Bennie Cooper earned a BA degree in criminology in 1994, but he became interested in early childhood education (ECE) when his daughter was born five years ago. He found it to be a challenge to find a good child care center for his daughter — not one seemed good enough.

Bennie researched acceptable standards in the ECE industry, and then embarked on the Child Development Associate (CDA) process himself. His CDA fee was paid for by the Florida TEACH program.

The required 480 hours of experience allowed Bennie to work with children and discover how rewarding the ECE profession is. There were many challenges. He was the only man in the class and, at first, parents looked funny at him, but he did not get discouraged.

Bennie took CDA classes through the Florida Community College of Jacksonville. Bennie’s wife also went through CDA training, and now they are planning to open their own child care center.

Currently, Bennie works as a campus director for a private 1-12 grade school. When asked why he is not working in ECE, Bennie said he wanted to see the whole continuum of human development, and wanted to serve all ages in order to understand human development better.

Bennie plans to go back to school to get a degree in Special Education, because he believes children with special needs do not get their fair share of quality education and positive reinforcement in the classroom.

Bennie encourages all people who are interested in how human beings develop to join the ECE workforce, get some ECE training, and practice in the field. The ECE field is not only for women, and advertising for ECE openings should not be geared only toward women, he feels.