Giving AcCREDITation Where AcCREDITation is Due

Giving AcCREDITation Where AcCREDITation is Due

By: Felicia Juarez

Let me set the stage. A few months ago, reading through hundreds of emails on a regular day, I came across one from the NMCCEA promoting a conference to accredit Directors of learning centers nationally. I think to myself this is great; let me call Rosy!  The trip gets approved, and Rosy asks me to invite Michelle Pruitt, Director of Little Steps Learning Center, and I’m glad for the suggestion. Michelle is ecstatic about this opportunity! Time to start marking off the checklist:

  • Registration
  • Hotel Reservations
  • Per Diem
  • Car Rental

We got set, and the day finally comes to leave for Albuquerque for a week. After our goodbyes to our loved ones, Michelle and I hit the road, arriving in Albuquerque on a Sunday evening.

While driving up, we discussed the fact that NO agenda was sent out, NO list of materials needed, NO informative emails, we have NO idea what to expect. We are going in blind and hoping for the best! On the first day of class, we meet our instructor, our classmates, and our FATE! Our instructor informs us that this class is NO JOKE! An accelerated 45-hour course in 1 week with 2.5 to 3 chapters per day, tests after each one, and homework every night. We will be studying the book from cover to cover. As I peruse this beast, I realize it is 328 pages deep, but first, we begin by taking our “pre-quiz” NOW, which is three pages long! She tells us to do our best and that she does not expect anything spectacular from us, to begin with, because this test is essentially the final and so we may not know much.

The Beast!

So, we take the test, and at the end of a very rough first day, an assistant comes in and grades the quizzes. As they hand them back, our instructor tells us, “You did okay” and that the highest class score is 67%. I look around as heads begin hanging, and I get anxious as I wait to get my test back. I mean, there are some pretty distinguished people in the room, and their confidence appeared to be deflating quickly. I get mine back, and I see it, it’s a 67% on MY test!

My feeling of achievement went from 100 to 0 real quick

I immediately turned into a cheerleader [for myself] inside, but I keep it cool. All of a sudden, the assistant pipes up and says, “No wait, the highest score is 71%.” I imagine myself as an airplane shot out of the sky. I looked across to the next table, and there they were, my fellow classmate and employee, Michelle, with her face lighting up like a lighthouse amidst a tsunami, SHE BEAT ME! AAAGH! She got the highest score. Now in my head, it’s on-n-crackin’! Challenge accepted! Let the games begin! At that moment, I quickly discovered we BOTH had that competitive edge.

Classes were intense, homework even more so. As we sat across from each other at our Airbnb with our laptop keyboards clacking away at Mach speed, we asked subtle questions here and there, but kept our brilliance to ourselves. Evenings turned into mornings (especially for me), and the slight eye squints shot back and forth as one would finish before the other each day. Every day, test results came back. I got 100%, ugh, she did too! We would both work so hard on our homework and the results? A checkmark to acknowledge our completion, we’re getting through it, surviving, and succeeding. The information was AMAZING. We began priding ourselves on how much we were learning, how excellent this class was, and even though it was tough, it was GREAT!  

Then at the finish line, we began discussing Leadership and Advocacy. That chapter tied it up and brought it home for me. Our instructor threw around phrases like,

"Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn"
 "Teamwork: coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, but working together is a success"

and one of my favorites,

 "Leave a legacy of relationships that can never wash away" 

We spoke about being a Leader versus a Manager. We talked about people who love their jobs and will stay, even if the competition offers more pay. We discussed creating an environment that promotes creativity, growth, and happiness. And we also conversed about “building up” those who work for you.

I looked over at Michelle and thought this is what has happened. You see, the initial competitiveness, I believe, stemmed from just wanting to be better and to be the best. Somehow, it morphed into an appreciation for each other and recognizing each other’s strengths and what was in our own personal wheelhouse. At that moment, I thought to myself, Hell yeah (excuse my French), I want her to be better than me! I want everyone to want to be better than me. I want them to appreciate the foundation I helped to build and me, but be better than me! Because when my time is fulfilled, I want the next person to be able to carry on, pick up where I left off, AND BE BRILLIANT! How can that happen if I do not provide them the tools NOW?! 

I “zoomed out” of that image immediately and began visualizing the bigger picture around me. WHO and WHAT I allow to surround myself. I realized that I loved the fact that I have so many people in my corner to push me to be better: my partner, boss, and colleagues. I thrive on that and want to be “that person” to others! Walking out of class that day was like an “exhale” moment for me. I felt rejuvenated with a fresh breath of air, and I was grateful. I knew I was bringing all of it back with me.  

Needless to say, both Michelle and I passed the class with flying colors. We are now Nationally Accredited Directors, and it feels AWESOME to get to this point! We earned it by working hard, and the experience that came with all of this is invaluable!

We did it!
(Felicia, back row with the red mask / Michelle, front & center with the plaid shirt)

And what is that you just asked? Did she ever get a higher score than me again? I reluctantly admit, yes. I missed a question on a quiz that she got correct and as she tried to hold back the big smile, I shook my head and sat in bewilderment *chuckle.* All 5’1” of her beat me twice. Good for her, good for all of us!

Don’t let my sense of rejuvenation fade:

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