Raising AFEL Voices: Tyneesha Parker
Tyneesha Parker — CDA Graduate
By María Paula Mijares Torres
Published on Dec. 22, 2021
Tyneesha Parker is an early childhood educator and West Philadelphia resident who has had a longtime passion for education ever since she helped raise her nieces, nephews, and stepchildren. But it wasn’t until she finished AFEL’s free Child Development Associate (CDA) credential program that she was on track to make her dream a reality. Now she puts her CDA certification to use every day in the two-year-olds classroom at Leaders of the Future Academy.
Three years ago, after having a stable job in a store and a booming candle business, Tyneesha decided to quit her job and begin working at a childcare center. She loved the experience and the benefits that came from witnessing the development of children and their growth in learning.
“That job made me reflect on my childhood. I didn't attend daycare. I didn't go to kindergarten, and I went straight to the first grade,” Tyneesha said. “Now I see the importance of children having that experience to help support their development and education to prepare them for kindergarten.”
In late 2020, she wanted to learn more about ECE as a career and decided to enroll in AFEL’s free CDA course, which is offered from October to March through a partnership between Drexel University and District 1199C Training and the Upgrading Fund. The course is available free to childcare educators who either live or work in the West Philadelphia Promise Neighborhood. Students meet twice a week in the evenings and earn 120 credit hours required for the CDA Associate credential awarded by the Council of Professional Recognition. Tyneesha’s class was virtual in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Tyneesha was interested in the course because it would help her implement different teaching strategies and enable her to connect better with the children and their parents. Among the things she learned was the importance of different developmental factors on children, including how physical activities stimulate the brain; the importance of children having access to water; understanding cognitive and social emotional development; speaking to children at their eye level. She also said she learned the benefits of certain activities and how each activity prepares children for the next stage, e.g. how coloring and scribbling helps their fine motor skills, reading to children with an animated voice and creating activities to learn through music.
The course is taught by seasoned CDA instructor and AFEL Alliance Manager Sherilynn Kimble, with assistance from Jacqueline (Jackie) Hinnant and Tamika Williams. One of the highlights of the virtual sessions was a special focus on enhancing children’s gross motor skills, led by special guest instructor Wendy Wagner of First Up. CDA participants learned four specific activities meant to strengthen children’s motor skills and were then required to create their own lesson based on the activities and film the session with the children participating.
In addition to the useful lessons she learned from the class, Tyneesha also indicated that she appreciated the professional and personal support she received from the instructor and assistance instructors.
“I wasn't sure if I was going to come back to the class because I was going through some personal problems, but Ms. Sherilynn reached out to me and she told me that things were going to be okay, and just hearing those words motivated me to jump back in again to come back to class,” she said.
With that encouragement, Tyneesha attended class regularly, which also included the occasional surprise appearance of her cat, Brian, on the Zoom screen. She continued to receive ongoing support, not only from the instructors but also from one of her classmates, with whom she created a study group and formed a strong friendship. These relationships became very crucial to her future: her classmate Chavaw Bernhardt connected Tyneesha to get her current job, and assistant instructor Ms. Jackie became her professional mentor.
“I just thought I couldn’t do it, but they were just so very supportive to me. They wanted me to make it,” Tyneesha said. “They wanted me to graduate, they wanted me to succeed, and I never had that type of support before. I think through their powerful words of inspiration, it really helped me to succeed, and I appreciate them.”
With this support, she went all the way to become the first in her class to graduate and receive her certification.
This motivated her to keep going in her educational journey to get her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education through the Community College of Philadelphia, and she hopes to one day open her own childcare center.
Tyneesha credits her first-grade teacher with inspiring her to become an educator. The teacher was the first to recognize that she needed glasses, which greatly improved Tyneesha’s writing and reading skills. She also still remembers a saying that first-grade teacher taught her:
Good, better, best;
And never let it rest.
Until your good is better,
And your better is your best.
Tyneesha now teaches that saying to her students. She wants to continue to be an advocate for children and support their educational journey. She advises aspiring early childhood educators to focus on their passion for children and have patience. “It takes a lot of effort to put yourself in someone else's shoes; having empathy and compassion. It takes a lot of dedication and sacrifice. You have to want to have the children's best interest.”
AFEL salutes Tyneesha and the many other students who have participated in and achieved their CDA credential.