By Erin Duffy
Meet Aimee Hoes, the new Child Development Associate (CDA) navigator for the state of Nebraska. Hoes has an extensive background working with children and families, with stints as a Head Start teacher, child care program director, and foster care recruiter. “I’ve always worked with children,” she said. “I have a passion. I think quality is important. I think early brain development is important.”
We talked to her about her new role, what the CDA certification is and entails, and how it can benefit early educators, children, and families seeking quality care from skilled teachers.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Aimee, tell me about your new role as CDA navigator for Nebraska.
A: I was brought on to help increase the number of CDA candidates in the state of Nebraska. I’m here to support the work that is already happening across the state. Currently, I’m meeting with agencies and programs across the state to learn their CDA process.
Q: So what is the CDA credential?
A: It’s a nationally recognized certification
for early childhood education. It assesses the credentials of early childhood educators. It’s based on core competency standards, and there are four types: infant-toddler, preschool, family child care, and home visitor. It’s administered by the Council for Professional Recognition
. (Organizations offering CDA programs include Nebraska Early Childhood Collaborative, Quorum E-Learning, Child Development Education, Central Community College, Little Priest Tribal College, Metro Community College, and more.)
To apply for the CDA credential, candidates must have at least 120 training hours in eight subject areas and 480 hours of experience working with children. Once you’ve applied for it, you have a professional development specialist come in and observe you and you take an exam. It’s not just, “here’s 120 hours of training, you get this certificate.” You have to prove your competency as well.
Q: Why earn a CDA versus working toward an early childhood degree?
A: We like to look at it as a good option for those who are not interested in pursuing college degrees, but it’s also a good option, a good first step, for those who are interested in pursuing a degree.
It doesn’t have to be either/or. It can be both. There are scholarships available, like the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship
, to cover most of the (CDA) cost or toward an ECE degree.
Q: What’s the value of a CDA credential for early educators—and the children and families with whom they work?
A: It shows a level of quality. It increases the marketability for them. In addition, we need to educate families on the importance of the CDA program. It shows that early educators can implement developmentally appropriate practices. Of course, it can also help with state licensing requirements, and potentially take them to the next level in growing their career.
Q: How does your title—navigator—fit into how you work with early educators?
A: Hopefully interested CDA candidates will contact me so I can discuss the pathways that are available to them. It could be through an Early Learning Connection (ELC)
, the state’s professional development system; an online program; or a community college.
There are many options, and my goal is to collect that information and help them decide what is the best path for them.
Q: At the Buffett Institute, we talk a lot about the importance of quality child care programs and elevating the early childhood workforce. Is the CDA certification process a different way to recognize and reward quality, beyond traditional college degree programs?
A: Absolutely! The CDA is a way to show professionalism, quality, and competency in early care and education with or without a college degree.
Q: How will you work with Nebraska early educators and partners, like higher education institutions, in this new role?
A: The Office of Early Childhood at the Nebraska Department of Education has started the CDA roundtable with many partners in attendance, including ELCs, early educators, some community colleges, the Nebraska chapter of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute. They all come together to bring awareness to the importance of the CDA credential. It is definitely a team effort.
Q: If early educators want to explore or learn more about the CDA process, how should they get started?
They can contact me
—I am happy to answer any questions—or they can go to the NDE CDA pathway website
. I can connect them with the resources they need to begin the CDA process.