Preschool Podcast

Turning Passion Into Quality Programming

Episode 183 – Every year, the Early Childhood Educator of The Year Award recognizes early educators for their hard work and the impact that they have on their communities. Nery Payne, 2019 ECE of The Year, shares her story about being kidnapped with her son in her home country, finding her way to Canada, and how she found her passion for working with children through that experience. She shares how she built her curriculum using online resources and how a can-do mindset is all you need to build a rich environment for children to learn in. 

Episode Transcript


Don’t be afraid to invest and look for help. Ask someone, “How can I arrange this? How can I do my centers and look great [while] the children want to go and play?” There are a lot of ideas.


Nery, welcome to the Preschool Podcast!


Thank you, thank you for having me here! Thank you very much. I’m so excited and nervous, too.


We’re excited to have you! You’re the star of the show today. Nery Payne is the owner and operator of Growing Up Day Home in Edmonton, [Alberta] Canada. And she’s also the winner of Hi Mama’s Early-childhood Educator of the Year Award for 2019, which is really a rigorous process with lots of contestants and nominations and votes and then a judging panel. And there [were] so many amazing applicants and so many amazing stories.

And we’re delighted to have you on our show today, Nery, to learn about why people nominated you, why people voted for you and why the judges chose you for an early-childhood educator of the year. Let’s start off first learning a little bit about you. Who’s Nery Payne? How did you come to be in early-childhood education field and start your own program with Growing Up Dayhome?


Thank you, Ron, this is a very exciting opportunity. I’m so glad and… wow, what can I say? And thank you for sharing for ECE [early-childhood educators]. So, I do have a little background in kitchen but not as an educator. So, I went to the university for graphic design studies and in my [younger days], in my home country. I love art and photography.

I also had come from a very large family. Our parents always encouraged us to take care of the little ones, sisters and brothers, always be respectful to them and to help someone in need such as neighborhoods or within the community. So, I grew up having this willing to help others.

I also have memories of me play when my brothers and sister as a teacher. And I was doing pretty good, hey? And I always wanted to be a teacher. Suddenly, my parents did not have the money to offer those studies because hey were a little expensive. So, when I was 13 years old, I asked my parents to let me go to work.

And my first job was as a babysitter. I was working during the day and studying during the night. But even though the money wasn’t enough, good enough to pay me my teacher’s studies. So, I ended up having that my first diploma as a business assistant when I was 17 years old. And I got my graphic design studies about later on.

So, I am very passionate about my job because there are so many reasons. So, every day that I have the opportunity to see smiles, happiness and freedom from a group of wonderful children it touches my heart. The smiles and happiness and freedom that comes that once was taken away from my son, this was given back to us by the Canadian community, that’s one reason.

So, to help you better understand, let me tell you about a personal story, something about myself. My son and I, we were kidnapped in my country when he was eight years old. So, yep, just a little boy with a whole universe of dreams. And, you know, those ages that you just want to play and pretend and play and imagination to enjoy. Unfortunately, that situation was very hard on the whole family. But, most especially, for him – he was just a little boy. He practically stopped being a child.

So, we decided to look for a second home. It sounds easy to leave everything behind but it was not. For two years while we waited four our PR he was having frequent nightmares during the night when he was sleeping. And the only thing, Ron, the only thing that helped him to calm down was the promise that we made him to take [our family] out of the country and move to Canada. This was a safe country to live in and the people were nice, we were telling him. So, as you might know, Canadians are known as an amazing, kind people, a great community. And we are happy to be here because it’s true.

So, the last time that he had a nightmare was the day before we were moving to Canada. I remember, he was sleeping and then all of a sudden he was screaming, crying. And he was telling us, “Please, take me to Canada!” So, we arrived and found ourselves alone. But he felt safe and that was very important for us. No more nightmares, he started playing again, his started riding his bike and going to school by himself, which, for us, was a very impressive

And just the fact that he could sleep alone was priceless for us. My son could trust others again. So, and that moment, Ron, I honestly… I knew that I had to do something for Canada because to see my son so happy, being a child again, it had a big impact in my life. I didn’t know what to do by that time – we were a new family in Canada, we were just learning about your cultures and all that. But I knew that I had to do something.

I considered volunteering in school or daycares, but even for a volunteer position I needed to have some education as an ECE. I said before, I do have university studies in graphic design and some teaching experience from back home because I used to work in this amazing schools in my country as an art teacher. So, I did have some experience, but still it wasn’t enough.

So, I decided to go for ECE studies; I decide to book back to school and become an educator. And then I challenged myself to open a day home. And I made my promise to myself to give the best of me because Canada did it for my son. So, working as an educator or a day home provider, having the opportunity to take care of these children or any children [that have] been under my care is the way of saying “Thank you”.

For taking care of [Canadian] children with that devotion, my dedication, passion and always trying my best because we’re not perfect. So, I always like to try my best. It’s the way that I show my gratitude to the Canadian families. I feel like taking care of [Canadian] children is kind of my duty and fuels my passion as an educator. So, that is a little story about me.

And also, in addition to that, Ron, children impress me, honestly. It is amazing how they create their own learnings. And I love to provide them an environment where they can explore and lead their own play. I really enjoy… you really have no idea how I enjoy [watching] them growing up under my care. Being part of their life and their learning, it’s a good feeling for me.

I have had children from 12 months to five years old and it has been a learning [process] for all of us. I have witnessed all [of] their developments. I feel so proud when I see them striving, succeeding, showing me their work or waiting for Mommy and Daddy and saying, “Look, Mommy, look what I made today!” So, that is very… it feels so good. And learning new words every day is quite impressive.

So, let me tell you in a nugget, just to put an example of all this: On Tuesday, December 3rd for us, we were getting ready to go play outside. I have a 17-month-old child under my care. And at the same time, my husband, he was heading out and the child saw him. So the child followed my husband. And my husband was saying goodbye to the child. But then my husband came back and he said, “It is cold outside, very cold,” having this conversation with a child.

And then my husband put his hand on that skylight the window. And my husband repeated the word again, “Cold.” Incredibly, that child did the same thing: He put his little hand on the skylight window and he said, “Cold.” It was very impressive, he learned a new word. And the child did this action a few times, he was so happy.

Fortunately by that time his mom was arriving to pick him up. And we were all celebrating the child because he’s kind of a baby. He knows how to say “ball” and all that. But the word “cold” and he was touching the window, it [felt] like he really understood what was happening, right? So, he kind of related [the word] “cold” [with the fact that] outside it was cold.

So, those moments, I really enjoy those moments. And those moments are unforgettable. And it also helps you to create that relationship with the family, which is very important in this job. And so again, Ron, it is my duty to offer these children under my care a whole world of opportunities to grow and learn in a very positive and loving and safe environment. I really enjoy my job.

And my goal as an educator [is to] let the children know that there are good people out there. There is someone who cares about them and there is someone to provide good care and is full of love and happiness. And I smile a lot. I like to dance sometimes just to make fun or something.

And because we want children to turn into kind, respectful and tolerant adults, I feel that we have to start by role modeling. Unfortunately, my son that had had that bad experience all day, [that] doesn’t mean all humans are bad. So, I’m very thankful my son had the opportunity to trust again, just to be a child again. It is amazing.

So, that is kind of my story and how I started in my day home. And I really enjoy my job. I wish I can do more. And guess what? I got my volunteer position. I am going to start volunteering around January. So, I’m happy! So, that’s quite a little story about myself and how I am so passionate about doing my job.


Wow, that’s an amazing story! And thank you for sharing all that. And I think [there are] so many things to take away from that story. But the one big one is, you really have a deep passion and a deep motivation for why you do what you do. And I think that’s why you’re doing such an amazing job at it. And I agree with you, children are very impressive [with] what they can do. And that’s one of the awesome things about being an ECE. That’s such an amazing story.


Yes, it is.


And thank you, by the way. So, I’m Canadian, so I thank you for giving back to Canada and to our future and our young kiddos. That’s amazing!


You know, I have my Facebook page. And I’ve shared a lot of stories about the children, how they learn and these ideas, all these activities that I provide for them. And a lot of people, my followers, they comment, “Oh, those children are so lucky to have you!” And it feels great because they see that you are trying your best in offering good care.

But honestly, Ron, I am the lucky one because coming to Canada and having this job, it gave me the opportunity to give this community all the love. And just the feeling that my son can go to the park and he feels so free and so happy, that is priceless. Honestly, I am so happy to be here. I’m so happy to be doing this job and offering all this care that I do. It’s amazing for me, I really love it.


Awesome. And do who nominated you for ECE of the Year? And did you stay posted on that at all? Or were you surprised when you when you won?


I keep following all the HiMama posts and all of that because I follow you. And then I saw that. And then one of the moms, she also saw it. And I told her, “Well, if you want to nominate, that would be great! I mean, it’s amazing, I would love to participate.” And she said, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes!” So, there’s two moms, and one, she followed your web page. And the other. she did it on Instagram. And there were two moms. And yeah, I was so happy when that I saw on Instagram there my picture. I don’t know if you saw my picture, it’s of Wonder Woman pushing this big stroller! Yes.

I mean, I live in the community where we have so many parks around, like, four or five of them. And there is one that is almost three kilometers and the other is like a one or two [kilometers]. And I take the children to the forest because I live close to the forest. So, I say, well, “If we go by walking, it’s going to be… well, we’ll never get there, right? So, let’s buy this big stroller and just put them all in there and let’s go! Let’s explore all the nature!” And it’s fun! The children, they love it because they keep waving bye-bye and everybody’s looking at then.

So, for Halloween, I said, “I am going to be Wonder Woman. You will see, because I have to push all those children.” So, I get my Wonder Woman suit and, “Let’s go!” And then I had my hand up like I’m flying because actually they asked me, “Can you fly? Wonder Woman, fly!” And I said, “Okay, let’s fly, let’s fly! I can do this!” And she asked me, “Do you want me to put that picture? Or do you want, like, a selfie picture? “No, let’s put the picture, I want to show the people what I do. I’m Wonder Woman!”


Awesome! I actually definitely remember that picture. It’s pretty funny! And so you’ve been doing this for a number of years. And I really love how when that volunteer opportunity didn’t work out for you, you just really took things into your own hands and you went and studied early-childhood education and started up your own program.

What advice would you have for other early-childhood educators out there who are listening to this podcast, who are just starting out their careers, based on all the experiences that you’ve had with the children you’ve worked with?


Well, it’s a challenge because it’s not easy to work with all those children. It’s easy work with your children. But a lot of people, when I have that interview, when I started this, they were asking me, “Do you have a child on your own?” And is a “Yes, I have one.” But my son now, he says he was 16, 17 years old. Now he’s 20. He’s a man, healthy. And they say, “Why are you doing this?” Well, I need to have a job and I want to do it.

So, it was a moment that I feel like, “Oh, this is not going to work. People, the families, they don’t know who [I am].” And that kind of fear that you feel… you know, just go ahead. I mean, look for help. Ask – a lot of information online. And there is a lot of workshop and webinars that you can get them for free. And don’t be afraid to ask someone.

And if you decide to do this, you can do it. You can do it! I mean, I always try to best. Pay close attention to the children. And plan activities according to their interests, because when the learning really happens be creative. If you’re not, don’t worry. It’s okay not to be creative, but let’s look for ideas to help you out. And there’s nothing wrong about searching for ideas.

And when I started my day home, I had no clue at all. I mean, I knew that I had the passion for it and [I was] willing to do it. I had my motivation, my reasons why I wanted to do it. And I also had the knowledge – I already got my diploma. But still, it’s a business and you have to do interviews and all of that. But then I said, “Well, what I want… what is it [that] I want?” So, I started thinking, “Okay, I want my children to learn some Spanish so we can have some diversity activities. How do I do this?”

So, I bought this [learning program] that is a bilingual – Spanish and English. And all the activities are amazing. And let’s say if I see a child [having fun by] throwing things like flying. So, I can go by transportation. So, I have all the activities arranged so I can go by that. And I can teach some Spanish fun, some Spanish songs. But I also wanted to include the Alberta curriculum framework because it’s amazing – I love it. And that combination, right?

And also I said, “But how do I do this?” So, when I was studying, I got these books. It’s called the Creative Curriculum program. You kind of follow that and you can arrange the activities and it’s really nice. And then I thought, “Well, I want a program where I can offer dancing and singing.” According to the children, those lyrics that are allowed for children, so mostly singing songs about nature, about all that, which is very good.

So, I heard that this program – I don’t know if you’ve heard on the program. And so I became certified in being an instructor. So, that was a hit because my children, they like dance. I don’t know if they kind of follow me because I do a lot of role modeling dances so they like to dance. So, it was really nice.

So, don’t be afraid to invest and look for help. Ask someone, “How can I arrange this? How can I do my centers and look great [while] the children want to go and play?” There are a lot of ideas. And that is the way I did it and it is still working. I always have children and my ratio is six children and I’m always full. And I’m so grateful for that because I have a job to do, right? And it’s amazing.


That’s awesome, yeah. And that’s such great advice. And we know what your motivation is. And again, for those of us listening, a chance for you to think about your motivation. And like you said, just do it, right? Just get out there and do it. Lots of resources out there, online and otherwise.

Nery, it’s been wonderful having you on the show. Before we end the Podcast, though: for our listeners who might be interested in getting in touch with you or checking out some of the things you’re doing at Growing Up Day Home, where can they get more information?


Well, I have my website, it’s called And they can go there and they can explore all the activities that I do – my Spanish activities, my art activities, because I do a lot of arts because I have a background, as I told you. And I like art – I’m crazy about art! And they can go there.

I also have my Facebook business page and it is called Growing Up Day Home, too. And I share a lot of activities. I also am doing this in Spanish. I actually created a Facebook group page and it’s “Aprende y juega”. And everything in there is in Spanish because I want to give something to my community, too, because they’re always in my heart. It doesn’t mean that I get out of my country – I mean [that it is] still in my heart. So, I created a page for them – like I group page – and they can follow me there. And the same activities that I put on my on Facebook business page are the same that I post there in Spanish so that both communities can have the best of me.


That’s wonderful, and it’s great how you’re contributing back to the online community after having used a lot of resources from there, too. It’s a good takeaway for us.

Nery, it has been an absolute delight to have you on the Podcast. Congratulations again on being ECE of the Year. And thank you for being you and thank you for everything you’re doing and thanks again for joining us on the Podcast, it’s been such a pleasure and fascinating speaking with you today!


Thank you, Ron!

Carmen Choi

Carmen is the Marketing Coordinator and Preschool Podcast Manager on the HiMama team. She's been working with childcare business owners and consultants for 3 years. She is passionate making connections that empower the ECE Community through knowledge-sharing to support better outcomes for children, their families, and society!

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