
Endfield said an additional 50 individuals who work on the Navajo Nation are in the process of completing their CDA as the result of the Navajo Nation Regional Partnership Council's support of the program.
"This is an incredible thing that (the regional council) is doing for young kids in this community and for the teachers who want to help them succeed."
First Things First is a voter-created, statewide organization that funds early education and health programs to help kids be successful once they enter kindergarten. Decisions about how those funds are spent are made by local councils staffed by community volunteers. To learn more, visit azftf.gov.
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