Cordial Chocolate Covered Cherries

By Cotillion Sneddy | February 17, 2021

I attended a community school as a young girl in New Mexico. When I was about 6 or 7, I remember that it was Christmas and our class was supposed to have an exchange of gifts. I remember telling my mom about the gift exchange days prior.

On the day of the gift exchange, I still had no gift. Last minute, my mom dropped a box of cordial chocolate cherries off, unwrapped, as my gift to exchange. I received a cute notebook with different colored pens from the classmate who drew my name.

Afterwards, I recall the teacher scolded me in front of the class because what I brought wasn’t the same value as the gift I received.

I remember feeling so bad about it.

I remember thinking “Didn’t she know my mom was a functioning alcoholic and I was happy that she at least brought something because she rarely came to my school? Did my teacher know that I had no control over my gift? Did she know that sometimes we didn’t even have light or water at home? Did she understand that my mom sometimes left for days and my sister was the one who put me on the bus for school? And why did she have to scold me in front of the class?”

There were other similar experiences that made me feel bad for who I was and bad about the world I was born into.

I tell this story not seeking sympathy but to show the resilience I gained through those experiences. (I also must add that my mother’s sobriety is now 20 years.) I choose to hold onto that experience because we tend to overlook children who face such disparities. We often fail to understand their circumstances first.

School was my safe place and that teacher made it difficult for me to feel like I belonged there. Early in my life I knew the change I wanted to make for all children. I knew where I wanted to make a difference, in the education field. That inspired my own personal educational journey and my work in Early Childhood. 

I was grateful to be selected as the Vice-President of Membership for AzAEYC because I realize the importance of building rapport among educators and building relationships to develop a system of networking among Arizona’s finest educators. Providing the support educators need proves to be beneficial long term. This quality is reflected in our young children.

I realize the importance of honoring diversity and the need for culturally relevant pedagogy and curriculum for all children. My experience working with the Navajo Nation Head Start program as a teacher’s aide and then home visitor, with the Family and Child Education programs, and later as a Teacher inspired me to share those experiences as an Early Childhood Instructor with Northland Pioneer College, and additionally, a Quality First Coach with Association for Supportive Child Care. Serving on the Navajo Nation Regional Council also allows me to be involved with what is happening for our young children on the Navajo Nation and to access the unmet needs of our children and families while making informed decisions based on those needs with fellow board members.

As a student at the University of New Mexico, I studied Early Childhood Multicultural Education and Elementary Education. I believe both of those content areas are equally important to the development of a child’s experiences and their lifelong learning. Currently, I am researching the policies about the process of how materials and textbooks/books are selected for early childhood classrooms intended for Indigenous children.

Being Navajo, I understand the need for such policies to be created in the best interest of the children to ensure equal access to quality education and to support intentional teaching for caregivers and teachers while allowing children to be who they are in their natural environment.

Mentorship has helped me develop into the person I am professionally and academically, as I have learned a lot from others in the field. I was fortunate to have strong and passionate mentors who were supervisors, colleagues, and co-workers that showed me how to turn my vision into something that benefited our communities.

I am excited to meet new educators and to build new partnerships with current members, future members of AzAEYC, and the Board members. 


Cotillion Sneddy, M.A. is the First Things First NN Grant Coordinator/EC Instructor-Northland Pioneer College and a Quality First Coach-Association for Supportive Child Care. She is also an At-Large Member of the Navajo Nation/First Things First Regional Council.