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Educators are an essential element in providing high-quality early childhood education. They are the backbone of many children’s education and help shape the minds of early learners.

Someone who has firsthand experience in what it takes to become an early childhood educator and knows about their importance within the education sector is Dr. Buen Abo.

Dr. Abo is a program manager for the workforce development and enhancement team within the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) Division of Early Learning (DEL) and continuously works to provide readily accessible opportunities for educators in early care and education to help increase the number of high-quality early childhood professionals in the District.

CentroNía spoke with Dr. Abo recently to learn about his experience within the early childhood education sector, his work with other educators, and how we can all support those who enrich the minds of many children across the country.

CentroNía: Why do you believe it is important for future educators to have access to programs like the Child Development Associate (CDA) Program?

Buen Abo: Early childhood educators play a critical role in children’s learning and development. To help ensure young learners receive quality care and support, it is important for early childhood educators to have a deep understanding of how children grow and develop and the importance that educational experiences and meaningful interactions have on children as they develop.

According to the Council for Professional Recognition, the CDA credential is one of the most well-known and widely accepted credentials in early childhood education. The CDA credential gives educators who teach children from birth to age 5 the chance to showcase and improve their understanding, methods and knowledge of early education through learning, portfolio development, time in the classroom and an assessment.

It is an excellent option for long-time early childhood educators as well as early childhood educators who are new to the profession. Similar to other educator preparation programs, it is also beneficial for career advancement and serves as a pathway to associate and bachelor’s degree programs.

CentroNía: What initially attracted you to the education sector, whether for children or adults?

Buen Abo: My mother was a public-school teacher in the Philippines prior to moving to the United States. At an early age, she taught me the power of education. High-quality educational experiences can improve long-term chances of finding employment, widen career options and so much more. I feel that we all have a responsibility to inspire children and adults to develop a love for learning and to become life-long learners.

CentroNía: How did you get a start in your career with OSSE?

Buen Abo: The education of children and adults has always been a priority of mine. For several years, I worked as an early childhood educator at a child development facility in DC and moved on to become a center director. During that time, I received my CDA and experienced firsthand the importance of support programs for early childhood educators.

My passion for education and childcare led me to my current role at the Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). In my role as program manager for workforce development and innovation initiatives in the Division of Early Learning, at OSSE, I support a number of quality initiative programs that fund scholarships for early childhood educators to obtain credentials.

CentroNía: Do you have any favorite CDA training success stories?

Buen Abo: As a former CDA instructor, I have a number of CDA training success stories. My favorite experiences include the experiences of my former CDA students who are now successful childcare center owners. Building on the information and knowledge obtained from the CDA training program, these individuals have cultivated thriving businesses and improved not only their own lives but the welfare and well-being of the staff members they employ and the children, families and community they serve.

CentroNía: What do you consider the essential resources that educators beginning their careers in early childhood education need for success?

Buen Abo: New educators need access to high-quality professional development opportunities, supplies and materials to help them teach with fidelity and intentionality. It is also important they have a support network, such as a mentor at the facility where they work, to help them navigate the field. Having access to resources and information can help new educators as they learn and grow.

CentroNía: How do you think educator preparation and workforce needs have or have not changed because of the pandemic?

Buen Abo: The coronavirus pandemic showed everyone the creativity and resiliency of the early childhood workforce and emphasized the importance and necessity of early care and education. Like many fields, the early childhood workforce has seen an increased interest in virtual learning options for education coursework, as well as professional development. Many educators have found they prefer participating in trainings that they can join from a device at home or work.

Being flexible to change and open to new ideas will be critical in preparing our workforce to the changes and challenges in the field.

CentroNía: How can we all best support early childhood educators as they support our children’s learning and development?

Buen Abo: The best way to support early childhood educators is by focusing on efforts that enhance the caliber and content of early childhood educator preparation programs, as well as professional development and ongoing learning opportunities. Additionally, continuing to focus on pay equity, ongoing coaching, consultation and mentoring that supports moving from knowledge to practice is key to being successful in the classroom.

Providing high-quality early care and education has always been CentroNía’s top priority. Serving low-income families throughout the greater D.C. metropolitan area helps our communities grow stronger and sets them up for successful futures. Educators—their knowledge, dedication and day-to-day work—are the backbone of our programs and services.

Thank you to Dr. Buen Abo for speaking to us about early childhood education and reminding us all of the importance of supporting the educators who give so much of themselves each day in classrooms across the District!