Heeding her Calling by Becoming an Early Childhood Educator
Not many of us know what we want to be when we grow up, but for Xenia Diaz, she knew from a young age what her path was destined to be.
Diaz is an El Salvadorian immigrant, who came to the United States when she was a young girl. As Diaz grew up and went to school, she knew that one day she wanted to become a teacher herself.
“I remember playing with my dolls pretending to be a teacher and teaching them,” she said. “I always kept the same prayer for years, asking God to give an opportunity to find my career as a teacher to help me with college. I waited a long time, but finally God answer my prayers and He placed STEP in my path. It has been a blessing ever since.”
Solutions That Empower People (STEP) is a nonprofit organization serving individuals facing adversity across Franklin, Patrick and surrounding counties. One of the services the organization provides is Head Start and Early Head Start. It was in one of those classrooms that Diaz got her start in the field as a substitute teacher.
“I grew up around a big family of 21 people living in the same house. I love children and I have a soft heart for them, especially those in need,” Diaz said. “Sometimes, I felt I would never reach my goal, and thought I could not do it. But, I have learned that we all can, we just have to have that desire.”
After talking with her peers at STEP, Diaz made a connection at Patrick Henry Community College with Kristin Dulaney, the program director for early childhood education. There, Diaz earned two career studies certificates and is on her way to earning her associate degree in early childhood education.
To help fuel her education and achieve her career goals, Diaz received assistant from the Department of Social Services, Project Pathfinders and the Davenport Institute. Diaz is taking advantage of the opportunities given to her, to help her students of today be the best they can be tomorrow.
“We are more than just babysitters, we are caregivers. We care and we teach, making a difference in the lives of these children by giving them all the same opportunity and the foundation they need to start their long journey in this world,” Diaz said. “With a good foundation, they will be more successful and make better choices. We are shaping our next generation, our future doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, governors and presidents.”
Diaz juggles working at STEP with her early ed studies at PHCC. She’s been in the STEP classroom for three years – first as a sub, but now as a teacher assistant.
“Being an early childhood educator is rewarding, even in the days where you think, ‘I wonder if I’m really making a difference,’” Diaz said. “Just to give a child a hug and see their smile because that’s all they needed that day, you have done your job!”