May 27, 2021
“Jesus taught everywhere,” Linda Davis says. So has she because she thinks it’s a blessing to teach other folks. And this conviction has guided her during a long, diverse career in the early childhood field. She’s been a center teacher and director, an adjunct college professor and the owner of Justus Kidz Family Child Care. Now she’s a PD Specialist and the CEO of Justus ECE Professional Development in Atlanta GA, a business she started about 10 years ago “My focus now,” she explains, “is to provide high-quality training for family child care providers and center-based teachers, administrators and directors.”
Success in the early childhood field, Linda tells everyone she trains, depends on caring about the people you serve. “You have to love the children. You also have to love the families and give them the social and mental support they need. You need to be willing to work long hours to help others develop and grow. You have to be willing to take criticism at times, and you certainly can’t expect to get rich.”
But the rewards are great, Linda points out, as she thinks about the impact that she’s made. “The children I taught have been successful. They have become doctors and lawyers, even judges. We keep in touch, and they still call me Nana like they did when they were little.” Some of them even come to Linda’s house for picnics and bring their own kids, who are now about the age Linda was when she first found her vocation.
“I’ve always been interested in working with children,” Linda recalls. “When I was six, my sister had little children. I remember putting them on the porch to teach them their ABCs and colors. Soon I began to teach other children in our neighborhood in Peoria, IL. And when I went to college, I found a way to turn my love for teaching children into a career. A friend of mine was a nurse and said she was going to take a child development class, so I took it with her. When I aced the class, it was like I had found my niche.” It was the start of a 45-year-long career in ECE.
Linda would go on to earn her master’s in child, family and community services while teaching at Riverview Garden Child Care Center in Illinois. After five years, she became the center’s director. Then her path changed a bit after she and her husband moved to Georgia in 2003. “Around that time, the onset of long-term health issues stopped me from working in a center,” she explains. “But some of the parents we met at our new church asked me if I would watch their children, so I decided to get licensed and start my own family child care home. Five years later, I got involved in the National Association of Family Child Care and began to take training. When the trainers figured out how experienced I was, they asked me if I wanted to become a trainer, too. So, I took the steps to get qualified, began writing down my training programs and submitting them for approval.”
Since then, Linda has reached a wide audience of people who want to learn. “I do train the trainer. I do directors’ training and I do individual training dealing with engaging parents. It’s different than teaching the little ones,” she admits. Yet she still gets the gratification of helping kids by making sure their teachers are well prepared. “Everyone is winning out in the long run,” she says, “when teachers do what they’re supposed to do.” And that matters to her so much that she even provides free training to some teachers who can’t afford it. Her keen sense of charity comes from her strong commitment to kids, as she explains. “Teachers need to be aware of resources and trends in their field so they can do the best possible job serving young children.”
One of the ways she helps teachers learn the proper way of doing things is by helping them earn their CDA. “The credential is a great way to get the training they need without going to college,” she says, and that’s a godsend, especially for older teachers. “I’ve had students in their sixties and seventies,” she says, “who told me they were afraid to go into a college classroom with a lot of young people. But they were comfortable earning their CDA with me.”
That’s because Linda knows how to put students at ease. Every time she starts a training session, she makes a standard speech, so all the students know they’re in this together. “I tell them that we’re all here to learn, including myself. I’m still taking training for things I don’t know, and I hope you’re taking this training for things you don’t know. No one has all the answers.”
Still, there was one 65-year-old student who thought she knew it all, Linda recalls, and was convinced you couldn’t teach anything to infants. “But I insisted that you could and showed her how to do interactive activities like finger play, toe play and baby yoga. Then when the training was over, I went to the center where she worked and saw that she’d taken my lessons to heart. I watched her getting down on the floor talking to babies, doing baby yoga and all the other things she told me you couldn’t do with babies. So, it made me feel good to know I had won her over.”
Linda has also made a lasting impact on other students she’s trained for the CDA. “After earning the credential,” she says, “some go on to earn their associate degree in ECE. Then, when it comes time to renew their CDA, they come back to me for any additional training that they might need. Some also invite me to come into their classroom just to make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to do. And it’s rewarding to watch them do exactly what I taught them.”
She also passes on important lessons in her work as a PD Specialist for the Council. “Before I do a visit for CDA students, I interview them to make sure they have everything they need. Then I tell them to relax and take a deep breath. I’m not here to criticize you. So just be yourself. If you’re teaching the children the right way, you’ll be fine.” And so will the children. “What matters is that you take time to explain to the kids why you have to sit still during circle time, why you should do math, why it’s important to know your colors and numbers. And you also have to make children feel they can come to you with any issues and know you’ll do your best to clear them up.”
Linda gets the chance to practice what she preaches since she often volunteers as a sub for her former CDA students. “I take over their classes,” she says, “when they have a doctor’s appointment or something important to do and can’t get someone to fill in. I teach, I read, I cook, and do anything else they need. I also go with former students on field trips, so they have another set of hands to supervise the children.” And this volunteer work gives Linda a chance to still enjoy the rewards of teaching young children. “I get to see the smiles on their faces,” she says, “and watch them absorbing everything like sponges.”
Little children have a strong desire to learn, Linda explains. So, “teachers who have the right training play a vital role in helping them become productive adults later in life. There’s nothing better than seeing a young child go on to succeed in school and have parents tell you it’s because you took the time to make them school ready.” Many parents have said this to Linda, and many early childhood teachers have turned to her consistently for help in making their practice effective and fun. So, as she reflects on her long career as a teacher and trainer, Linda feels truly blessed.
In honor of Black History Month, the Council is recognizing outstanding Black early educators! We invited our community to nominate extraordinary Black early childhood educators. We have selected 10 educators for special recognition. Please join us in celebrating these teachers, directors and education specialists from across the United States— this month, and every month of the year.
Linda Davis is recognized at 1:11 in the video
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