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.
Settlement Assistance Family Support Services
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.
A Child’s Secret Garden Daycare Inc.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Delta Chi Early Childhood Centre
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!
Stepping Stones Childcare
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.