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Early Childhood Educators of the Year

Early Childhood Educators of the Year

September 30, 2015 | HiMama Staff
The ECE of the Year Award is your opportunity to bring the passion of leaders, mentors, colleagues, employees, friends and peers into the spotlight. Let's show the world how amazing Early Childhood Educators are!

Early Childhood Educators take on tremendous responsibility in their critical role, ensuring not only the health and safety of our precious and fragile young children, but also applying their expertise to improve learning and development outcomes for children in the most critical first five years of life. It is due time that the world starts to hear the powerful personal stories of our most undervalued educators!

*** Our ECE award winner received a Fitbit and prize pack . Nominators are also entered into a draw to win! ***

Nominations are open to Early Childhood Educators residing in the United States and Canada.

Congratulations Sarojini Anthonypillai - our 2015 ECE of the Year!

View our top-10 nominees, listed in alphabetical order. Read their amazing stories below
HiMama ECE of the Year

Sarojini Anthonypillai

Settlement Assistance Family Support Services
Ontario
Sarojini is an exceptional worker as well as a wonderful person. She always puts in 100% into whatever she does, and would go out of her way to help anyone in need. She also includes ELECT in all of her programs. Furthermore she would always make sure that all her programs are multi-culturally diverse as well.

Nominated by Indira Basu

Sarojini is a dedicated early childhood educator who thrives and lives child care every moment in her life. Even during her spare time she would visit other childcare program to share and bring ideas to the centre, Very detail oriented and she has kept the childcare centre and the program plan very creative, inspiring with innovative ideas where the program plan is based on the ELECT principles. Sarojini is filled with boundless energy and a great team leader who inspires the staff with her enthusiasm and creativity, Her love towards children is immense and she bonds with all age group of children naturally. The preschool children love her as her energy during an activity or any presentation is infectious and boundless - the children and staff would miss her if she is not around.

Sarojini is Montessori trained, CASA level 1 & 2 and was a Montessori teacher in Zambia and Toronto. She then studied her ECE from Seneca followed by ECE - administrator. She thrives to better and learn which leads her to upgrade herself continuously attending the CMAS and TDSB workshops even during her spare time.

She has chosen to present for National wide LINC Professional Development day with her peers- on ' Multicultural Activity and Program Planning.' Many LINC centres including TCDSB has come and observed our program under Sarojini's supervision by the CMAS (Childminding Monitoring Advisory and Support ) officer's reference. She had partnered with the local library to introduce the Literacy reading program to involve parents and child in the reading program,.

I am proud to nominate Sarojini to be recognized as Early Childhood Educator of The Year - as she empowers children, parents and staff with her passion for her working with newcomer children along with her selfless attitude and dedication towards the program.

Further supported by Donna G.

Sarojini has a strong work ethic a professional manner and an enthusiasm for working with young children. She continuously strives to ensure the highest quality of educational programming through her strong leadership and ability to nurture and facilitate learning opportunities. Further supported by Eapen Vallomtharayil Sarojini is a dedicated early childhood educator and she is excellent in her job.

Further supported by Vimala Nosum

Sarijini is a hard worker and highly skilled person, Saro is a wonderful,fantastic,amazing friendly supervisor and role model. Saro is a kind ,supportive to the staff.Some times she goes above and beyond spending much her own time in the childcare activities. Sarojinii always does much hard work to make Finch center the best and always looking new innovative ideas for early learning Saro is an asset to the SAFSS child care center.

Further supported by Angeline

Sarojini is an exceptional worker as well as a wonderful person. She always puts in 100% into whatever she does, and would go out of her way to help anyone in need. She also includes the ELECT in all of her programs. Furthermore she would always make sure that all her programs are multi-culturally diverse as well.

Further supported by Crystal Tian I have known Saro since 2009. From a parent at her centre to colleague and friend, I have so many thanks to her. I still remember I have so many worries when I first time put my child in the childcare. She talked to me nicely and introduced the whole program. She asked me to stay with my child for some time and tried her best to make me comfortable. She has so much passion in ECE field.

As a supervisor, Saro keeps updating her knowledge. She spends her own time on workshops, visiting different childcare centres and searching new information online. Then she brings to our centre and share new ideas with all of us. As a mentor, she is patient, knowledgeable and always willing to help. She discusses the activity plans with her students. She gives suggestions and tells how to improve the plan. Therefore, students love to do placement with her and make progress in this way. Saro has enthusiasm for working with young children in professional manner.

Further supported by Xiangning Song

I am a student teacher from Seneca. Saro is my host teacher. She is a very responsible and enthusiastic teacher. She treats the kids like a friend, and she does the activities and has the patience to guide the children. She is excellent in her job. I am very pleased and lucky that Saro is my host teacher.

Further supported by Farheen Farooqui

Sarojini is an ideal candidate for this recognition; she undoubtedly is a role-model to our team members. We see her as ‘Miss-Perfectionist’ as she always goes above and beyond to achieve her objectives in her childcare passion. She is one of the most selfless people I know. Her capability in the classroom shines through each of her word and action. She is always keen to educate herself and gain more knowledge that benefit her brings new ideas that she implements in the classroom. By this she develops a love of our Childcare Center for each child that comes through our doors. Sarojini really knows how to enjoy her work and one can tell by the smile that lights up when she enters the room. She is a great team member, which we all want to work with. After knowing her for past 15 years or so, I cannot think of anyone else more deserving of this award than SAROJINI!

Further supported by Ponniah Elancheran Ph. D., ACAS

Sarojini was a directress at Angel Montessori School where my daughter was a student.My daughter enjoyed Sarojini’s teaching and picked up very fast. She arranged various concerts and contests (Christmas concert, spelling, speech etc.) and she was instrumental in starting the writing club for kids.

She also tutored my daughter mental Math/math express. She has a very good approach towards kids. I am sure her teaching has helped as my daughter majored in Math & Chartered Accountancy at the University of Waterloo and is a CA now. I believe the ground work that was set up by Sarojini, who taught the fundamentals the right way, helped. My daughter and I are grateful for all her support.

Sarojini applied her great virtue of diligence to her teaching. She is a great communicator. She has the knack to communicate with kids. I believe this is her strength. In a nutshell, Sarojini exemplified professionalism, dedication and care in her profession.
HiMama ECE of the Year

Angela Meilleur

A Child's Secret Garden Daycare Inc.
Ontario
Nominated by Judy Rose

Upon graduation, we hired Angela as we could see her potential as an educator. She quickly became our first educator who was able to implement inquiry-based learning. She adapts the room and activities to the various age groups within her group. She is calm, is a quick learner and attends many workshops and conferences. She was chosen along with 2 other staff to become a facilitator/mentor to other educators in our centre. She has the "it" factor when it comes to children. She has taken in her twin niece and nephew so they can remain in a family environment. Children are her passion and she is very committed to her work with them.

Further supported by Nazira Imtiaz

She is amazing educator. The children love her. She always programs to meet their developmental level. We the staff love her and the parents love her teaching style.

Further supported by Emily Ladouceur-MacDonald

She is amazing with the children, they love her. She is always there to help out and is very kind. She brightens any room she is in and knows how to speak with the children, staff, and parents in a way that makes them feel comfortable and respected.

HiMama ECE of the Year

Barbara Mainster

Redlands Christian Migrant Association
Florida
Nominated by Bill Coats

Little Margarita was only 2 when her father was murdered, shot in the back in a malanga field in Homestead in 1974. Her mother, 18 and newly arrived from Puerto Rico, was devastated. Would anyone come to their aid? Barbara Mainster would.

Barbara was Education Coordinator for the nonprofit Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which operated three child care centers for the area’s farmworkers. Margarita attended one. Barbara fought tenaciously for compensation for Margarita’s distraught mother. She received $5,000, and was able to bury her husband in Puerto Rico, following his wishes. Little Margarita remembered nothing of those days. But her mother told her Barbara was "an angel sent from heaven."

Her story illustrates two points about Barbara Mainster, now in her 43rd year with RCMA and 27th as executive director. First, Barbara has reached out to countless thousands of Florida’s rural poor. Second, Barbara has personally redefined the term "child care" to embrace every need a child might have, and has built a vast professional culture devoted to that. Altogether, RCMA now operates some 80 child care centers, after-school programs and charter schools in 21 Florida counties. Its budget, woven from more than 40 funding streams, averages $65 million. Its legacy – Barbara’s legacy – is pure humanitarianism. Under Barbara’s leadership, RCMA:

Provides cutting-edge early childhood education to children who need it the most, at the age when it counts the most. Teaches disenfranchised, rural parents how to advocate for their children and launch them out of poverty. Empowers thousands of Florida women, as assertive mothers and as employees of RCMA. Has become a unique national model for bicultural collaboration in behalf of children.

Agent of growth

Barbara comes from the rural poor. She is the youngest of four daughters of German immigrants who lived on a small farm in upstate New York. Both parents milked cows, and Barbara’s father tended bar for the cash to send his girls to college. After graduating from Michigan State University, Barbara studied anthropology at Cornell University. Her focus: cross-cultural child-rearing practices and parent involvement. In 1964, she and her husband left Cornell for a two-year Peace Corps assignment in Arequipa, Peru, where Barbara’s tasks included: community organizer, preschool teacher and general social work.

She returned to New York having adopted a Peruvian orphan. Barbara soon gave birth to another child, then adopted two more, all over the course of four years.She simultaneously progressed through a sequence of Head Start and teaching positions. Barbara arrived in Homestead in October, 1972 and soon joined RCMA.

A village of Mennonites had founded RCMA seven years earlier, to provide a refuge for little children. Farmworking parents, unable to afford child care, were taking their toddlers to the fields, exposing them to insects, snakes, pesticides, blazing sun and dangerous farm equipment. Yet the new child-care centers weren’t popular. The Mennonites hired a new manager, who realized the problem was cultural. Mothers would entrust their children only to someone from the same background. So RCMA began hiring mothers to leave the fields and take up child care. The centers filled up.

Florida became Barbara’s adopted state. Barbara became RCMA’s first education coordinator, assigned to train the staff. It was fertile ground. Many fieldworkers had started work in their early teens, forsaking school because their families were desperate for income. Now their poor literacy had trapped them into lives of labor. RCMA – created to rescue toddlers from the fields – was rescuing moms too. And Barbara was reviving their educations. She also became RCMA’s agent of growth. When Homestead’s tomato harvest ended each spring, many tomato workers migrated to Ruskin, south of Tampa, for more months of picking. They asked, "Could RCMA open a center in Ruskin?" Barbara opened the center in 1974.

Given a regional vision, RCMA moved its headquarters to Immokalee, the heart of the winter vegetable belt and roughly equidistant between Homestead and Ruskin. It opened a child care center there. The State of Florida had begun funding such centers, county by county, through federal Child Care Development Block Grants. RCMA asked for a statewide contract, and the state agreed in 1974. Today, 41 years later, RCMA is Florida’s only such statewide provider, and one of the few in the nation. Last year’s contract was $12 million. Barbara has opened 100 or so centers over the years. Each was by invitation, from farm workers at first. As RCMA’s reputation grew, churches, school systems and child welfare agencies called. Major growers offered facilities.

RCMA became Florida’s largest nonprofit child care provider. "We saw needs, and we kept looking for ways to meet those needs," Barbara says. Along the way, Barbara has pushed for RCMA to be a pillar of small-town life. She has made a point of renovating former all-black schools into RCMA facilities, reviving community hubs. South of Tampa, commercial developers have expressed interest in buying and razing RCMA’s Ruskin Area Office, which fronts a busy boulevard. But the stately building has local historic significance, so Barbara plans to move it and preserve it.

Explaining "the big-words stuff"

In the 1980s, a messenger came out to a Lake Placid orange grove to tell Norma Augustine that RCMA had taken her preschooler to the hospital. Augustine rushed there, and learned that little Zephrin was headed into emergency surgery. "RCMA had arranged everything," marvels his mother. Barbara has spearheaded the process that empowers women, nearly all from backgrounds of farm labor, to act so aggressively and decisively in behalf of children. She has taught women who never used a household budget to prepare a $500,000 budget for a child care center. (Afterward, they have gone home and devised family budgets.) Such training doesn’t fully replace college educations, but it’s effective. RCMA has received near-perfect reviews when teams of federal Head Start inspectors visit.

RCMA has operated the nation’s only Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program to be declared a "Program of Excellence" by the National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association. "Barbara has high expectations," says Lourdes Villanueva, who under Barbara’s prodding has grown from picking fruit to becoming RCMA’s award-winning Director of Farmworker Advocacy. "And she knows how to demystify the big-words stuff."

In RCMA parlance, Barbara "leads from behind." Her organization is peppered with educated professionals who do the same: they work in the background to support the former farm workers who are in charge. But the former farm workers also are pushed toward college. Each year, they fill a ballroom, dressed in their Sunday best, to celebrate a hundred or more professional child care certifications and dozens of fresh college degrees.

Villanueva remembers Barbara confronting her when she was only an RCMA volunteer, still raising three children. "Why aren’t you going to school?" Barbara asked. She persisted, and on the night that Villanueva received her G.E.D., Barbara attended, three hours from her home. Barbara and RCMA similarly have empowered dozens of women who care for children in their homes. Nonprofit charities and government agencies began funding family child-care homes in the 1980s for low-income children, and RCMA soon was invited to manage local networks in Collier, Putnam, and Indian River counties. At the peak of funding, RCMA had 100 such homes. Low-income mothers became entrepreneurs and expert caregivers. Many earned enough income to buy their own homes. Today, RCMA operates 26 family day-care homes, all in Collier County. Some of the managers have been in the program for 20 years.

Family care

Although the label is "child care," Barbara always has pushed RCMA to provide family care, because a family’s problems are the child’s problems. Each of RCMA’s Head Start centers has at least one full-time "family support worker." An FSW may help a family procure clothing, or a doctor’s appointment or immigration advice. She may placate a landlord, or interpret a dentist’s English or write a letter to a father in prison. She will lead the scramble every December to make sure every child receives a new toy, because it may be the child’s only Christmas gift.

At Barbara’s steadfast insistence, RCMA aggressively educates parents. Parent meetings and celebrations are conducted in their native languages, often with dinner. Villanueva met Barbara at a parent meeting in Dover, speaking Spanish. "She was very respectful of the parents," Villanueva said. "That caught our attention. We didn’t expect that." Barbara wants every mother to demand the best for her child. "Children need a parent advocate," she says. "Low-income parents don’t know how to do that."

Blanca Giles, an okra-picker in Homestead, learned by example when RCMA staff went to bat for her 5-year-old son, who couldn’t speak. They found therapists who unlocked his problem. "I learned how to be a mother, to stand up for my children," Giles said. Judy Burleson, RCMA’s Education Director, often hears from public schools that they can quickly identify the RCMA parents. "They’re the ones stepping up and asking questions," Burleson says. "I like hearing that, and Barbara definitely does."

HiMama ECE of the Year

Becky Bailey

Conscious Discipline
Florida


About Becky

Becky A. Bailey, Ph.D., is an award-winning author, renowned teacher and internationally recognized expert in childhoodeducation and developmental psychology. Her workshops touch thousands of lives each year, and her top selling book titles have over half a million copies in circulation.

Dr. Bailey is the founder of Loving Guidance, Inc., a company dedicated to creating positive environments for children, families, schools and businesses. She is also the developer of the Conscious Discipline program. Dr. Bailey has authored 14 books related to guidance and discipline, several of which have won national awards.

Her core publication for parents, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline is published in nine languages. In her passion to empower all people, especially those working with our youngest citizens, Dr. Bailey established the first Early Childhood Education four-year university degree program in the state of Florida. She was also instrumental in establishing a teacher certification program for Native Americans in New Mexico.

Dr. Bailey has raised over $2 million for children’s programs over her years in education. She played an integral role in fundraising for building a preschool in tsunami-devastated Sri Lanka, and sponsored two Sri Lankan teachers to attend the week-long Conscious Discipline SummerInstitute. She established a non-profit organization to provide free training and resources to at-riskfamilies and teachers in memory of her mother, Frances Canipe Bailey.

With thirty-five years of experience working with the most difficult children, Dr. Bailey deeply believes we must transform the lives of adults first and children second. Nominated by Julia Mattson

Becky A. Bailey, Ph.D., is an award-winning author, renowned teacher and internationally recognized expert in childhood education and developmental psychology. Her workshops touch thousands of lives each year, and her top selling book titles have over half a million copies in circulation.

Dr. Bailey is the founder of Loving Guidance, Inc., a company dedicated to creating positive environments for children, families, schools and businesses. She is also the developer of the Conscious Discipline program. In her passion to empower all people, especially those working with our youngest citizens, Dr. Bailey established the ?rst Early Childhood Education four-year university degree program in the state of Florida. She was also instrumental in establishing a teacher certification program for Native Americans in New Mexico.

Dr. Bailey has raised over $2 million for children’s programs over her years in education. She played an integral role in fundraising for building a preschool in tsunami-devastated Sri Lanka, and sponsored two Sri Lankan teachers to attend the week-long Conscious Discipline Summer Institute. She established a non-pro?t organization to provide free training and resources to at-risk families and teachers in memory of her mother, Frances Canipe Bailey. With thirty-five years of experience working with the most difficult children, Dr. Bailey deeply believes we must transform the lives of adults first and children second.

Further supported by Ida Bauer

Dr. Bailey has spent the last 20 years expanding her knowledge and understanding of child and brain development in order to help both children and educators find better ways in dealing with life's challenging events. She has devoted herself to spreading this knowledge to all who will listen and in this journey has taught thousands of educators, counsellors, administrators and more, how to help ourselves, our staffs, our children and families succeed. Attending Dr. Bailey's Conscious Discipline Institutes has totally transformed my life, the Center which I have directed for the last 18 years and the lives of the hundreds of families we have touched since we started practicing Conscious Discipline. Becky has been a shining star for all of us who knew there must be something we could do to help challenged children, but didn't know what that was. She has lit and led the way and for that I believe she deserves to be Early Childhood Educator of the Year.

Further supported by Elizabeth Cefalo

Becky has helped to transform the life's of many educators including myself through a life changing approach known as Conscious Discipline. I am the educator and the parent that I have always dreamed I'd become because of Becky Bailey.

Further supported by Anne Persinger

Becky Bailey not only helped me in my professional experience of early preschool programs but has given me tools to help me be a better mother and build loving connections with my own children. In my own personal life I have learned how to be a more understanding, loving person and would love the world to use the strategy I learned in the classroom and at home.

HiMama ECE of the Year

Jenn Sprague

Delta Chi Early Childhood Centre
Ontario


Nominated by Cheryl Sprague

Jenn has such admiration for her staff which are approximately 60 full time people in 9 locations. She is dedicated to providing the highest quality of childcare to the children and families in our community. She understands the struggles that families have, trying to juggle their jobs and child care. Jenn is a fantastic Mom of 3 children, 5,3 and 10 months. She is also a wonderful daughter-in-law who has so much compassion for the families that she works with on a daily basis. Jenn has formed great relationships with all our community partners and always reaches out to them to help children in our care. She is a remarkable person and such a wonderful light in the lives of our staff, children and parents of Delta Chi! She is highly respected and loved by her staff.

Further supported by Leslie Durham

Jenn is very efficient, well organized, has an keen business eye for making the best decision. All of this would simply mean she is a good Manager. What makes Jenn more than just a manager and most deserving of this award is her kind heart and her tireless dedication and love of her job and those she cares for daily. Great job Jenn!

Further supported by Jen Heikkinen

She is so good at what she does. With staff and parents she is the best.

Further supported by Ashley Sweet

Jenn is an amazing caring person, she's a hard worker and puts mostly everyone and their needs before herself. She is a role model to so many and myself.

Further supported by Laurie Gibb

Jennifer has dedicated her life to children-her own and the numerous children who come under her care everyday. She is a tireless "giver". Jennifer leads by example giving each child a positive role model and the moral and emotional guidance that they need!

Further supported by Nancy Humphrey

She is a hard worker and very dedicated to her job, she loves children and always puts the children first.

Further supported by Luciana Rosu-Sieza

Jenn is an amazing leader in child care. It takes a very special person to do this important work. She is caring, supportive and dedicated to continuously improve child care needs for families. Both my children attend(ed) Delta Chi and I cannot say enough positive feedback about the stellar care and flexibility that our family has experienced over the years. This is due to Jenn's commitment to staff development and raising the bar to reach new heights. I leave my precious children at Delta Chi with confidence and reassurance.

Further supported by Jenna Gates

Jenn is the perfect candidate for this award. She comes into work everyday and puts the needs of the children and staff above hers. She is a role-model to all that work at Delta Chi. She goes above and beyond her duties as a supervisor everyday. She meets the children's needs, makes sure they are happy and comfortable and will be there to help the minute you need her. She has attended several field trips with myself and the kids in my care just because. She lends a helping hand because she can and wants too. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award!

HiMama ECE of the Year

Karen Brooks

Stepping Stones Childcare
Ontario
About Karen

Karen Brooks came from a small town in Ontario, called Woodstock. She moved to Toronto, when she met the love of her live. Her first years in Toronto were spent, assisting the kindergarten teacher at Churchill Public School in North York. She was so impressive, they asked her to please move to the Daycare. Her love of children was evident.

At the time Karen was studying for her E.C.E., she was working full time, looking after her husband, mother-in-law, and four children. This she did , while receiving her education in the evening. As she did not have the luxury of attending day classes, it took Karen five years to accomplish her degree. Even now, when there are courses available to further her education, Karen always attends. She is very creative, and always makes learning fun.

Every Halloween Karen would set up a display of witches, ghost and goblins at her home, and invite the entire school to come through.

When Karen was leaving Toronto , after 14 years, to move to Wasaga Beach, the teachers and parents gave her an impressive, good bye party. Parents and children, ( who had been in her care ), and were now grown, came to wish Karen good luck in her new endeavour. They created a beautiful book, filled with messages and gratitude and love. Today she still corresponds with some of the children she taught.

Karen has been with Stepping Stones for ten years, and has loved every minute of it. Karen is the ultimate ECE educator, and is so deserving of this recognition.

Karen's family call her " The Baby Whisperer" , as there has never been a child that she can't comfort.

Nominated by Shelly Mitchell

At 59 Karen has high energy and is always learning and evolving, through the changes in Early Childhood Education. She demonstrates her dedication daily. And is always ready for what the day has to offer..her children and their families come first. Karen offers her creative ideas and collaborates with fellow Team members. Her energy, laughter and true understanding of the children's individual needs and strengths shines through with her daily interactions. Karen has been at Stepping Stones for 10 years and when the day comes for her to retire it will be bitter sweet. Karen is the true picture of an exceptional Early Childhood Educator.
HiMama ECE of the Year

Kelly Forsyth

Hilltop Child Development Center
Kansas
Nominated by Jeremy Fite

Kelly has been one of our great leaders in our facility. In a facility that has 35 full time teachers, it is not always easy to stand out. However, Kelly is that unique person.She has been at the forefront of early childhood tendencies and trends and been able to communicate those to her colleagues. Within the last two years, she has completed her undergraduate degree and is now enrolled in graduate school. She has attended the NAEYC conference last year and this year, and she will be attending as a presenter this year. Her colleagues look to Kelly on a daily basis for advice and leadership within the classrooms.

Not only is Kelly a great colleague, she is also a great teacher. She consistently receives the highest scores from parents, and her CLASS evaluations are always very high. The quality of education that her children are receiving is unlike any teacher I have seen. She is not detoured by adversity, but rather embraces the challenge of solving any problems that may occur. She works very closely with community resources to make sure every child is getting the necessary help in order to be successful.

When I think about people that want to work in the field of Early Childhood Education, I feel that Kelly would be the model by which we assess other teachers. Her hard work, determination and passion for her work is undeniable. She is a great person that should be recognized for all the work she is doing, and will do in the future.

HiMama ECE of the Year

Meaghan James

Rainbow Centre
Kansas
Nominated by Kristi Langner

Meaghan has done exceptional work and has been the lead in our newly implemented Infant Program. She develops positive relationships to families and children in her care with a focus on the importance of attachment. She provides activities and learning experiences that are developmentally appropriate to the children in her care. She provides a safe and loving environment for Infants.
HiMama ECE of the Year

Megan Madrid

Custom House Children's Center
Colorado
Nominated by Renae Siemek

"I have known Megan for 18 years. I have seen her work with toddlers and infants. She is a loving, patient and attentive teacher to all the children. In the 18 years she was the teacher to my three children who are 17, 16, and 11. She always greets the children with a smile and a hug. She refers to all the children she works with as friends. She encourages, guides and supports the children through social, emotional, language, fine and gross motor skills. She works with parents to ensure their child is happy and learning. Megan has been with the center for 20+ years and still has a love for every child who comes into the center, not just her classroom. Megan is a team player, a mentor and encourages her team teachers. She has her special way to make her children loved and eager to learn. Megan is a gem and an asset to the center.

HiMama ECE of the Year

Nicole Pait

East Rockingham Elementary School
North Carolina
Nominated by Jami Graham

Nicole is an advocate for meeting the individual needs of young children and is a strong model for developmentally appropriate instruction that is intention and purposeful. This year she was able to move purposeful play into a school setting, where it had been absent for many years. This movement caused great shift in adult learning and continues to do so. Nicole has had the power to link high-stakes standards based instruction to purposeful and intentional play and great gains are in the future for the sweet young children she touches each day.

*** ECE award winners receive a prize pack including a Fitbit. Don't forget, nominators are also entered into a draw to win! ***
HiMama ECE of the Year
Here are all the nominees in our first round of voting. Nominees listed in alphabetical order. Read some of the amazing stories of all our nominees

Sarojini Anthonypillai - Lead Childminder, Settlement Assistance Family Support Services
Nominated by Indira Basu

Sarojini is a dedicated early childhood educator who thrives and lives child care every moment in her life. Even during her spare time she would visit other childcare program to share and bring ideas to the centre, Very detail oriented and she has kept the childcare centre and the program plan very creative, inspiring with innovative ideas where the program plan is based on the ELECT principles. Sarojini is filled with boundless energy and a great team leader who inspires the staff with her enthusiasm and creativity, Her love towards children is immense and she bonds with all age group of children naturally. The preschool children love her as her energy during an activity or any presentation is infectious and boundless - the children and staff would miss her if she is not around.

Sarojini is Montessori trained, CASA level 1 & 2 and was a Montessori teacher in Zambia and Toronto. She then studied her ECE from Seneca followed by ECE - administrator. She thrives to better and learn which leads her to upgrade herself continuously attending the CMAS and TDSB workshops even during her spare time.

She has chosen to present for National wide LINC Professional Development day with her peers- on ' Multicultural Activity and Program Planning.' Many LINC centres including TCDSB has come and observed our program under Sarojini's supervision by the CMAS (Childminding Monitoring Advisory and Support ) officer's reference. She had partnered with the local library to introduce the Literacy reading program to involve parents and child in the reading program,.

I am proud to nominate Sarojini to be recognized as Early Childhood Educator of The Year - as she empowers children, parents and staff with her passion for her working with newcomer children along with her selfless attitude and dedication towards the program.

Further supported by Donna G.

Sarojini has a strong work ethic a professional manner and an enthusiasm for working with young children. She continuously strives to ensure the highest quality of educational programming through her strong leadership and ability to nurture and facilitate learning opportunities.

Further supported by Eapen Vallomtharayil

Sarojini is a dedicated early childhood educator and she is excellent in her job.

Further supported by Vimala Nosum

Sarijini is a hard worker and highly skilled person, Saro is a wonderful,fantastic,amazing friendly supervisor and role model. Saro is a kind ,supportive to the staff.Some times she goes above and beyond spending much her own time in the childcare activities. Sarojinii always does much hard work to make Finch center the best and always looking new innovative ideas for early learning Saro is an asset to the SAFSS child care center.

Further supported by Angeline

Sarojini is an exceptional worker as well as a wonderful person. She always puts in 100% into whatever she does, and would go out of her way to help anyone in need. She also includes the ELECT in all of her programs. Furthermore she would always make sure that all her programs are multi-culturally diverse as well.

Further supported by Crystal Tian

I have known Saro since 2009. From a parent at her centre to colleague and friend, I have so many thanks to her. I still remember I have so many worries when I first time put my child in the childcare. She talked to me nicely and introduced the whole program. She asked me to stay with my child for some time and tried her best to make me comfortable. She has so much passion in ECE field.

As a supervisor, Saro keeps updating her knowledge. She spends her own time on workshops, visiting different childcare centres and searching new information online. Then she brings to our centre and share new ideas with all of us. As a mentor, she is patient, knowledgeable and always willing to help. She discusses the activity plans with her students. She gives suggestions and tells how to improve the plan. Therefore, students love to do placement with her and make progress in this way. Saro has enthusiasm for working with young children in professional manner.

Further supported by Xiangning Song

I am a student teacher from Seneca. Saro is my host teacher. She is a very responsible and enthusiastic teacher. She treats the kids like a friend, and she does the activities and has the patience to guide the children. She is excellent in her job. I am very pleased and lucky that Saro is my host teacher.

Further supported by Farheen Farooqui

Sarojini is an ideal candidate for this recognition; she undoubtedly is a role-model to our team members. We see her as ‘Miss-Perfectionist’ as she always goes above and beyond to achieve her objectives in her childcare passion. She is one of the most selfless people I know. Her capability in the classroom shines through each of her word and action. She is always keen to educate herself and gain more knowledge that benefit her brings new ideas that she implements in the classroom. By this she develops a love of our Childcare Center for each child that comes through our doors. Sarojini really knows how to enjoy her work and one can tell by the smile that lights up when she enters the room. She is a great team member, which we all want to work with. After knowing her for past 15 years or so, I cannot think of anyone else more deserving of this award than SAROJINI!

Further supported by Ponniah Elancheran Ph. D., ACAS

Sarojini was a directress at Angel Montessori School where my daughter was a student.My daughter enjoyed Sarojini’s teaching and picked up very fast. She arranged various concerts and contests (Christmas concert, spelling, speech etc.) and she was instrumental in starting the writing club for kids.

She also tutored my daughter mental Math/math express. She has a very good approach towards kids. I am sure her teaching has helped as my daughter majored in Math & Chartered Accountancy at the University of Waterloo and is a CA now. I believe the ground work that was set up by Sarojini, who taught the fundamentals the right way, helped. My daughter and I are grateful for all her support.

Sarojini applied her great virtue of diligence to her teaching. She is a great communicator. She has the knack to communicate with kids. I believe this is her strength. In a nutshell, Sarojini exemplified professionalism, dedication and care in her profession.


Becky Bailey - Owner, Conscious Discipline
Nominated by Julia Mattson

Becky A. Bailey, Ph.D., is an award-winning author, renowned teacher and internationally recognized expert in childhood education and developmental psychology. Her workshops touch thousands of lives each year, and her top selling book titles have over half a million copies in circulation.

Dr. Bailey is the founder of Loving Guidance, Inc., a company dedicated to creating positive environments for children, families, schools and businesses. She is also the developer of the Conscious Discipline program. In her passion to empower all people, especially those working with our youngest citizens, Dr. Bailey established the first Early Childhood Education four-year university degree program in the state of Florida. She was also instrumental in establishing a teacher certification program for Native Americans in New Mexico.

Dr. Bailey has raised over $2 million for children’s programs over her years in education. She played an integral role in fundraising for building a preschool in tsunami-devastated Sri Lanka, and sponsored two Sri Lankan teachers to attend the week-long Conscious Discipline Summer Institute. She established a non-profit organization to provide free training and resources to at-risk families and teachers in memory of her mother, Frances Canipe Bailey. With thirty-five years of experience working with the most difficult children, Dr. Bailey deeply believes we must transform the lives of adults first and children second.

Further supported by Ida Bauer

Dr. Bailey has spent the last 20 years expanding her knowledge and understanding of child and brain development in order to help both children and educators find better ways in dealing with life's challenging events. She has devoted herself to spreading this knowledge to all who will listen and in this journey has taught thousands of educators, counsellors, administrators and more, how to help ourselves, our staffs, our children and families succeed. Attending Dr. Bailey's Conscious Discipline Institutes has totally transformed my life, the Center which I have directed for the last 18 years and the lives of the hundreds of families we have touched since we started practicing Conscious Discipline. Becky has been a shining star for all of us who knew there must be something we could do to help challenged children, but didn't know what that was. She has lit and led the way and for that I believe she deserves to be Early Childhood Educator of the Year.

Further supported by Elizabeth Cefalo

Becky has helped to transform the life's of many educators including myself through a life changing approach known as Conscious Discipline. I am the educator and the parent that I have always dreamed I'd become because of Becky Bailey.

Further supported by Anne Persinger

Becky Bailey not only helped me in my professional experience of early preschool programs but has given me tools to help me be a better mother and build loving connections with my own children. In my own personal life I have learned how to be a more understanding, loving person and would love the world to use the strategy I learned in the classroom and at home.


Karen Brooks - RECE, Stepping Stones Childcare
Nominated by Shelly Mitchell

At 59 Karen has high energy and is always learning and evolving, through the changes in Early Childhood Education. She demonstrates her dedication daily. And is always ready for what the day has to offer..her children and their families come first. Karen offers her creative ideas and collaborates with fellow Team members. Her energy, laughter and true understanding of the children's individual needs and strengths shines through with her daily interactions. Karen has been at Stepping Stones for 10 years and when the day comes for her to retire it will be bitter sweet. Karen is the true picture of an exceptional Early Childhood Educator.


Kelly Forsyth - Early Childhood Teacher, Hilltop Child Development Center
Nominated by Jeremy Fite

Kelly has been one of our great leaders in our facility. In a facility that has 35 full time teachers, it is not always easy to stand out. However, Kelly is that unique person.She has been at the forefront of early childhood tendencies and trends and been able to communicate those to her colleagues. Within the last two years, she has completed her undergraduate degree and is now enrolled in graduate school. She has attended the NAEYC conference last year and this year, and she will be attending as a presenter this year. Her colleagues look to Kelly on a daily basis for advice and leadership within the classrooms.

Not only is Kelly a great colleague, she is also a great teacher. She consistently receives the highest scores from parents, and her CLASS evaluations are always very high. The quality of education that her children are receiving is unlike any teacher I have seen. She is not detoured by adversity, but rather embraces the challenge of solving any problems that may occur. She works very closely with community resources to make sure every child is getting the necessary help in order to be successful.

When i think about people that want to work in the field of Early Childhood Education, I feel that Kelly would be the model by which we assess other teachers. Her hard work, determination and passion for her work is undeniable. She is a great person that should be recognized for all the work she is doing, and will do in the future.


Meaghan James - Infant Educator, Atikokan Rainbow Centre
Nominated by Kristi Langner

Meaghan has done exceptional work and has been the lead in our newly implemented Infant Program. She develops positive relationships to families and children in her care with a focus on the importance of attachment. She provides activities and learning experiences that are developmentally appropriate to the children in her care. She provides a safe and loving environment for Infants.


Megan Madrid - Toddler Teacher, Custom House Children's Center
Nominated by Renae Siemek

I have known Megan for 18 years. I have seen her work with toddlers and infants. She is a loving, patient and attentive teacher to all the children. In the 18 years she was the teacher to my three children who are 17, 16, and 11. She always greets the children with a smile and a hug. She refers to all the children she works with as friends. She encourages, guides and supports the children through social, emotional, language, fine and gross motor skills. She works with parents to ensure their child is happy and learning. Megan has been with the center for 20+ years and still has a love for every child who comes into the center, not just her classroom. Megan is a team player, a mentor and encourages her team teachers. She has her special way to make her children loved and eager to learn. Megan is a gem and an asset to the center.


Barbara Mainster - Executive Director, Redlands Christian Migrant Association
Nominated by Bill Coats

Little Margarita was only 2 when her father was murdered, shot in the back in a malanga field in Homestead in 1974. Her mother, 18 and newly arrived from Puerto Rico, was devastated. Would anyone come to their aid? Barbara Mainster would.

Barbara was Education Coordinator for the nonprofit Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which operated three child care centers for the area’s farmworkers. Margarita attended one. Barbara fought tenaciously for compensation for Margarita’s distraught mother. She received $5,000, and was able to bury her husband in Puerto Rico, following his wishes. Little Margarita remembered nothing of those days. But her mother told her Barbara was "an angel sent from heaven."

Her story illustrates two points about Barbara Mainster, now in her 43rd year with RCMA and 27th as executive director. First, Barbara has reached out to countless thousands of Florida’s rural poor. Second, Barbara has personally redefined the term "child care" to embrace every need a child might have, and has built a vast professional culture devoted to that. Altogether, RCMA now operates some 80 child care centers, after-school programs and charter schools in 21 Florida counties. Its budget, woven from more than 40 funding streams, averages $65 million. Its legacy – Barbara’s legacy – is pure humanitarianism. Under Barbara’s leadership, RCMA:

  • Provides cutting-edge early childhood education to children who need it the most, at the age when it counts the most.
  • Teaches disenfranchised, rural parents how to advocate for their children and launch them out of poverty.
  • Empowers thousands of Florida women, as assertive mothers and as employees of RCMA.
  • Has become a unique national model for bicultural collaboration in behalf of children.

Agent of growth

Barbara comes from the rural poor. She is the youngest of four daughters of German immigrants who lived on a small farm in upstate New York. Both parents milked cows, and Barbara’s father tended bar for the cash to send his girls to college. After graduating from Michigan State University, Barbara studied anthropology at Cornell University. Her focus: cross-cultural child-rearing practices and parent involvement. In 1964, she and her husband left Cornell for a two-year Peace Corps assignment in Arequipa, Peru, where Barbara’s tasks included: community organizer, preschool teacher and general social work.

She returned to New York having adopted a Peruvian orphan. Barbara soon gave birth to another child, then adopted two more, all over the course of four years. She simultaneously progressed through a sequence of Head Start and teaching positions. Barbara arrived in Homestead in October, 1972 and soon joined RCMA.

A village of Mennonites had founded RCMA seven years earlier, to provide a refuge for little children. Farmworking parents, unable to afford child care, were taking their toddlers to the fields, exposing them to insects, snakes, pesticides, blazing sun and dangerous farm equipment. Yet the new child-care centers weren’t popular. The Mennonites hired a new manager, who realized the problem was cultural. Mothers would entrust their children only to someone from the same background. So RCMA began hiring mothers to leave the fields and take up child care. The centers filled up.

Florida became Barbara’s adopted state. Barbara became RCMA’s first education coordinator, assigned to train the staff. It was fertile ground. Many fieldworkers had started work in their early teens, forsaking school because their families were desperate for income. Now their poor literacy had trapped them into lives of labor. RCMA – created to rescue toddlers from the fields – was rescuing moms too. And Barbara was reviving their educations. She also became RCMA’s agent of growth. When Homestead’s tomato harvest ended each spring, many tomato workers migrated to Ruskin, south of Tampa, for more months of picking. They asked, "Could RCMA open a center in Ruskin?" Barbara opened the center in 1974.

Given a regional vision, RCMA moved its headquarters to Immokalee, the heart of the winter vegetable belt and roughly equidistant between Homestead and Ruskin. It opened a child care center there. The State of Florida had begun funding such centers, county by county, through federal Child Care Development Block Grants. RCMA asked for a statewide contract, and the state agreed in 1974. Today, 41 years later, RCMA is Florida’s only such statewide provider, and one of the few in the nation. Last year’s contract was $12 million. Barbara has opened 100 or so centers over the years. Each was by invitation, from farm workers at first. As RCMA’s reputation grew, churches, school systems and child welfare agencies called. Major growers offered facilities.

RCMA became Florida’s largest nonprofit child care provider. "We saw needs, and we kept looking for ways to meet those needs," Barbara says. Along the way, Barbara has pushed for RCMA to be a pillar of small-town life. She has made a point of renovating former all-black schools into RCMA facilities, reviving community hubs. South of Tampa, commercial developers have expressed interest in buying and razing RCMA’s Ruskin Area Office, which fronts a busy boulevard. But the stately building has local historic significance, so Barbara plans to move it and preserve it.

Explaining "the big-words stuff"

In the 1980s, a messenger came out to a Lake Placid orange grove to tell Norma Augustine that RCMA had taken her preschooler to the hospital. Augustine rushed there, and learned that little Zephrin was headed into emergency surgery. "RCMA had arranged everything," marvels his mother. Barbara has spearheaded the process that empowers women, nearly all from backgrounds of farm labor, to act so aggressively and decisively in behalf of children. She has taught women who never used a household budget to prepare a $500,000 budget for a child care center. (Afterward, they have gone home and devised family budgets.) Such training doesn’t fully replace college educations, but it’s effective. RCMA has received near-perfect reviews when teams of federal Head Start inspectors visit.

RCMA has operated the nation’s only Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program to be declared a "Program of Excellence" by the National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association. "Barbara has high expectations," says Lourdes Villanueva, who under Barbara’s prodding has grown from picking fruit to becoming RCMA’s award-winning Director of Farmworker Advocacy. "And she knows how to demystify the big-words stuff."

In RCMA parlance, Barbara "leads from behind." Her organization is peppered with educated professionals who do the same: they work in the background to support the former farm workers who are in charge. But the former farm workers also are pushed toward college. Each year, they fill a ballroom, dressed in their Sunday best, to celebrate a hundred or more professional child care certifications and dozens of fresh college degrees.

Villanueva remembers Barbara confronting her when she was only an RCMA volunteer, still raising three children. "Why aren’t you going to school?" Barbara asked. She persisted, and on the night that Villanueva received her G.E.D., Barbara attended, three hours from her home. Barbara and RCMA similarly have empowered dozens of women who care for children in their homes. Nonprofit charities and government agencies began funding family child-care homes in the 1980s for low-income children, and RCMA soon was invited to manage local networks in Collier, Putnam, and Indian River counties. At the peak of funding, RCMA had 100 such homes. Low-income mothers became entrepreneurs and expert caregivers. Many earned enough income to buy their own homes. Today, RCMA operates 26 family day-care homes, all in Collier County. Some of the managers have been in the program for 20 years.

Family care

Although the label is "child care," Barbara always has pushed RCMA to provide family care, because a family’s problems are the child’s problems. Each of RCMA’s Head Start centers has at least one full-time "family support worker." An FSW may help a family procure clothing, or a doctor’s appointment or immigration advice. She may placate a landlord, or interpret a dentist’s English or write a letter to a father in prison. She will lead the scramble every December to make sure every child receives a new toy, because it may be the child’s only Christmas gift.

At Barbara’s steadfast insistence, RCMA aggressively educates parents. Parent meetings and celebrations are conducted in their native languages, often with dinner. Villanueva met Barbara at a parent meeting in Dover, speaking Spanish. "She was very respectful of the parents," Villanueva said. "That caught our attention. We didn’t expect that." Barbara wants every mother to demand the best for her child. "Children need a parent advocate," she says. "Low-income parents don’t know how to do that."

Blanca Giles, an okra-picker in Homestead, learned by example when RCMA staff went to bat for her 5-year-old son, who couldn’t speak. They found therapists who unlocked his problem. "I learned how to be a mother, to stand up for my children," Giles said. Judy Burleson, RCMA’s Education Director, often hears from public schools that they can quickly identify the RCMA parents. "They’re the ones stepping up and asking questions," Burleson says. "I like hearing that, and Barbara definitely does."


Angela Mellieur - Registered Early Childhood Educator, A Child's Secret Garden Daycare
Nominated by Judy Rose

Upon graduation, we hired Angela as we could see her potential as an educator. She quickly became our first educator who was able to implement inquiry-based learning. She adapts the room and activities to the various age groups within her group. She is calm, is a quick learner and attends many workshops and conferences. She was chosen along with 2 other staff to become a facilitator/mentor to other educators in our centre. She has the "it" factor when it comes to children. She has taken in her twin niece and nephew so they can remain in a family environment. Children are her passion and she is very committed to her work with them.

Further supported by Nazira Imtiaz

She is amazing educator. The children love her. She always programs to meet their developmental level. We the staff love her and the parents love her teaching style.

Further supported by Emily Ladouceur-MacDonald

She is amazing with the children, they love her. She is always there to help out and is very kind. She brightens any room she is in and knows how to speak with the children, staff, and parents in a way that makes them feel comfortable and respected.


Nicole Pait - Interventionist and Kindergarten Instructional Support Coach, East Rockingham Elementary School
Nominated by Jami Graham

Nicole is an advocate for meeting the individual needs of young children and is a strong model for developmentally appropriate instruction that is intention and purposeful. This year she was able to move purposeful play into a school setting, where it had been absent for many years. This movement caused great shift in adult learning and continues to do so. Nicole has had the power to link high-stakes standards based instruction to purposeful and intentional play and great gains are in the future for the sweet young children she touches each day.


Jennifer L. Sprague - District Supervisor and RECE, Delta Chi Early Childhood Centres
Nominated by Cheryl Sprague

Jenn has such admiration for her staff which are approximately 60 full time people in 9 locations. She is dedicated to providing the highest quality of childcare to the children and families in our community. She understands the struggles that families have, trying to juggle their jobs and child care. Jenn is a fantastic Mom of 3 children, 5,3 and 10 months. She is also a wonderful daughter-in-law who has so much compassion for the families that she works with on a daily basis. Jenn has formed great relationships with all our community partners and always reaches out to them to help children in our care. She is a remarkable person and such a wonderful light in the lives of our staff, children and parents of Delta Chi! She is highly respected and loved by her staff.

Further supported by Leslie Durham

Jenn is very efficient, well organized, has an keen business eye for making the best decision. All of this would simply mean she is a good Manager. What makes Jenn more than just a manager and most deserving of this award is her kind heart and her tireless dedication and love of her job and those she cares for daily. Great job Jenn!

Further supported by Jen Heikkinen

She is so good at what she does. With staff and parents she is the best.

Further supported by Ashley Sweet

Jenn is an amazing caring person, she's a hard worker and puts mostly everyone and their needs before herself. She is a role model to so many and myself.

Further supported by Laurie Gibb

Jennifer has dedicated her life to children-her own and the numerous children who come under her care everyday. She is a tireless "giver". Jennifer leads by example giving each child a positive role model and the moral and emotional guidance that they need!

Further supported by Nancy Humphrey

She is a hard worker and very dedicated to her job, she loves children and always puts the children first.

Further supported by Luciana Rosu-Sieza

Jenn is an amazing leader in child care. It takes a very special person to do this important work. She is caring, supportive and dedicated to continuously improve child care needs for families. Both my children attend(ed) Delta Chi and I cannot say enough positive feedback about the stellar care and flexibility that our family has experienced over the years. This is due to Jenn's commitment to staff development and raising the bar to reach new heights. I leave my precious children at Delta Chi with confidence and reassurance.

Further supported by Jenna Gates

Jenn is the perfect candidate for this award. She comes into work everyday and puts the needs of the children and staff above hers. She is a role-model to all that work at Delta Chi. She goes above and beyond her duties as a supervisor everyday. She meets the children's needs, makes sure they are happy and comfortable and will be there to help the minute you need her. She has attended several field trips with myself and the kids in my care just because. She lends a helping hand because she can and wants too. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award!


More Awesome Nominees

Nominees listed in alphabetical order. Read some of the amazing stories and 'Like' these awesome Early Childhood Educators!

Donna Aldcorn - RECE, Tots N Tykes
Nominated by Hayley Patterson

Donna is an amazing teacher! She puts so much thought and passion into her lesson plans for the children and cares so much about the welfare of the children. Donna is a very hard worker and puts the children's best interests, safety and needs first. She's never misses a day of work, arrives early stays late! She truly deserves this acknowledgement!


Nicole Amatruda - Early Childhood Educator, Western Daycare
Nominated by Ally Dhalla

Kind, compassionate and loving. Our children have had the privilege of having Nicole look after them. They adore her and years later seek her out to give hugs. She is amazing. Thank you Nicole for being so good at what you do!!!


Christy Anderson - Lead Teacher, Wilkes County Schools Pre-K
Nominated by Misty Darnell

Christy Anderson is one of the most selfless people I know. She has a passion for children and helping them have a success first year of school. Her expertise in the classroom shines through each word and action. She develops a love of school for each child that comes through our doors. She has worked hard over the last three years obtaining her Masters Degree in Early Childhood as well as maintaining a SEFEL demonstration classroom for the system in which she works. She helps parents better understand their own children by offering suggestions to them when asked. I am proud to say that she inspires me to be a better teacher each day and be an advocate for children. Because of her I too am working on my Masters Degree and will be focusing on Special Education. I don't know another teacher that deserves this recognition more than her!


Leyla Ansary - Director, Northlea Community Childcare Centre
Nominated by Michael Slaney

Leyla has taken her centre to over 2 hundred children and has guided her entire staff team through all the new childcare changes with a dedication seldom seen in managers. Leyla has an ability to read the needs of her child care community and puts her staff in a position to succeed on a daily basis. Childcare needs strong dedicated leaders like Leyla Ansary; I believe she is the most deserving person I know in childcare.


Stephanie Aricci - Registered Early Childhood Educator, St. Monica Child Care Centre
Nominated by Dalima Jafry

Stephanie continues to provide an innovative, enriched environment for our Toddler children. She pays individual attention to each and every child in the program, as they are all at different stages of development. She is animated and enthusiastic and has built positive relationships with the parents and their extended families through daily communication, newsletters and HiMama.

I am honoured to nominate Stephanie for this recognition and award, as her view of seeing children as curious, competent and capable beings is evident in her program planning, implementation, program evaluation, teamwork and above all, her day to day interactions with the children, staff and families.


Mollie Barnes - Preschool Itinerant Services Teacher, South Euclid-Lyndhurst Schools Preschool
Nominated by Mark Barnes

Mollie has worked with children with disabilities her entire life. Unlike some teachers who struggle to decide their best fit, Mollie knew from her teen years that she wanted to do one thing--help kids who struggle to help themselves. Mollie is trained in all special education fields, and she is an expert at helping students with autism and preschool children on the autism spectrum. After 20 years as a classroom teacher and intervention specialist, most of those working in a preschool autism unit, which she developed, Mollie now serves her school district and surrounding neighborhoods as as an itinerant teacher, traveling around the city, guiding parents and teachers in the best practices to help their children and students, respectively. Mollie works tirelessly to support an entire preschool special education community, in ways it often doesn't even realize are needed. Because she is my wife, I may be a bit biased, but I don't know a teacher who is more dedicated to making children's lives better.


Mary Belcastro - ECA, Over the Rainbow Children's Centre
Nominated by Angelica Romero

Although Mary does not hold a certificate indicating she is an ECE, she has proven herself over and over that she is more than qualified to be an ECE. Mary has been with OTRCC for over 8 years and she has trained ECE's on how to run their classrooms. Mary goes over and beyond our expectations, with her programming, her enthusiasm, her skill to teach children of all ages and happily prepare these children for the next level in their lives. Mary is amazing when it comes to working with her colleagues. She takes them under her wing and guides them on how to better their skills in jolly phonics, arts & crafts, language arts and maths. She creates an amazing rapport with all parents in the centre, not just her class. She is always willing to help - and she does this with a SMILE! I can't think of a better person - with an ECE diploma or not - to receive this award.


Candy Bell - Lead Teacher, FUMC Early Care Center
Nominated by Susan Loncaric

Ms. Bell has taught toddlers (18 months to 2) for the last 23 years. Her language skills and patience with the children is astounding. She has also acted as a trainer/role model for many new early childhood educators over the years. She is simply the best early childhood educator, period.


Sherrie Berry - Kindergarten Teacher, Columbus City Schools

Sherrie Berry should be recognized because she has provided services to children and families for over 16 years!!! Currently, she is in a weight loss program and could really benefit from the fitbit to support losing the necessary weight for self, children/community.


Purvi Bhayani - Assistant Director, Assurant Child's Place
Nominated by Rishi Bhayani

Passion, Love and Dedication sum up Mrs. Purvi Bhayani. Praised by parents, staff and the board of directors... Mrs. Bhayani has maintained a quality educational program while dealing with limited resources. Children have graduated from her program and went on to elementary school with a competitive advantage over other students. Children's reading, writing and mathematics skills have been proven to be superior to other non-graduate children. Although the school has limited resources and a less attractive facility than other schools, Mrs. Bhayani has been able to maintain full enrolment for the past 10 years (since she started). Parents bring their children to the school, not for facility, but for Ms. Purvi.


Lenee Brindle - Assistant Director, Assurant Child's Place
Nominated by Elaine Mora

Lenee has implemented many strong values to our center. She keeps the teachers on task and uses many ways to provide positive feedback and encourages them each day. She knows what it is like in the classroom as she was a teacher here for 13 years before becoming the assistant director 2 years ago. She may push but she is a great leader and models what she wants, hands on.


Tammy Brochert - Owner/operator, Little Buddies Preschool Centre
Nominated by Paul Brochert

Tammy. ....goes above and beyond on a daily basis for children, staff as well as parents not expecting anything in return. She is also compassionate and caring towards everyone who comes in contact with her. Tammy is always smiling no matter what gets thrown at her and lights up every room she is in. Tammy personality is infectious and we all should aspire to be more like her.


Stephanie Brogden - ECE Teacher, Ontario Full Day Kindergarten
Nominated by Bonnie Vivian

Never have I met someone who puts the time and effort into children's needs that Stephanie does. . She researches behaviors and develops crafts and learning strategies to bring out the best in each student. I love the way she gets down to their level and really talks to the children. She is so loving and challenges them to be the best they can be. I am proud to nominate her!!


Sarah Brown - Early Childhood Educator, Vincent Massey Child Care Center
Nominated by Trisha Plant

Sarah gives parents the best present that parents can ask for, the knowledge that your child is loved, not just taken care of, while they are in her care.


Leanne Brush - RECE Supply Staff, Lambton Kent District School Board
Nominated by Stephanie Brogden

Leanne is a passionate Early Childhood Educator who instills an eagerness to learn and shares her passion of learning with her students and co- workers. She spends countless hours prepraring materials for her students, researching and gathering resources to be able to take a child's glimmer and branch it into all areas of learning. She is an extremely creative and talented RECE who always goes beyond for each and every student.


Jill Bulgarelli - Pre-K Teacher, Gulf Stream School
Nominated by Emma Boyd

Embodies a love of learning. Empowers children's self worth, love of discovery and learning. Inspires peers. Enriches lives of children. Progressive educator. Empowers children to be children rather than forcing then to grow up. Kind hearted.


Monique Busch - Early Childhood Educator, Nshiime Daycare Center
Nominated by Josie Dingler

Monique is self motivated and willing to continuously learn more and more about her career. She has a heart for her sutdents and is a joy to work with. Monique has taught me that this career is so rewarding when you give 100%!


Nicole Bushell - RECE Toddler Room, Little Beginnings Daycare and Learning Center
Nominated by Julie Lafond

Dedication and excellent work attendance.


Candice - Early Childhood Educator, Helping Hands Whitby
Nominated by Jaime Bawcutt

Candice is amazing with kids! They all love her, and she loves them back. Her classroom was always a fun and engaging place for my son to learn in. I can't say enough good things about her program. She also provided lots of pictures through the Hi Mama program and was always especially thoughtful to send a picture of my son happily playing a few minutes later if he had been teary at drop-off!


Melissa Carter - Registered Early Childhood Educator, Ekwaamjigenang Children's Centre
Nominated by Kris Kerfont

Melissa helps out in all areas of our centre. She currently works in the Infant Room but will help out wherever needed. Last week was 'week of the child' and we held a 'be a superhero day'. Melissa took photos of all of the children dressed as superheros and together with another class they displayed the photos in mural form in the hall. In early October she did a 'smile day' and took photos of all of the children to line the hallway walls to greet everyone in the morning. She enjoys the children and you can tell by the smiles that light up when she enters the room. A great team member!


Sara Castle - Assistant Director, Imagine Nation A Museum Early Learning Center
Nominated by Coral Richardson

This person has been instrumental in Early Care and Education for over 15 years. She is a caring and thoughtful individual who truly is an advocate for children and families. Sara has a multitude of experience and skills that brings an incredible resource to our school and teachers. Overseeing 9 classrooms, managing 35 staff, maintaining licensing, implementing accreditation criteria on a daily basis along with the day to day demands of supervising a quality program. Sara is organized, creative, artistic and has a infectious sense of humor. All of these qualities put together allow her to be a successful leader in the field of Early Childhood. Please consider Sara Castle as a Early Childhood Educator of the Year! Thank you.


Debra Clark - Preschool Teacher, St. James' Preschool
Nominated by Katarina Matolek

Mrs. Clark is patient, kind, creative and enthusiastic preschool teacher and above all holds high standards toward the profession of the early childhood education. Her classroom management skills are developmentally appropriate constantly modeling respectful atmosphere and multiculturalism. Mrs. Clark's dedication goes above and beyond her job description. She is actively involved in mentoring, willing to go an extra mile for herself and her colleagues when it comes to continuing education and bringing newest research into practice. She is definitely a life-long learner. Her work with parents is engaging, open to collaboration, and supportive. She is an experienced teacher who is always willing to learn from her students. Above all, preschool teaching is her calling.


Michelle Clement - RECE / Site Supervisor, York Professional Child Care and Education
Nominated by Jody Miller

She always goes above and beyond to make any program she is in as fun and educational in a positive atmosphere as possible . She will spend her own money and spare time to create things for her program and to have equipment necessary to make the children happy. She never complains and always does what is asked including going to multiple centre's to work. She will always do what is best for the children even under nor so comfortable circumstances with children with high behaviors. I think she is an exemplary ece and thoroughly enjoys her job.


Mrs. Colombi - ECE, St. Paul's Catholic School
Nominated by Kim Dewar

She is always kind, warm, compassionate and caring with the children in her care. She always has a smile on her face and she makes each child feel important and special....all while helping her students to successfully aclimate to life at school. Her positive attitude is contagious and the kids love her. She is an excellent role model of what an ECE should be!!


Jackie Cook - RECE, Serendipity Childcare Centre
Nominated by Penny Willis

Jackie is an outstanding RECE! She takes complete pride and joy into her job. She would take any opportunity possible to help the children in her care to learn and goes above and beyond what is expected of her. She is always taking courses and reading articles to further her knowledge on how children learn and implementing this knowledge in her classroom. The parents at our centre acknowledged daily how wonderful of a teacher that she is. She is also the person responsible for introducing our centre to the HiMama program and has since started and taught the teachers in 3 different rooms how to use it! She is a genuine person that has a heart for the children in our world. :)


Belinda Costin - Principal, Children's Discovery Center
Nominated by Lisa Nowak

Belinda is the idea early childhood educator. Belinda not only gives 100% at her job as the kindergarten principal for Children's Discovery Center. She mentors me (a new director) at Maria Early Learning Center. She is the chair of our board. Belinda helped start up the director's network, so that directors could meet with each other and talk about improving their programs for the children. Belinda also has worked to develop Baby U. Which helps teach parents how to parent. Belinda is always willing to help any Center. Her main purpose is to provide the highest quality of care. She also serves on the OAEYC board.


Kimberly Cox - Teacher, Helping Hands Daycare
Nominated by Lindsay Dodds

Kim made the transition for my daughter to daycare a great one. She goes above and beyond to ensure that each child is well cared for and loved. My daughter left her room months ago and she still checks in with her regularly. My daughter (as well as other toddlers) went back to her room to start the day even after 'moving up.' Also, this summer, my daughter was stung by a bee and it was Kim who took care of her and soothed her even though she is not her teacher anymore. Kim is a household name for us and someone that my daughter often says she is thankful for at night. When we leave our children in the care of others we can only hope that it is someone like Kim who receives then with open arms.


Barbara Culbreath - Matriarch, Art Teacher, Storyteller, Wisdom Giver, Maple Street School
Nominated by Wendy Cole

Barbara has given over 30 years of her heart to Maple Street. As she is turning 70, this year, I am realizing how her deep commitment to Maple Street School has created a village culture of play, love of learning, diversity and inclusion. Barbara's art and storytelling with children reflects not only our school, but a vision of a world that is kind, creative, and playful.


Norma Curtis - PED Leader, Compass Early Learning and Care
Nominated by Lindsay Dodds

Norma is a leader in our field. Most inspiring and dedicated person I ever have met in field.


Natasha Darveau - RECE, St. Brigid ELCC
Nominated by Jaime Ausher

Natasha is working as a school aged RECE at the moment. She is very devoted to her group and the centre. She often stays between her shifts to organize and prep things for her group. She is always going out of her way and spending her own money on the children. The children all love her. She is an outstanding school aged staff, which I feel is extremely hard to find!


Tara DelVecchio - RECE, A Child's World - Woodlawn
Nominated by Tammy Horton

Shauna is an amazing educator! She brings years of knowledge and experience along with her ability to constantly learn and grow alongside the children in her care. She unfortunately had a very sad situation last year where the teacher she was working with suddenly passed away. Shauna had to deal with this as well as helping these young children cope and try to understand what had happened. Shauna is a hard worker and always goes above and beyond her call of duty! She is definitely one in a million!!!!!


Sandra DeMedeiros - RECE, School Age Supervisor, Dutton Child Care Centre
Nominated by Jessica Gates

Sandra is dedicated to getting to know each child and their family. She takes the extra time and will stay hours after her shift to make her program be the best it can. She volunteers her time outside of work hours at a local public school, teaching & coaching soccer and for all special events the centre holds. She doesn't stop there she also has helped out a staff member during the loss of her husband. Sandra is also very engaged in best practice and attends training and workshops to continue to keep up our changing field.


Ann DeZoysa - RECE, Pride In Heritage Children's Centre
Nominated by Rosemarie Ritchie

I have known and worked with Ann for more than a decade. She has always demonstrated a genuine passion for the work she does as an Early Childhood Educator. She has great respect, adoration, and care for children (just to name a few attributes). She often encourages them to express and appreciate themselves for who they are. She finds joy and humour in her interaction with every child.

It wasn't enough to just clean a child who had an accident, she thoroughly washes the child as she would have her own child. She sympathized and supported parents, she would tutor the child that was having challenges in school, to support the parent. She has written beautiful children's poetry, that has been publicized locally in community news. She cut off her beautiful long hair for children's cancer, so wigs can be made for those who need it, something she would do again in a heart beat.

Overall she would literally lay her life down to save any child, that needed her. A person that is a great asset to any team. In my early start as an ECE, she took it upon on herself to mentor me, of which I am greatly appreciative of every day. Ann DeZoysa in my opinion is a great candidate for this award.


Shauna Dempsey - Early Childhood Educator, Barrie Catholic District School Board
Nominated by Shelly Kaczmarek

Shauna is an amazing educator! She brings years of knowledge and experience along with her ability to constantly learn and grow alongside the children in her care. She unfortunately had a very sad situation last year where the teacher she was working with suddenly passed away. Shauna had to deal with this as well as helping these young children cope and try to understand what had happened. Shauna is a hard worker and always goes above and beyond her call of duty! She is definitely one in a million!!!!!


Patricia Digronimo - Early Childhood Educator, Full Time Kindergarten at York Catholic District School Board
Nominated by Khristine M.

Pat is a true team player and isn't afraid to look foolish in front of others so that the kids can learn better. She makes EACH child feel loved and cared for while still being able to teach them life's lessons. Pat is a true gem with the kindest of hearts. ONE THAT WILL ALWAYS PUT HERSELF BEFORE OTHERS.


Andrea Disanto - RECE Teacher, St. Raymond All Day JK
Nominated by Lena Prescod

Andrea is a spontaneous, creative, motivated and loving staff. She is commuted to caring for all the children. I love watching Andreas interactions with all the children she works with. The parents love her and so do the children. Andrea will be a special educator for the rest of her career. She will continue to shine and make me proud...


Jesse Duguay - Preschool Teacher, Mother Goose Children's Center
Nominated by Holli Metcalf

Jesse is a hard working and devoted teacher. She teaches with every with her heart and soul. I had the pleasure of working with her for the past 3 years and it was one of the best teaching experiences I have ever had. Jesse believes in teaching children anout what they find interesting and was always changing her plans to include this. She also would spend lots of her own time, money and energy on making sure the children in her care had great experiences in the classroom. Jesse is at a point in her career when she needs to be reminded how great she is and what a difference she really makes in the lives of the children she teaches.


Deanna Ell - Infant Toddler Educator, BrightPath Early Learning Centre
Nominated by Brianna Winters

She is experienced and professional. She is the definition of a true educator. She truly loves the children she cares for and enriches their lives.


Mary "Kitty" Foster - Pre-K Teacher, LA4 Pre-Kindergarten
Nominated by Dana West

Her rapport with her students is phenomenal. She keeps them engaged at a developmentally appropriate level. Her creativity is out of this world. She loves her students and it is apparent on a daily basis. I am honored to work with such a person!


Diana Garbutt - RECE Supervisor, Duntroon Daycare Inc.
Nominated by Emma Folorunsho

Diana has been an RECE Supervisor for the past 25 years of Duntroon Daycare. She has grown this daycare from just a few preschoolers to now include an infant, toddler, preschool and school age programs. We are licensed for 60 children daily and have a very long waiting list. Our reputation is #1 and this is because of Diana's commitment to provide the highest quality of care. The reasons why Diana should be recognized as an ECE of the year is because she excels in team leadership, role modelling and if you could see her with the children, you would be blown away at her ability to entertain, educate, love, all the while having fun. She truly is a kid at heart.

Diana's team consists of 12 employees. She knows the importance of creating a team of qualified staff who love their jobs. She makes it a priority to keep open communication and has a family approach to overall childcare. I have worked with her for the last 20 years here at Duntroon Daycare and in a field where burn out and high staff turnover is usually the case, 10 of the 12 staff have been here for 10 years+. This attends to Diana's leadership and advocating on staffs behalf for wage increases and any funding that may become available. I please ask you to recognize Diana Garbutt in her role as a professional. She works very hard each and everyday and puts others interests above herself. She's talking about an early retirement within a years time and this would be a wonderful acknowledgement of the years she has dedicated to the field. Thank you for your consideration! Emma


Andrea Glavac - Early Childhood Educator, Childventures Early Learning Academy
Nominated by Meagan Lowe

She is constantly going above and beyond in her job; providing mentorship, leadership, and overall exceptional care.


Heidi Greenslade - Director Early Learning, Research and Training, Lutheran Services Florida Head Start/Early Head Start Program

Heidi Greenslade serves in the role as the content area expert for Early Childhood Education for Lutheran Services Florida Head Start/Early Head Start program. In her capacity as Director of the Early Childhood Education section she has oversight of the early learning outcomes of over 6,000 low income children. Heidi Greenslade is engaged with the staff at each of the local program levels to work on specific community concerns while identifying trends on a statewide level to ensure children are learning and ready for Kindergarten. Heidi Greenslade serves as a mentor to Education Managers/Leaders and works with them on developing leadership skills. She focuses on performance not only on the outcomes of the children but of the teachers through the use of assessments to promote professional development. Heidi Greenslade believes in creativity and encourages the staff to have fun and make lessons enjoyable. She is always looking for new and innovative ideas for early learning and stays abreast of the current trends. Heidi Greenslade should be recognized as Early Childhood Educator of the Year since she not only ensures high quality of education to children but to staff too.


Donna Greenwood - Supervisor Teacher, Bay Park Children's Centre
Nominated by Katherine Hawley

Donna has been in the field of Early Childhood Education for 30+ years and brings a lot of experience and dedication to the field and to our centre. She has a gift for making our parents feel at ease as they drop their babies off each day (infant room). She is tirelessly on the floor playing with each child and ensures that her staff provide a stimulating, creative environment for the children to explore. She is an excellent communicator and has mentored countless ECE students over the years as a Co-operating Teacher. She is a great team player and provides hours of laughter in our staff room :). Donna is an R.ECE that other ECE's can look up to!


Jennifer Grubb - Pre-K Teacher, Merryhill School
Nominated by Stacie Georgec

Ms Jenn is an awesome teacher!! She works with each child at his.her own pace. I have seen her teach 3 year old and 7 year old children in the same classroom and she is great. The children adore her. My child didn't care for going to Pre K each day until Ms Jenn came into his life!! Now he can't wait to go to school and is learning so much from her!! She is a true asset to any school and a huge blessing to our son.


Shirle Guaman - RECE, The Candy Factory Day Care
Nominated by Blair Spence

Shirle has stepped up to assist with my supervisory duties, and she is continuing her education to increase her knowledge base. I have seen a change in her thinking, as her knowledge improves, she is now looking at issues from multiple points of view. Shirle has always looked out for the children's best interest, but she now also has started to better communicate with parents. She constantly looks to make her room even better. Hard work never holds her back.


Stacey Gulas - RECE, Durham District School Board
Nominated by Carrie Stonehouse

Stacey is one of the most sensational teachers I have had the pleasure to work with. She is not only a fantastic educator for children, but a truly great friend. Stacey's kind heart and sense of humour make her one of the best in the field. Children adore her and find joy in learning because of her talent. Beautiful person.


Roma Habtemariam - K-3 Teacher
Nominated by Kim White

I've had the opportunity to teach with Roma and she's amazing with the kids! High expectations and lots of love!!

Further supported by Brooklyn Brown

Roma works diligently with inner city children to educate them. She also shares the peer of self love and life's principles. She loves what se does so much that she went from being a principle back to teacher! She is an example of what it means to teach.

Further supported by Erica

Takes underprivileged inner city kindergarteners and gets them on track when they have come to school with very few skills due to home environments. Will make trips to the homes of her children to do anything she can to help.

Further supported by Tamicko Teasley

This Teacher goes above and beyond for the students and our community...She extends her hands and time for her students and to make sure the parents are actively involved.

Further supported by Victoria Woodbury

Roma has a passion for education and teaching our future leaders. She understands just how important it is for them to grasp the basics first and early on in life, yet encourages them to reach beyond their present situation and set large life goals that will impact the entire world.

Further supported by Gary Anthony Tate Jr.

Ms. Habtemariam is a natural educator who has mastered her craft. I've seen her prepare third grade students for state assessments, were the class was eighty percent proficient. In her current position as a kindergarten teacher she has given her students the foundational skills to achieve as career learners.

Further supported by Taylor Nixon

She's great with kids! They really listen to her and I've witnessed her change lives at Africentric dealing with her student's behaviors in the classroom and taking their education seriously.

Further supported by Jessica Hursey

Roma is a natural with students! I've worked with her in many capacities-she set's clear and high expectations for her students and treats them as if they were her own, always! She's the teacher you always want your kids to have!!

Further supported by Hilarie Cockrell

Roma is an excellent candidate for Childhood Educator of the Year. Roma is caring and compassionate and fosters a safe learning environment for her students. Roma has a unique ability to build a rapport with her students while teaching them to be learners and leaders! I've worked with Roma as a colleague and have had the pleasure of working under her leadership. I can't think of a more deserving teacher to earn this award!

Further supported by Tabitha Mattox

The dedication and passion she has and acts on towards children and education. she rather make sure her job is done by being a teacher than a principle that she has been offered several occasions. I feel turning down a promotion, with obviously more pay, speaks measure on not only her character but her love and loyalty for the children and education.


Denise Haldane - Child Care Teacher Assistant, Tots n Tykes Childcare Centre
Nominated by Tiffany Jerry

Denise goes above and beyond in her daily thinking and practises. She organizes activities and events that have never been seen at this centre before. She strives to make each day memorable for the children and thier families as well as the staff! She has designed and implemented an intergenerational program where our preschoolers visit and interact with men and women from a local nursing home. She organized a day for farm animals to come to the centre for the whole afternoon. She created 30+ portfolios this year completely on her own time and included a ton of items for the families as a gift when the children left for JK. These are things never before seen at this centre. She is a breath of fresh air and inspires me to be a better teacher every day!


Feryial Hallajarani - Upper Yonge Village Daycare Centre
Nominated by Tina Lee

If only there were more opportunities to nominate Feryial as an outstanding ECE, because I would enter her name for every single one of them. I am forever grateful to Feryial for the tenderness, respect, love and commitment with which she cared for my daughter. When my daughter was having a difficult time transitioning to the infant room at her new daycare, Feryial's patient and soothing manner made all the difference. The tears quickly disappeared and in their place came joyful giggles and stubborn smiles. I saw my daughter shy away from her new teachers to suddenly reaching out to them with open arms, eager to play and learn. Feryial's commitment to providing a welcoming and comforting environment played a critical role in that transformation. I will never forget the triumphant look on my daughter's face when she could finally pronounce Feryial's name but by then Calla had graduated to the toddler room. In the years to come, Calla may not remember Feryial, her amazing ECE, but thankfully I will and look forward to telling her how fortunate we both were for having known Feryial this past year.


Erin Hamer (Alguire) - Early Childhood Educator, Richelieu Day Care Centre
Nominated by Jaime

Erin has spent years working in many different schools alongside a diverse range of children. Not only is she compassionate, but she is sweet, honest, and very educational. She goes above and beyond, spending much of her own time and money to create very educational and fun activities and crafts for her children.

Erin never actually taught my children in a school setting, but she has helped my daughter, who has multiple exceptionalities, further her education and reading and writing. I couldn't have asked for a better person.


Louis Hamlyn-Harris - Head Teacher, Explore + Discover
Nominated by Jennie Monness

Louis made the long trip to the United States from Australia to put down roots as an early childhood educator in New York City. He had experience teaching in Reggio Emilia oriented programs in Thailand and Vietnam and was also a music teacher. Louis was the very first teacher we hired as we planned the opening of our first infant and toddler center. He immediately became a role model to every other teacher. His wide ranging knowledge, giving nature to children and other teachers, way of comforting parents, were all unparalleled. The first year of operation was incredibly challenging. There were issues with late opening, teacher and parent morale, and daily struggles with the physical plant. Through it all, Louis maintained a passionate, organized approach, a clear head, always keeping his eye on the experience of the children. He remained committed to the mission and gave administrators support even as they struggled.

Once our goals started to take more concrete shape, Louis helped us narrow our focus by continuing to point out the value of the RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) approach and how it was relevant to our work. With Louis’ reminders, the administration moved to deepen our relationship with RIE, and eventually we established a partnership to learn how care and curriculum were related. Every day he was practicing the philosophy while reading on his own and sharing ideas with colleagues.

Finally in spring, 2015 we had the opportunity to send Louis to a RIE training program. After two weeks learning with a RIE practitioner, he was even more convinced that Explore+Discover should pursue professional development in this area. Because of his enthusiasm, we organized a two week training for 10 staff members. He took it upon himself to train those staff who couldn’t attend, preparing a guidebook for parents and teachers and doing everything he could to communicate the value in the approach.

Louis is a wonderful classroom teacher with a deep understanding of developmentally appropriate practice, how to use materials, musical experiences and how to document and share the learning with parents. His enthusiasm and ability to persuade others to the value of an educational approach that benefits children are really what sets him apart. It is exceptional to find such a devoted and visionary teacher who can impact a large number of children, parents and teachers.


Leevie Hart - Program Supervisor, Children's Village at Bridlewood
Nominated by Melissa Anson

Leevie is an extraordinary educator. She goes above and beyond with her program. She has started a movement in the Ottawa area to get a Buddy Bench in every school. Her school and daycare were the first ones on board and now the entire Ottawa Catholic School Board has vowed to have one in by the end of the year. The purpose of the Buddy Bench is to foster friendships and put a stop to bullying. Leevie is also involved in multiple other charity and community organizations. She is fantastic person and role model.


Shawn Heffy - Director, First Baptist Preschool Dimmitt, Texas
Nominated by Deven Birdwell

Shawn is an amazing woman, role model, teacher, director, boss, and mentor. She goes above and beyond her job description. She works hard and she's about to graduate with her Early Childhood degree. All the children love her as does the community and fellow coworkers!


Danah Hill - RECE, Full Day Kindergarten
Nominated by Christina Wheeler-Moorcroft

She provides solid language instruction and works extremely well in our team. She compliments my program with extras that enrich my program! The funny thing is she does not think she is GREAT!!


Margaret Hogan - RECE, Hamilton Wentworth Catholic Child Care Centres
Nominated by Melissa Power

After years of being in this field, she never gets tired of teaching. She not only works wonders with the children, she helps co-workers learn everyday! She's an amazing team player, and her passion for learning sets an amazing classroom atmosphere for everyone. Personally, I've only been working in this field just over a year, and if it weren't for Margaret I would be lost! The children and I are definitely lucky to have her!


Lauren Johnson - ECE, Giant Steps Children's Centre Inc.
Nominated by Micheal McIsaac

Her gift of working with children is unsurpassed.


Margaret Jurgovan - Preschool Teacher, St. Joseph Cathedral School
Nominated by Robin McClay

Margaret goes above and beyond to reach each child's needs every single day. She sees each child's value and worth and she teaches with joy, respect, and patience. She understands how young children learn and grow through hands-on activities and follows their interests and offers challenging choices that extend and reinforce their learning in ways that are fun and engaging!


Aisha Kaouach - Educatrice, La Petite Ecole Francophone
Nominated by Annie Okura

She collaborates with other teachers to make rich experiences and she is caring, reflective and loves children.


Lisa Keiper - Education Director, Rainbow Child Care Centers
Nominated by Karen Krygier

Lisa is an exemplary role model and mentor in the early education field. She believes teaching is a work of the heart. She supports our educators by providing them with resources, knowledge and a workplace in which each feel empowered to be the best for the children they teach.


Brandi Kennedy - RECE Junior Room
Nominated by David Tonnos

Her skills are incredibly profound. She has high needs children in her class and still has the ability to teach cognitive effectively. Her non verbal cues are outstanding. She is kind and supportive. Her pedagogy is natural and flows from her flawlessly.


Josée Lafreniere - RECE, La Boite a Soleil
Nominated by Tammy Bibeau

Josée is a very hard working RECE. She has 3 kids of her own and on with special needs. She is always their to help others and she will do everything possible to make the children and the parents of this daycare very happy and welcomed. Merci


Tabitha Lang - Site Supervisor, Good Shepherd Courtice
Nominated by Ersilia Longo

Tabitha is a great leader and is always willing to help the staff learn new things. The children love her smiling face and she is always there for them.


Lauren Lewis - Registered Early Childhood Educator
Nominated by Indira Fajardo

Lauren is cheerfull. positive and reliable with her children. She is also a great programming fun an creatives activitties for the children in her Toddler Program. Children and parents love her because of her dedication and hard working.


Linda Li - Head Teacher Toddlers, The Caring Center
Nominated by Marisol Reyes

Linda is a very smart, young, and independent woman. She is kind and willing to accommodate not only the children, but with staff as well. The children seeks Ms. Linda as a comfort when they are frustrated and upset. She comes in with a smile on her face and speaks to each child throughout the day. Parents often ask Ms. Linda for advice or suggestions when they are having difficulty with their child. Ms. Linda is also my coach, mentor and supervisor. As my supervisor, she assists me in my trainings and gives me positive feedbacks on my performance. She always says, "Thanks you" before leaving for the day. She is a compassionate and empathetic person, who deserves to win!

Further supported by Kendall Lin

Linda always does a great job keeping us up to date on our daughter's progress and on a daily basis shows how invested she is in the development and education of all her students.

Further supported by Jamie Lin

She is amazing. Loving with the kids. Teaches them so much and has such a great attitude. She truly loves every kid in her class and helps them develop in ways I cannot believe. She works in conjunction with the parents and I can't imagine a better toddler teacher for my daughter!

Further supported by Nathan Hurt

Linda is a very caring and exceptional early childhood educator whom I recognize as the best ECE at The Caring Center. Linda is very proactive and confident in the care she provides.

Further supported by Ariel Rodriguez

She is a thoughtful educator and communicator, never missing a chance to let us parents know about our children's most important moments and needs.

Further supported by Ms. Peiyu

Ms. Linda creates a very fun, creative and safe environment for her class. She plans plays that encourage kids to learn. Our daughter loves to go to school. she is learning a lot and has great manners.

Further supported by Elizabeth Hurt

Great patience and compassion while providing child care. Always has a positive demeanor and seems knowledgeable regarding specifics on our childs day while in her care.

Further supported by Erin Pete Devon

Ms. Linda is an amazing teacher and truly cares about each child. We are so lucky that she has been instrumental in both our son and daughter's lives. She still remembers my son's birthday; he was in her class almost 3 years ago!

Further supported by Mariana Mendez-Tadel

Because of her dedication and her outstanding care of her students. She is beloved by our children and truly appreciated by their parents.

Further supported by Andrew Fesnak

Ms. Linda consistently goes above and beyond in nurturing our son intellectually and emotionally. Her enthusiasm is contagious and we regularly incorporate her lessons into our own practice at home. We feel that Ms. Linda has played a large part in how our son has grown as a person. Ultimately, we are just thrilled that she is our teacher.


Barb Liles - Early Childhood Educator
Nominated by Cheryl Hubel

She is caring, loving, and takes care of the kids as well as she would her own. She is also a team player. She likes the HiMama program to let moms know what their kids are doing all day.


Tammara Longman - Head Teacher, Head Start
Nominated by Kelly Horn

Tammara is the most dedicated teacher that I have ever worked with. She genuinely cares for not only the children that she had in her classroom but their families as well. Last year Tammara graduated from Brandman University with her degree in early childhood education. She earned this while she continued to work full time in the classroom. This year she has become a Mentor teacher so that she can ensure that our employees in our agency can obtain their associates degree by completing the observation and practicum classes while continuing to work. She attends workshops and seminars after school and on weekends to ensure that she is remaining current with the latest research and best practices. It is for all these reasons and many more that I confidently nominate my call league and classmate, Tammara Longman. Thank you.


Alanna Lubanszky - RECE, RT, OEYC at St. Davids
Nominated by Daniela DiPietro, Avegine Rais-Firouz and Abir Abou-Alwan

Alanna came to work with us in January of this year. Since being a part of our team, her talents and creativity have shown through. She has become an essential part of our team. Her programming is so exceptional that we have had an influx of families registering so that they may benefit from any program she will be running. She has created a loyal following of parents that just gets bigger with each passing day due to the fact that everyone wants to be part of any class she will be running. Parents become hooked from the moment they meet Alanna, her vibrant personality and calm and knowledgable demeanor engage you and make you want more. Her face brings smiles to all the childrens faces because they recognize her from seeing her on a daily basis. She integrated with our team so well that even the supply staff are eager to work with her because she treats them with respect. She is a team player and constantly motivates and aids anyone and everyone she works with.

I am in awe of her because she has already accomplished so much at such a young age. I feel blessed to work alongside a strong, independent, smart and funny woman. I may be twice her age but consider her input to be very valuable and intelligent. You would never think she doesn't have any children of her own by how well she knows how to handle difficult situations and children from the centre. She has even taught me new approaches and ideas for workshops when dealing with children. She has been an extreme delight and treasure to St. Davids. And I strongly believe that if there was a picture on wikipedia to display everything an ECE should be, there would be a picture of Alanna!


Kelly MacDonald - Supervisor / Head Teacher, Educare Children's Centre
Nominated by Claire Baker

This woman goes above and beyond in her daily duties with keeping the centre operational, all administration up to par for Ministry licensing regulations very rarely does she have any issues at licensing time as everything is always in order. With each and every child she treats them as her own they are very well cared for both not necessarily as a whole group but each individual needs all 92 children. She will listen and understand as well as support the parents as they go through their own day to day ordeals. She is a fantastic co-worker caring and supporting her staff/friends. She has a huge heart and always everyday puts 100%effort into her job, all around fantastic person and I am lucky to have her.


Marissa McCann - Teacher, University of Michigan-Flint Early Childhood Development Center
Nominated by Joslyn Marinelli

Marissa is actively involved in the field of early childhood education as a whole. She is a full-time preschool teacher and at the end of completing her Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education, with plans of pursuing her Masters. Marissa, coming from the role of an assistant teacher recently took over the classroom for a teacher who went on maternity leave. She has an excitement for teaching and working with young children, something you can see upon entering her classroom. She is involved in every aspect of this field. Marissa attends every professional development opportunity that comes her way, giving up countless weekends. She sits on our local chapter of the Greater Flint AEYC with the position of Member-At-Large and attends the State level meetings as well. Marissa founded the early childhood club on the University of Michigan-Flint campus last year and has worked hard to get students involved, advocating for young children, this profession and themselves. Marissa is the kind of person that inspires others to work harder and find joy in what they do everyday.


Kathryn McCartney - COO, Head Start Greater Dallas HSGD
Nominated by Kathleen Leos

Ms McCartney is an extraordinary educator and administrator for HSGD's infants and young learners 2-5. She has spearheaded implementing with fidelity innovative research based programs for Dallas' most challenged children and families which have gained National recognition. Kathryn is a stead fast proponent of consistent professional development for all educators and parents. Her vision and talent has earned Dallas Head Start program national recognition and become a model for other centers and agencies throughout the US. Dallas leads the nation with the highest child poverty rate and insufficient resources for its young learners especially children who are Dual Language learners. However, no challenge is too great for Ms McCartney to overcome. Children who leave any one of the 46 HSGD Centers are well prepared to meet and exceed the demands of a K-12 education due to her attention to teachers learning- great curriculum- consistent classroom instruction- ongoing professional development- implementing new research methods of teaching and proper use of formative assessment to fine-tune an already unique program. I hope others will explore the achievements of HSGD centers. They deserve the title 'Model Program' and Ms McCartney deserves every accolade and honor one can bestow on a committed ECE educator.

Further supported by Virginia Douglas

She has a heart not just for the children but teachers as well as the parents.

Further supported by Mary Lynn

Most of her career has been in the field of ECE, including teaching, trainings, mentoring, now she is the director of one of the largest head start programs in the state of Texas and is performing excellently in her new position.


Cathy Meloche - Early Childhood Educator
Nominated by Mary Kay Chevalier

Cathy is always the first person to recognize the good in everyone and for once I think she should be recognized for her ability to make all children feel so special and encourages them all to excel in all they do.


Theresa Morgan - RECE School Age Teacher, Family Daycare Services
Nominated by Lena Prescod-Adams

Theresa has been a staff for over 25 yrs. She has educated and showed love and empathy for all the children and staff. She is a supportive and well rounded staff. She now works with her assistant staff which was her school age child 15 yrs ago. Her skills as a educator was proven to be positive and beautiful and this is shown when her students become a part of our team.


Beth Mortelle - RECE, Growing Together Family Resource Center
Nominated by Jane Munroe

Beth has an emotionally warm and positive approach to teaching the school age children in our program. She is a reflective teacher that participates in children's play, decision-making and can extend their learning by providing a stimulating environment where children feel included and part of the Growing Together family. Beth would be a worthy recipient of the HiMama Early Childhood Educator of the year.


Jasjeet Mudhar - Early Childhood Assistant Instructor, Canadian Career College
Nominated by Gautam Malkani

Not only does Jas get positive feedback from the parents and her peers as as ECE and was a fantastic ECE at Perth Academy. At Canadian career college, Jas taught several students and grew and mentored them to be ECAs. All of her students got hired with full-time jobs which can be attributed to her coaching.


Jacquie Murphy - RECE Toddler Teacher, Taycare Junior Childrens Program
Nominated by Judith Rogers

For her dedication and for the way she can always find the good in EVERYONE. She never is discouraged. She gives her all and more each and every day. I cant imagine the Toddler Program without her.


Vickie Muse - Teacher, Kindergarten Windsor STEM
Nominated by Carolyn Fuqua

Mrs. Muse has been working as a kindergarten instructor for many years. She encourages her students to work toward their full potential. She respects and engages the students. She also mentors new teachers and works during the summers with her students.


Ms. Nahid - ECE Toddler Room, Parkview Children's Center
Nominated by Nastasia Harris

A naturally caring individual who treats every child like her own. She connects with every family as if we are apart of hers.


Natalee Newman - ECE, Toronto District School Board - Full Day Kindergarten
Nominated by Nicole Fredette

Natalee is an amazing professional. She is dedicated, passionate and has a heart of gold. She has a connection with children that goes far beyond "a job". She cares for each child as if they were her own ( she has four kids of her own). Natalee has the ability to help children every child, with kindness, dignity, and equity! She is a fantastic person and an amazing ECE.


Marjorie Nunes - President / Director
Nominated by Deanna Melo

Marjorie has been the owner of three childcare centers in Dartmouth Massachusetts for 25 years. She started this because she had a passion to develop a program that had the best of everything to offer for young children. Her strong beliefs of making sure children are given the the best care from education to hugs, well balanced meals to just going to the store and buying shoes and clothes for children who's parents are financially challenged. This woman is 72 years old and is there every day over seeing that her teachers and directors are following her very strong beliefs. If what she does for the children in her centers isn't enough she is also there for her staff and there needs. Marjorie started a bachelors degree program by bringing an accredited college into to her centers one night a week to educate her staff and surrounding centers to help them get there bachelors degrees for the past three and a half years and is responsible for at least 75 to 100 woman getting their degrees in early childhood education. Marjorie's love for children and there families is endless, she brings nothing but the best to our field. Marjorie has taught me all I know and still finds a way to teach me and our staff new things every day. I could not of asked for a more incredible mentor.


Mélanie Occhipinti - Une École Pour Tous
Nominated by Tracy

She has such a great confident and she is able to share her passion of life and happiness with the kids.


Bernadette Pemberton - Registered Early Childhood Educator
Nominated by Marshall ENP

Bernadette has been a childcare worker for 20 years and currently working at Dino and Kids in Guelph, Ontario, never calls in sick, works weekends and works continuously for the children even after loosing her husband of 25 years, so dedicated and a hard worker. She's an inspiration to us all. While her husband was ill she received with honours her Teachers Ass. Certificate, wrote children's books had one published. We would be proud to have her win this fabulous award. Good luck Bernadette.


Maria Raymundo - RECE, Upper Yonge Village Daycare Centre
Nominated by Daniela Durisova

Maria is a very dedicated RECE. She is enthusiastic, works great with her team and also many times creates her own props, toys. She is not only creative, but she is always working to keep the busy toddlers happy, safe and ensures that the programming provides lots of either individual or group learning opportunities.


Pam Reisch - Early Childhood Education Coordinator, Columbus City Schools Department of Early Childhood
Nominated by Nakita Smoot

Pam is very passionate about educating young children. She goes aver and beyond to build a strong program to provide the support educators need to enable them to provide high quality education. Pam reaches out to community agencies to build partnerships to afford children learning opportunities beyond the classroom. As a result of Pam's efforts our program has strong ties with PNC Bank, WOSU and COSI. Pam along with peers also works very closely with teachers to give them best practice strategies and quality professional development. Pam encourages, supports teachers, children and families which adds to the success of our program.


Jana Rizzo - ECE, FH Clergue Public School - Sault Ste. Marie
Nominated by Debbie Iozzo

She is amazing with the children! I've always felt that my daughter was safe with her. My daughter was always so upset if I dropped her off at school. Jana would gently and lovingly step in an comfort my daughter. Letting me have no guilt or sadness when I leave her there. She always has a big smile and positive attitude. I nominate her to get this award as this is a small portion of what she contributes to the children.


Sharon Sackett - Lead Preschool Teacher
Nominated by Meghann

She does amazing things. She can take the hardest child and develop them into a blooming flower. She amazes me every day I work with her.


Amy Schlenker - Educator, Western Daycare
Nominated by Sophie Myner-Dhalla

Amy has been wonderful with our son and she always found a way to make him at ease in her daycare room. This allowed us to leave him without worrying since we knew he was in great hands!


Usha Selvarajah - RECE, Baycrest

She's hardworking and has been a great role model to all the kids.


Yessy Silard - Preschool Teacher, YMCA Ayrlawn
Nominated by Talin Tahmasian

Yessy is the so caring and loving towards her students as well as the parents. She is so creative in her classroom from art projects to behavior management tactics to classroom gatherings. She will turn a simple classroom party into an extravagant dream for her students to enjoy. She is constantly researching new ideas to implement into her curriculum. She does not like to repeat activities so that her students can be charged and engaged and want to learn. For her classroom shows she makes all the costumes for her students and ALWAYS puts on the best performance. Her creativity and drive makes her the best teacher for Preschoolers.


Michael Slaney - Director, A Child's Place
Nominated by Leyla

Michael is the most passionate and and dedicated Early Childhood Educator I have ever met. He was my mentor in the early stages of my career.


Bobbie Slaunwhite - Preschool Teacher, Beech Tree Academy
Nominated by Christopher Morash

Bobbie Slaunwhite has used her 3+ years of experience with Hi Mama to support and educate her colleagues at Beech Tree Academy as we rolled out the software program across our center. Her continued extra effort and support has allowed our teachers to provide more effective communication to our families and community. She was ultimately responsible for bringing Hi Mama to Beech Tree as she was a passionate user of the program software at her last center.

Further supported by Faye Walker

Excellent with children.


Kassy Sparks - Early Childhood Educator
Nominated by Mandi Meyers

She loves what she does and has made my daughter's life that much easier!!


Caroline Stonehouse - RECE Toddler Teacher, Marigold Montessori Pre-Casa Class
Nominated by Audrey Mokedanz

Ms. Carrie came to Marigold Montessori in September 2015. When she arrived she was very excited and enthused about having her own toddler classroom. She emersed herself into preparing her environment to allow for her toddler students to be enriched socially, emotionally, educationally and to be able to bring out the very best in each individual child. She is dedicated to the new learning approaches and is very thorough in her administrative responsibilities ensuring that every student is well taken care of and that their development is logged and up to date every day. Her communication with the parents is ongoing every day and her work is very organized and detailed.

Ms. Carrie is also extremely helpful to other staff and students always being very positive and caring. She has a very calming approach to all situations and is very much loved my all the students. She takes her job very seriously and always maintains a clean, well organized and safe environment as well as being very diligent in following all the guidelines as set out by the Ministry. Ms Carrie often does special things for the class and for her students always praising them and encouraging them in everything they do. We at Marigold Montessori are extremely blessed to have Ms. Carrie as our toddler teacher.

Further supported by Victoria Diaz

Carrie is an amazing teacher. She puts her heart and talent into everything. Beautiful girl!


Delois Stripling - Teacher, San Augustine Elementary
Nominated by Chronda Williams

Mrs. Stripling is an amazing teacher. She took on the role of a prek teacher after having taught high school algebra. She teaches the three year old students in our school's head start program. She comes in happy and excited to see those babies every morning and she laughs, dances and sings her way through the day with them. I have had the pleasure of working with her for the last 6 years and she has encouraged every person that she comes in contact with whether they are colleagues, students, former students or just friends. I cannot speak more highly of this wonderful lady and one of my very best friends. She deserves to be recognized for the amazing job that she tackles every single day.


Tracy Swatek - Lead Teacher, KLA Schools of Plainfield
Nominated by Selvei Rajkumar

Tracy is a very kind, passionate and yet excellent educator that nurtures and educates the toddler children and prepare them for the Class of 2s effectively. She refers her students as friends, always have a smile in her face. She ensures all aspects of child's development are addressed from Cognitive development to Social Emotional development. She is not only a great teacher, but a great mentor for other teachers in the school as well. Tracy finds effective ways to have a smooth transition for the students! She does all her documentation expectations with a smile in her a face. She is a great asset to our school. I strongly believe Tracy should be recognized as an Early Childhood Educator of the year.


Alisa Thornton - Early Childhood Development and Education Services Manager, Early Headstart
Nominated by Aletta Stroder

Alisa works tirelessly ensuring that although we are one grant our programs cover 2 counties and Lisa as we like to call her split her time making sure both programs mirror one another. Lisa is always reflecting and flipping through policies, providing T/TA but she is always with a smile. Lisa has been with Head Start for many years, she started nearly as a teen, but she lives and breathe Headstart polices, procedures and standards and it is evident she loves what she does and holds herself accountable first. Lisa is a vital part of the Agricultural and Labor Program and we would not trade her for all the "tea in China".


Judy Topolniski - Early Childhood Educator, Compass ELC Toddler Educator
Nominated by Sandi Ashton

She has worked so hard on her classroom environment and relationships with families...she is a mentor and an idealist how understand the Emergent Curriculum...she delves into the work and is passionate and caring and has a great sense of humour and cares about the program in which she works.


Sonia J. Valero - Pre-K Teacher, Assurant Satellite Learning Center
Nominated by Damaris Vazquez

I would like to nominate, Ms. Sonia J Valero my daughter’s Pre-K teacher at Assurant Satellite Learning Center in Miami, Florida. Because of her many years of experience in education she has helped her students in early stages to establish a solid foundation for their future and embrace the leadership quality, team playing, self-confidence, love of reading, and excitements of science and math. She has 18 students in her classroom all day, yet she makes each and every student feel like they are important and recognized. However, you would never know this, as she always greets students and parents with a smile every school day. She creates an opportunity for each one of her students to shine and make them feel special in their own way and allow them to practice skills of observation, the correct vocabulary and practice on how to ask questions, and the foundation of good scientific thinking. She is an amazing teacher whose passion for teaching is evident in the way she makes learning a fun and positive experience.

Teachers like Ms. Sonia Valero help build a foundation for lifelong learning, and I am grateful my daughter has the opportunity to experience that through her teaching!


Domenic Vicedomini - Designated Early Childhood Educator, Holy Trinity
Nominated by Jennifer Connelly

Domenic always has open arms for each child in his care. He works tirelessly with his teaching partner and tries to make ever day better then the last one. Domenic is one of the few male ECEs in the area and helps to bring a good male role model to many lives. Domenic mentors new ECEs and helps them understand their role better. Together he helps make the world a brighter place for all those that come in contact with him.


Ashly Webber - RECE, Koala T Care Daycare
Nominated by Elizabeth Harris

Ashly can adapt to any age group I've had the pleasure of being her Assistant for Three years. She is creative caring and has endless energy when it comes to the children in her care.


Lori Weedmark - Casa Teacher, Madison Montessori
Nominated by April Hughes

Miss Lori is constantly teaching my twins new things and you can see each and everyday her passion for teaching young children!


Lisa White - Instructor, Athens Technical College Early Childhood Education Program
Nominated by Shelby Eidson

Ms. White is an AMAZING TEACHER!! She always helps her students succed in the program, and if they are struggling she will help them. She has been a mentor to me since I have been in the program. She loves it when we leave the program an go on to hire degree, and loves when we email her saying we got a job. She also helped me receive scholarship money.

Further supported by Alicia Davis

She is an awesome instructor. She makes sure you get a clear understanding of the material. She helps you in any way she can. She is very concerned about her students. She makes sure that her students don't get left behind.


Kay Wilson - Instructor, Southeastern Technical College
Nominated by Raybon Williams

She is constantly going above and beyond to teach her students. She makes sure that her students have all of the resources to make learning fun. She utilizes several different modes of technology to help the students as well.



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