Earning national accreditation from a highly respected third-party early childhood education agency like the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is a goal for all Knowledge Universe centers and sites. As Missouri Center Director Christy Wills knows though, accreditation is more than a one-time goal: it’s a way of life.
“Accreditation can’t be part of your to do list,” she said. “It has to be the way you run your center.”
In her 22-year career with KinderCare, Christy’s gone through the national accreditation process five times, most recently at the Baumgartner KinderCare in St. Louis. She understands many directors and teachers stress about the accreditation process but as the Quality Team Lead for her district she counsels her peers to consult the resources available to them from the KU Quality & Accreditation team and not to be afraid.
“All we have to do is our job and we’re meeting every NAEYC standard,” Christy said. “When you do the right things every day it’ll all fall into place.”
Christy credits the KU Action Guide with guiding her centers through the accreditation process. She says everything a team needs to know about the process is in the guide, and it truly is a team effort.
“It’s not just a CD thing to do,” she said. “Accreditation is an entire team. If you don’t get everyone on board you can’t live it, you can’t achieve it.”
The notions of including the entire team in the accreditation process, and making it part of each employee’s everyday work life are two of the reasons why District Manager Marlene DiPasquale chose Christy as the Quality Team Lead for her district.
“What I appreciate about Christy is her ability to speak about the accreditation process and culture in a way that makes sense to both CDs and teachers,” Marlene said. “She teaches the criteria in a way that links it to KC curriculum, communication, and Service Values so that the NAEYC accreditation process becomes our way of life as opposed to a one-time event.”
One of the most important aspects of the accreditation process is that teachers have the opportunity to consider the reason behind company best practices and to ask questions of themselves and their peers. Most importantly, the accreditation process builds a sense of pride among teachers and staff for their center. Christy maintains a visitor can “feel the difference” when they set foot in a nationally accredited center and that difference makes all the hard work worthwhile.
I love listening to her as she speaks to both center teams and parents about what accreditation means for the children,” said Marlene. “She explains why we work to meet the criteria. Because of this, my district views NAEYC accreditation as validation of what we do as opposed to something else to do.”
For tips from directors and teachers on how to successfully complete the accreditation process, visit the accreditation tutorial video series on the Quality & Accreditation page of KLCentral or through the Accreditation Vimeo Portfolio (password on KLCentral).