19 Oct What do you do after work? A ReadyKids Story.
It’s 8 p.m. on a dark, rainy Thursday night in October. Eighteen men and women of all ages and races gather in the Education Center of ReadyKids in Charlottesville. They all have one thing in common – they watch other people’s children for a living. They are tired from working a full day. One drinks a large soda to stay awake. Another loudly clicks a pen while blinking her eyes and yawning. Despite their exhaustion they’ve come to this Child Development Associate (CDA) class to improve their skills.
“I was thinking it was going to be common sense material, but actually coming and doing the modules I’ve learned to professionally grow as a better teacher,” said Cheri Paschall, a 3-year-old teacher at Barrett Early Learning Center. “I’ve learned that free play is a better way of learning, and by doing this I’ve found more confidence in myself.”
The ReadyKids Child Care Quality program provides a free CDA class to child care providers in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area or for those whose employers enrolled in Virginia Quality. It’s a rigorous 13 module program that is self-paced and teaches about everything from effective behavior management to how to plan a healthy meal a child will eat.
“This is a very good resource for people who want to do better, want to be better,” said Ayana Alexander, a 2-year-old teacher at Barrett Early Learning Center.
Though the average salary for an early childhood educator in Virginia is around $20,000 – about the same amount as the Federal Poverty Level for a family of 3 – for these men and women their jobs are more than just a paycheck. They are building Charlottesville’s future.
When asked, “how does your work contribute to the future of Charlottesville?” their passion and professionalism come through.
“With everything that’s going on lately, it’s had people on edge … There are a lot of kids who sadly don’t have the same opportunity to love and grow and feel like they’re in a nurtured environment where they know they are safe, they’re loved and they can be themselves. Even though they’re two-years-old right now, they will carry with them the thought that, ‘I’m somebody, I’m important, I can be cared for, I can be what I want to be when I grow up.’ I feel it when I walk in the door.”
– Ayana Alexander, 2-year-old teacher at Barrett Early Learning Center
“We give them the tools to learn. We give them the hunger to learn. We give them the permission to learn. Yes, it’s okay to ask questions. It’s okay to make messes. It’s okay to tear things apart and put them back together … if we don’t stretch their brains now there is not going to be very much to stretch later.”
– Katherine Cashatt, Toddler teacher at Covesville Child Development Center
“We provide them with the information, the care, the love, the support that they need to become the little people they are growing up to be. Without that love, care and support then they might not see that if they weren’t learning it at day care.”
– Brittani Collier, Preschool teacher at UVA Child Development Center
“I am partnering with my parents and we are trying to provide an environment for these precious little beings to become healthy, independent, contributing individuals to their families, communities and society at large through our loving, nurturing and stimulating environment for them to grow up and build their self esteem, so they can provide that for others.”
– Vanessa Coles, Infant & Toddler In-Home Child Care Provider
“I feel like I have a good impact on the children that I teach. When they get older what I’ve taught them can help them have a bright future. I give them the opportunity to explore more, let them have a say in lesson planning to drive what their interests are. They can feel that they are important in the classroom.”
– Cheri Paschall, 3-year-old teacher at Barrett Early Learning Center
Help ReadyKids continue to improve the quality of Early Childhood Education in the Charlottesville community. Though the CDA class is paid for with grant money, many students can’t afford the books required. $95 pays for a full set of books for an adult CDA student.