When young children of color see someone at the head of their classroom who looks like them, it helps students start to reimagine and push the boundaries of what might be possible for themselves. However, in 2012, 21 percent of teachers were Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), compared with 64 percent of the student population at Tulsa Public Schools. Immigrant families in Tulsa are a vital part of the Tulsa community, and 1 in 4 children under the age of 5 are Hispanic, reflecting a 6% increase from 2010. It is important that teacher demographics change as the Latinx/Hispanic community grows; however, it can be difficult for Latinx/Hispanic immigrants to pursue teaching positions due to limited English language proficiencies and other educational barriers. Since 2018, the Bilingual Child Development Associate (CDA) Program at Tulsa Community College (TCC) has addressed these access issues, providing an opportunity for Spanish-speaking immigrants to learn in their native language and support child development in Tulsa.
It is powerful for the growing population of young Latinx students to have these Latinx instructors in the classroom who share their culture, speak their native language, and can relate to these children and families.
DR. ANGELICA REINA, TCC PROFESSOR WITH THE BILINGUAL CDA PROGRAM
Dr. Angelica Reina, Assistant Professor and George Kaiser Family Foundation Hispanic Outreach Coordinator in the School of Child Development and Education at TCC, identified this need for more Latinx/Hispanic teachers. Along with this community need, she also understood the obstacles that prevented immigrants from becoming these needed teachers and instructors, especially in early childhood education and development. Many Spanish-speaking immigrants are unable to pursue higher education due to a lack of educational reciprocity from their home countries to the United States. Additionally, many immigrants do not yet have the English language skills to pass the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), a standardized test that is required at many universities for matriculation. The development of the Bilingual CDA program was the solution to all of these.
The Child Development Associate (CDA) is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education and can be a stepping stone for further education in childhood development and education. The certification itself is an entry level, nationally-recognized credential, which requires 120 hours of class training and 480 hours of practicum/work experience. In order for students to gain the work experience needed to fulfill the CDA practicum requirements, TCC partners with Tulsa Educare and CAP Tulsa, providing opportunities for CDA students to work as a teacher assistant in an early childhood classroom. This hands-on experience helps graduates create a portfolio of parent questionnaires, self-created curriculum, and their own professional philosophy statement, all testaments to how they have been able to take what they have learned as students to practice as educators.
In 2016, the Bilingual CDA program at TCC began. Students have the opportunity to take classes and learn in Spanish, their native language, in a small cohort. Then, students are placed in English classes tailored to their individual language skills. Dr. Reina intentionally keeps the cohorts smaller, so that she is able to connect with every student and support them. Since the program’s inception, 42 students over four cohorts have graduated from the Bilingual CDA program. Paola Garzon was one of the students who graduated in December 2021. As a mother of three herself, she understands the importance of starting early to build a strong foundation for young children to be successful. She described her experience as spectacular from the opportunity to get work experience at one of the four Tulsa Educare schools to the individual support that she received from Dr. Reina.
This program is important because children are the future, including our immigrant children.
PAOLA GARZON, GRADUATE OF THE BILINGUAL CDA PROGRAM
The Bilingual CDA Program is one of several programs that are supported by Tulsa Community College’s Bridging the Gap (TCC-BTG) scholarship program.Funded by GKFF-BEST, the Bridging the Gap Scholarship Program provides scholarships to TCC students interested in pursuing a certificate and/or degree in the field of child development, including the bilingual CDA option profiled in this story. All certificate and degree options prepare students to work in child- and family-related environments, including community agencies, child care facilities and early childhood classrooms. TCC Bridging the Gap graduates can be found at Educare, CAP-Tulsa, Tulsa Public Schools and other organizations in the Tulsa community.
In January 2022, the fifth cohort of the Bilingual CDA program began their studies at TCC.