Advancing a Career in Early Childhood Education as an Arab American
By: MacKenzie DiLeo/Arab America Contributing Writer
Prior to immigrating to the United States, many Arab Americans had careers in education in their country of origin. These individuals received the same education as an aspiring educator who received their education in the U.S. This includes their associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, PhD, etc. Upon entering the U.S. and hoping to continue the career they already worked hard to advance, these dedicated Arab American educators have struggled to find employment as their previous education is not easily accepted by employers in the U.S. Likewise, many of these Arab American educators have had to repeat and equalize much of the training they have already received prior to immigrating. As if this isn’t challenging enough, many also struggle to adapt and overcome the language barrier required to advance a career in education in the U.S.
Meet Najwa Dahdah of Empowered Child Care Consulting, Inc.
Najwa Dahdah, founder and CEO of Empowered Child Care Consulting, Inc., immigrated to the U.S. with her family in 1977, from Amman, Jordan. She founded her company in 2016, in response to a need for professional development in early childhood services. Dahdah herself is a bilingual child care expert (she fluently speaks both Arabic and English) with about 20 years of experience in both home-based and center-based care. With her company based in Detroit, Michigan, Dahdah partners with community-based organizations to improve child care by providing culturally competent education. Dahdah is currently a professional development specialist for the Child Development Associate Council while also maintaining her company.
As an Arab American, Dahdah has earned the respect and trust of men and women across various cultures and communities. Through her partnership with Bethany Christian Services, Race Organization, and Dearborn Public Schools, Dahdah provides CDA training for Arab Americans as well as any other interested candidates in the tri-county area. As an Arab immigrant herself, she has felt a cultural connection and an immense amount of empathy to advocate and support the large number of refugees in the U.S. who have been displaced and are actively seeking employment in order to be financially independent. Moreover, ECCC is a child care training and consulting company that prepares child care professionals and center directors to better serve children, families and the greater community. Dahdah has worked hard to advance her company to better prepare aspiring educators in her community, including fellow Arab immigrants, to succeed as an education professional in the U.S.
How to Kick-Start Your Education Career in the U.S. as an Arab American
In order to become certified as an educator in the U.S., the candidate must first receive their CDA Credential, which is the most widely recognized credential in early childhood education. This is the best place for a candidate to begin because it demonstrates the candidates’ knowledge, skills and abilities when working with children. It also demonstrates a candidate’s commitment to career advancement and professionalism. While it may seem like a grueling process for an Arab American who has already received extensive training in child care, receiving the CDA Credential in the U.S. provides many benefits to enhancing one’s education career. These benefits include understanding developmentally appropriate practice, increasing confidence as a child care professional, and helping to provide parents with peace of mind.
Unfortunately, many Arab immigrants in the U.S. may struggle to fully grasp the necessary training and reading that comes along with studying for the CDA Credential due to a language barrier. Likewise, Dahdah and ECCC have identified the need for CDA training for bilingual students primarily in the Arab and Latino communities. Furthermore, the ECCC offers the rigorous CDA training program in Arabic specifically for Arab immigrants who would like to advance their career in early child care education. As an immigrant herself, Dahdah understands the need to give these individuals the opportunity to advance their career in order to support themselves and their families. They are at a disadvantage due to the language barrier on top of the hardships that already come with immigrating and assimilating into a new culture.
“We come here to better our lives, to be able to raise children, afford housing and what have you, so this training has really given these individuals the tools to get a job in an educational profession,” Dahdah said in an interview with Arab America.
Effective Tools for Studying for the CDA Credential
In an effort to support aspiring Arab educators in the U.S., Dahdah and her team have worked hard to translate crucial studying materials for bilingual early childhood educators in their primary language. As a culturally responsive early childhood expert, Dahdah encourages students to purchase the bundle pack of e-books she has translated into Arabic to allow for a better understanding of the valuable content for those who need it. The bundle has a series of three books including the Essentials Workbook (available individually for $25), the Preschool Competency Standards (available individually for $18), and the Essentials for Child Development (available individually for $40) for a grand total of $74. The translated books are available directly on the Empowered Child Care Consulting website.
The books may greatly benefit head start organizations, early childhood programs, community organizations that serve Arabic speaking families of young children, Arabic speaking early childhood professionals, and Arabic speaking parent volunteers.
Funding your Education
When it comes to funding your education, it can be expensive and stressful, especially if you are a recent immigrant and are still trying to get your feet on the ground financially. A way to ease this burden is through applying for the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship program. The program provides scholarships for early child care educators to work toward earning their degree or credentials in early childhood education. The major features of the program include a three-way partnership for sharing expenses, most tuition and books are covered, a per-semester stipend for travel and internet access, and a bonus for caregivers and directors. T.E.A.C.H. works with over 60 colleges/universities, technical schools and community-based training institutions. For more information, click here.
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