New Early Childhood Apprenticeship

Hannah Gaschler

Experience is sometimes the best teacher.  So for students at Pella High who are interested in pursuing Early Childhood Education, the Early Childhood Development Education program is the way to go.  This is the first year the program has existed, and it includes not only a regular course held in the classroom but also 480 hours of hands-on experience at any learning center in Pella.  Once students complete the course and apprenticeship, they earn a Childhood Development Associate (CDA).  Then if they choose, a partnership exists with DMACC and Central College, giving them a pathway to move on to earn an associate degree at DMACC and an Early Childhood Education degree through Central College.  But whether someone majors in Early Childhood Education or not, teacher Anna Arkema believes that the course is beneficial for anyone. 

“The course is beneficial because students get to learn a lot about children, earn money to pay college debt, and get hands on experience to decide if this is a passion,” Arkema said.

Some students like senior Samantha Bennink are taking the class to figure out if it’s the right career for them.  Bennink said she likes helping people and is considering working with kids.  So far, she has enjoyed her experience at the Pella Early Learning Center. 

The program is designed for students like Bennink, so that these students can decide what their end goal is–whether they want to open a childcare center, teach, or take another route.  Arkema says that the program is not just for students who want to work in childcare; from this course and experience, students could move on to other related subjects like child psychology, or they could work in social services or the DHS–basically any career with children, since the program gives students foundational knowledge of child development.

Regardless of what job a student seeks, “The CDA is a resume-builder,” Arkema said, “because it shows that students have a wide background and are truly interested in children.” 

Having a CDA means that students are trained in CPR and first-aid, in addition to having 480 hours of previous experience; thus, students with CDAs who work at a childcare center earn more money, and this is a major benefit for high school students. Also, students who have earned a CDA can get college grants if they continue working at a daycare while they’re in college.

Besides giving students a credential, this program largely benefits students because of the experience it provides.  

In a video, senior Olivia VanWyk said, “Kids are definitely not a textbook answer as far as what works and what doesn’t.  It’s very much a trial and error, so being able to work at the daycare has definitely shown me the things that do and don’t work.”