A Passion for Early Childhood Education: Shanta’s Story of Discovery and Purpose

Our childhood experiences often have a lasting impact on how we see ourselves and our future. I grew up in a single parent household, living in an at-risk neighborhood with low-performing schools. When I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted a job working with children. My neighborhood was a child care desert, and the few centers to choose from were not very notable, so I searched for child care centers outside of my neighborhood to begin my journey.

My first experience working at a child development center was in 1995. At the time, the minimum wage was $4.25, but because the center was nationally accredited through NAEYC with high standards and demands, I was hired at $7.00 per hour. The expectations were laid out from day one and my training began. I felt like I was in a foreign country, everything was different! Children were spoken to – not at, the interactions and activities were well thought out, and children had many opportunities to make their own choices throughout the day.  This was quite a culture shock for me!  I was raised old- school, where children were seen not heard, do as I say not as I do, and many times discipline was corporal punishment with no time out or re-direction. I had to unlearn what I thought was best. With an open mind, and my studies of children and strategies necessary to promote learning and development in all areas, I began to thrive. However, my education was not going to happen at the child care center alone, so I enrolled in college. The things I learned caused my mind to wonder about the children back at home in my neighborhood. “Why don’t they have these awesome opportunities?” “Why do the child care centers look and sound so much different?” “What can be done?”

When I started at Educational First Steps in 2015, I knew I could make a difference. Everyday Educational First Steps mentors, like myself, go into child care centers and work with their staff to develop best practices as they collectively work towards the ultimate goal of attaining national accreditation through NAC. I go back to my old neighborhood and see child care centers being transformed as they are given the tools they need to offer the very best high-quality child care education they can. I can see the culture shift change that is happening and it’s encouraging. 

EFS offers directors and teaching staff a variety of tools and techniques, including training and continuing education, that can be applied and implemented directly into their child care environment.  After obtaining accreditation, centers receive business and marketing support to build their enrollment and sustainability to impact more children. EFS can do this and much more thanks to the generous supporters in our community. I am eternally grateful to work with such an organization that answers the questions I had so long ago. Every child deserves and needs a chance at success – and we have One Childhood, One Chance. Our community’s well-being depends on it.

Contributer: Shanta Bell is currently an Early Learning Specialist working with post-accredited partner centers.