March 4, 2002
Donna Ross knows the worries of working parents. With one child in day care and another on the way, she graduated from Austin Peay's Tennessee Early Childhood Training Alliance (TECTA) program just days before giving birth to her daughter Timeshia, now 14 months old.
Recognized as one of program's star graduates, she also is the first family childcare provider in Clarksville/Montgomery County to receive a three-star rating under the Tennessee Department of Human Services' new Star-Quality Program, which reviews and recognizes licensed childcare homes in the state.
But Ross, who has operated Miss Donna's PlayHouse in Clarksville since 1998, remembers when things were not so stellar. “I can relate to the anxiety a parent feels when they have to leave their child. It's hard, and it's scary,” she said.
“While I was taking classes, I had to leave my daughter, Christina (now 4), with someone else. I prayed ‘please let this be the right one,' and I knew she was, because she was a professional. She had training and was licensed by the state, so I felt like she was someone I could trust — someone who wouldn't just feed my child bologna and cheese and let her sleep all day.”
Wanting to build this same trust with her clientele, Ross was determined to learn everything she could about the profession before expanding her facility and requesting licensure.
She enrolled in TECTA's orientation classes at Austin Peay, which offer free non-credit instruction in childcare, including family-based, center-based, school age and infant/toddler settings. Topics include child development, parent relationships, diversity issues and activity centers.
She also attended administrator's training to learn about financial management, staffing and developing a childcare curriculum.
“I believe in learning, and I want to provide an environment that will encourage children to grow. For February, we have art and education activities to celebrate Black History Month, Chinese New Year and the letter ‘v.' We're also learning how to make vegetable soup, vacuum, make Valentines and make a volcano.”
But, according to Ross, her greatest accomplishment was earning TECTA's Child Development Associate (CDA) credential through TECTA-sponsored college courses. The credential is a steppingstone to associate, bachelor's and master's degrees in early childhood education.
“It all boils down to professionalism,” said Ross, who is taking classes toward the associate's degree. “My CDA [credential] says I'm a professional, and TECTA helped me achieve that.”
Linda Sitton, TECTA site coordinator at APSU, agrees: “It's about quality childhood experiences. Just because a facility smells clean does not make it a quality program. Parents need to know their childcare providers have credentials, just as if they were choosing a doctor, lawyer or accountant. They would want to know that person had the training to do their job.
“The TECTA program not only teaches child care skills but also provides technical assistance and some financial support for providers like Donna's who choose to work beyond minimum state requirements.”
For more information, telephone TECTA at 7585 or visit their Web site: www.apsu.edu/tecta/