A Day in the Life in CEO’s CDA Program

Feb 27, 2023 | Blog

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Kristen Ryan – CDA Graduate and Toddler Teacher at the RFRC

Kristen is a recent graduate of CEO’s CDA (Child Development Associate) Certification course, and a Toddler Teacher at the Rensselaer Family Resource Center. She was nice enough to tell us about her experience going through the training.

Kristen started at CEO in May 2022. From May to August, Kristen was in the training program with a few other trainees and the CEO instructor, Casey Caldwell. From August through December, Kristen worked on earning her needed hours for final certification.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” says Kristen. “It’s something I came back to a little later in life. I went to college to be a teacher, but then I had my own kids and was home with them until 2015. I had a few other jobs, including working at Albany Med after that, and then found my way to CEO.”

Kristen heard about CEO’s CDA program from a current staff member and friend.

“I said ‘oh gosh, this is my opportunity!’”

Kristen wasn’t sure what to expect of the program at first, but CEO has structured the trainings to be a good mix of working through the CDA certification book (The Child Development Associate National Credentialing Program and CDA Competency Standards *Infant-Toddler Edition*) with the instructor and in-classroom time.

“Casey was great. There wasn’t a lot of pressure because it felt more like a one-on-one relationship, and she was tailoring each day to us. There were only two of us enrolled in the beginning, so it was a lot of good attention. There were three by the end of the training. We all worked together too, so if there was something that someone didn’t understand, we would all be willing to wait.”

Staff in the CDA program work 7:30am-3pm Monday through Friday

7:30am- Community Resource Center Computer Lab

The CDA training staff would meet at the CRC computer lab in Troy for their training days. The schedule was fluid and reflected the needs of the larger Early Childhood Services program. Sometimes the CDA training staff would be helping out in the classrooms, and other days they would be in the CDA classroom.

Casey would start the day by asking if there were any questions, anything they wanted to go over, or potentially something that came up in a classroom. Because their time was split between training days and classroom days, it was a good time to review anything they may have been wondering about from recent classroom days. For example: why things are organized the way they were within classrooms, classroom schedules, etc.


The trainees would move on to section work from the book. For example, the group spent about a week on social development. They discussed how a teacher might encourage the kids to talk to one another, and to help one another.

“Each child has different needs throughout the day, maybe someone is upset, or tired. Being able to understand the social interaction between the kids is really important,” said Kristen.

“Casey would read to us from the book, and then pause and ask what we’d seen in the classroom, what kind of experiences were we having. Because we were all in different centers and classrooms, we would bring different experiences to the group.”

At times the group would do interactive activities. For example, they would work at designing a classroom set up to accommodate all the necessary areas for the kids without creating blind spots or areas that don’t work well together.

12:30pm Lunch

After wrapping up their morning work, it is time for lunch. “Sometimes we’d walk and get lunch together and chat, or we’d bring our lunch and hang out together,” says Kristen.


Afternoons on CDA training days were dedicated to independent work. Each staff member needed to put together resources and competency essays for their professional portfolio based on the different competencies in the CDA certification book.

The CDA book has a number of competency areas: healthy learning environment, physical and intellectual competency, social and emotional development, positive and productive relationships with families, program management, professionalism, etc. A resource collection might be to put together a bibliography of 10 books on social and emotional development, or to create a weekly lesson plan, or lunch menus to go along with the healthy learning environment section.

Each CDA trainee is able to use the afternoon time to ask Casey questions, or work on their competencies or essays. At times they might also do online trainings in the afternoon, such as Challenging Behaviors, Brain Injuries, Daycare Regulations, SIDS, Mandated Reporter, and more.


Kristen heads home for the day, tomorrow she’ll be in the classroom at the RFRC, and the pace will be completely different.

Classroom Days: 

On days that the CDA Training staff don’t report for training at the CRC with Casey, they are in CEO classrooms spread out across the agency. Kristen was one of three teachers in her toddler classroom in Rensselaer over the summer.

“Before September, I was just an extra set of hands, but after September I was helping with lesson plans, and the forms for the 45-day deadline,” said Kristen.

The 45-day deadline for evaluation of new students happens every fall, and includes required screenings such as:

  • Height/weight baseline
  • Ages & Stages Questionnaire for a baseline of gross motor and fine motor skills like “hop on one foot”, “draw a line,” etc.
  • Devereux Early Childhood Assessment for a baseline of social and emotional skills, such as, does the child make friends, have a preferred playmate, etc.

Kristen would help with the evaluations for each of the toddlers and fill out the individual paperwork.

As she was earning her required hours, Kristen would follow the other teachers through their normal day-to-day activities and help with lesson plans, clean up, and the other duties in the classroom.

Once she had completed her classroom hours, she then took the test to get her credential.

Kristen passed and has been in the same classroom since. “We have some younger toddlers right now,” she says. “We just got a little boy who is transitioning from the infant room right now and is only 18 months old. Another little girl just turned two and is already potty trained; it’s impressive. It’s kind of nice because it’s ‘rubbing off’ on the other kids too!

Right now, we have seven to eight toddlers on a given day. Most of the kids live in Rensselaer, some of them may have moved, or live between two homes, so there is some variety. Four boys and four girls, so it’s an even split, and they will all be with us until at least June.”

What have you enjoyed the most about this work?

“All the little personalities. They are all so different, we have kids that have come from being home and have never been in a classroom setting and they jump right in and it’s super easy, and sometimes it’s not at all. It’s neat to see the differences, and the bonds that we are able to make with each of the children. They run in here every morning and are so excited to see us and full of hugs! Warm little faces that make the day. It makes it so rewarding; sometimes it’s hard when we’re trying to do a project and get all the kids to focus, but you know that at the end of the day, the kids don’t want to say goodbye.

We have a few kids that live between different households, and we provide a safe zone that’s always the same even when maybe their personal life is in flux.”

What are some of your favorite activities to do with the kids?

“I love art. I love the little things that the kids create. It’s so fun to see the different way that each created them.

I love doing sensory with them. We froze water beads recently, and they just lost their minds, it was so fun!

I like when we try to create something and it doesn’t come out the way it was intended, but they have their own great little ideas. They love showing their art and bringing it home.”

What is your favorite part of the CDA training?

“I was able to go to almost all the centers, and that was nice to see the different personalities in the different classrooms. Even though I knew I was going to be at the RFRC, I spent classroom time in all of the centers, and it was neat to see the differences in set ups and styles.”

What would you tell someone who is considering CDA training?

“If you have a passion to work with kids, it’s a great opportunity. You have to put your time into it, but everyone is willing to help you. Everyone is so helpful, and you’ll learn a lot. Before this, I wasn’t sure if I would ever get to accomplish my goal of being a teacher, but now I have!”

Interested in participating in CEO’s CDA Program? Get in touch with our HR Department:

518-272-6012 x301



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