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2008 Teacher Awards Recipients

2008 Helene Marks Award Recipient - National Child Care Teacher of the Year

Teri Aldrich
Heartland Programs
Salina, KS
After receiving my first Bachelor of Science in 1979, working 16 years as a legal secretary, and beginning my family of four children, I changed careers and joined the Early Childhood Education field. While working as a paraeducator at Heartland Programs in Salina, Kansas, I returned to Kansas State University to complete a degree in Early Childhood Education. In June 2001, I began teaching in the newly opened Full Day Full Year Preschool. I volunteer in many areas of the community, with coaching at the YMCA and being a parent Liaison being my favorite. I am always looking for new ideas to better educate children.
Project-“Marvel With Movement”
The title of my project, “MARVEL with Motion”, will incorporate more sensory experiences into the child’s day. By doing so, I will be facilitating additional ideas to encourage mental and physical wellbeing to prepare for higher academic achievement. M-A-R-V-E-L stands for moving across the Midline, Aerobic exercise, Rhythmic movement, Vestibular movement, Eye contact and movement, and Large/gross motor movement. I plan to use the award money to purchase equipment, especially “ball chairs”, and music that will enhance these activities and allow the children’s brains to “collaborate” at a higher level. Therefore, the children will be more successful in the classroom.


Kay Gillock
Gillock Gang's Home Child Care
Opelika, AL

Kay Gillock has been in child care for 12 years. She is in the last year of pursuing her Child Development Associates degree. She runs her home child care in Opelika where the children in her care play and learn in a God-centered environment made for them. Kay knows that play is the best way for children to learn and offers various centers that change each day based on monthly units with weekly themes and daily activities based on the High Reach curriculum.


Her project is called "Center of Activity" and includes items to help enhance the centers in her child care room. There is a child-sized sofa and chair to go in the Reading Center so the children won't have to sit on throw pillows, there is a folding easel so they can paint like "real" artists - like Kay's own mother, and there is a round sturdy table to either add to or replace the two plastic tables that currently house her changeable table top centers. These enhancements will make play with a purpose a reality that Kay has been budgeting and planning for years.



Amanda Hunter
Amanda Hunter's Family Childcare
Wildomar, CA

I was born and raised in southern California, where I have resided for the last 32 years. My husband Ryan and I have been together for the last twelve years and have been married for three.  We are hoping to have an addition to the family in the near future.  I have been taking care of people from the time I was able to work.  I started out as a nursing assistant and later became certified.  I worked at the local hospital until I decided to make a career of childcare.  I have been a licensed childcare provider for the past eight years and currently have six children in my family childcare, two boys and four girls.  I serve on the board for the Riverside County Family Childcare Association as a Membership and Support Group leader for South Riverside County.  I hold a teachers permit in Child Development and I am also in the process of becoming an accredited facility with National Association for Family Child Care(NAFCC), thanks to the to the Riverside County Childcare Consortium.  My husband and I attend Cornerstone Christian Church and our hobbies include traveling, camping, off-roading, and riding in quads and dirt bikes in Glamis, Ca.


Project-“Sand and Water Discovery Exploration”
The sand and water table would provide numerous opportunities to explore science concepts with unique activities, such as using salt, rice, wet sand, dry sand, hiding objects in the sand to help children explore with all their senses. As facilitator, I would ask questions to activate thinking skills and encourage exploration.  In water play children discover the properties of water as they learn what items sink and float, how soap added to the water can change the texture and appearance, and how water moves through a water wheel.  With the addition of the magnetic alphabet & number fishing set, measuring cups, boats and cars children absorb concepts of shapes, color, and size as they strengthen fine motor skills. The children develop eye-hand coordination and problem solving skills as they explore volume by pouring sand or water from one container or shape into another one. Children learn to socialize with one another, take turns, share, and develop language through peer interaction as they learn through play and discovery.

Olga Jones
Marin Head Start
Novato, CA

I lived the first 47 years of my life in my nature country, Bulgaria.  I wanted to be a teacher my whole life and this is exactly what I did.  I taught languages and literature in my country for more than 21 years.  After coming to the United States 10 years ago, learning English and trying a few other jobs, I resumed my teaching career.  This landed me at the Marin Head Start Preschool where I am teaching every day and having fun with my little friends. 


Project-“Go Things, Go!”
My Science project is about giving children a chance to investigate and experience the physical world of movement of objects.  They shall experiment with objects like cubes, balls, marbles, wheels, etc. to explore movements like dropping, pushing, sliding, rolling, tilting, throwing, moving things over bumps and moving through air and water.  We will build together and play with different types of ramps, levers, pulleys, gears and pendulums, variable weights, cranes, conveyor belts and more!  Children shall seek answers, solve problems, explore, test, experiment, observe, share results and strengthen language interaction in this social play.  It is going to be optimal discovery learning and help to build self-control, sharing, joy, patience, faith and self-esteem. 

Danielle Monroy
Creative Care for Children
Goleta, CA

My project is to “Make Learning Visible” with the use of photo documentation.  I will use the photos to note developmental milestones and assessing children’s progress to communicate to the parents.  I will take photos of the children’s creations, playing with blocks, dramatic play, and dancing.  We will display the photos on our display board in our portfolios.

Maribel Montes
St. Josephs Center, Early Learning Center
Venice, CA

I've been in the early childhood education field for over twenty years. At seventeen I started working in a child-care center and I knew then it was what I wanted to do. I became a Teacher's Assistant at the Elementary School where my son attended. While working I attended college specializing in early education.  I have a Teacher Permit from the State of California Commission On Teacher Credentialing and I continue to attend conferences and workshops throughout the years in order to stay current with the latest research, information and ideas on early childhood education.  I've been working at St. Joseph Early Learning Center for the past ten years, the first five as a Pre-School Teacher and the other five as Lead Toddler Teacher.  Toddlers are truly fascinating little people with the capability of understanding and participating far more then they're given credit for.


Project-“Our Classroom Aquarium”
My vision is to create a special area devoted to science. Since we live near the Pacific Ocean, I plan to obtain a classroom safe aquarium and implement nature awareness for our students. My intention is the children will become acquainted with our rich environment as well as the science it offers.

Nguyen Sanders
Natural Foundations
San Jose, CA

My Project is “Kitchen Upgrade”
I will use the grant to improve our kitchen and dress-up areas. These areas are well loved and used by the children.  It is wonderful to see the interactions and creativity that comes out as the play begins.  The children are developing language skills, they are trying out different roles, and they are practicing cooperation and conflict resolution. 



Terra Ann Sapp
TreeHouse Early Learning Center
Cortez, CO

I am a fifth generation Colorado native.  I am a Sunday school teacher at my church.  My hobbies include reading Christian romance novels, collecting Precious Moment figures and being a secretary for the local Junior Rodeo Association. 


Project-“Bring the Big Wide World into our Little World”
My materials would bring materials from the Ute, Navajo, Asian, Latino and African American cultures into our classroom.  I will use the materials to introduce the children to our world and provide them with hands-on experience.  The materials will give the children an awareness of how people live, what they eat, what they wear and how they go to school.  I would ask the parents for materials from home or to speak to the children about their cultures.   



Nazire Barolli
Apple Tree Children's Center
Groinby, CT

My name is Nazire Barolli, also known as Zira.  I am from Albania and I now live in Granby with my husband and three children.  In 1984, I graduated from the Albanian University with a degree in Plant Protection and worked in that field for 15 years.  In April of 2002, I started working here at Apple Tree where by December of 2004 I earned my head teachers certificate in Early Childhood Education from North Central Community College.  I have recently obtained my Associated Degree and am currently going back to school to obtain my Bachelors.  In my spare time I enjoy reading, cooking, sewing and spending as much time as I can with my family and friends. 


In the Spring of 2003, we started our Pre-K Garden which was not bigger than 10 square feet and flowers were the only thing planted.  Each year we extended our garden a little so we could plant vegetables as well as flowers.  Having the garden helps us to meet our curriculum goals in a way that is fun and exciting for the children.  Now, with this award, we will be able to expand our garden so that the whole school will be able to participate in it.  We also want to use our growing goodies for school snacks as well as donations to our community. 

Donna Taylor
Apple Tree Children's Center
Middletown, CT

I am a graduate from Central Connecticut State University with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and a major in Mathematics and Human Growth Development.  I am also a proud mother of two boys, Jack, 6 and Adam, 4 years old.  Currently I am teaching Pre-K.  I have employed at Apple Tree for 14 years.  I believe the education of our children is one of the most important, challenging and rewarding responsibilities.  In addition, I believe it is the job of the teacher to make sure that each child has numerous successful experiences everyday to give them a positive self concept and to insure a life long love of learning.


Project-“Tomorrow’s Future”
Through this project, the children will deepen their understanding of the world around them and develop skills that will serve them throughout their lives as they enrich their play experience in dramatic play.  I feel this plays an important role in learning and development.  The children can create their own life experiences or they can break through the restrictions of reality and act out a role of their own choosing.  I have nodoubt that “Tomorrow’s Future” will be a great success in my classroom. 



Carole Caffentzis
Momma's House In-Home Child Care, Inc.
New Port Richey, FL

Blessings have been granted to me over the last 9 years of my home based childcare career and I have been able to receive many credentials like my National CDA, AS in Early ChildhoodDevelopment, director credential, and my national accreditation with NAFCC. I am a Grandma of a 6 year old granddaughter, mother of a 26 yr old daughter and a 3 yr old daughter, and the wife to a wonderful I keep busy. Some of my hobbies are planter gardening and scrap booking which is what I integrate into my family involvement program within my childcare home. Iam a member of the local church where I attendevery Sundayand enjoy worship within my community. My beliefs are that we should all do what we have the passion for and my passion is for the children in my care.


We will let our light shine in MOMMA'S House In Home Child Care by viewing all sorts ofthings on our new light box! Science discovery is a key point in our project as we will integrate a modular sciencecenter, a sea life rug and many, many new questions from each child. It is my intention to integrate new science discoveries into each aspect of our classroom with books in the library, plastic sea life creatures in the block areaand even music with some science CDs.Along with the aquarium we already have our children will be able to see some of the wonders of natural sea life. This inclusive discovery program will be available for everydevelopmental stage so it will be appropriate for all the children in my care.

Sarah Kinunen
Renaissance School
Fort Myers, FL

 I have been working in the field of early childhood development for almost 7 years.  Five of those years have been happily spent here at Renaissance School. In addition to my BS degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Florida, I hold a certificate in Montessori Training in Early Childhood from the American Montessori Society. I am the eldest of four girls and enjoy spending time with my sisters shopping and going to the beach. In my spare time, I enjoy reading and decorating.


Project- “A Garden Project: Growing Curiosity”
A garden program will enhance the early childhood classroom environment by providing hands on learning experiences in science and nature, literacy, nutrition and exercises in everyday life skills such as problem-solving and team-building. As the children work together to prepare snack, compost scraps, and care for our garden they are observing the cycle of recycling products, self-sustainability and self-sufficiency. This project will allow us to expand our cooking lessons and foster the children’s emotional growth by instilling self-confidence and patience.  The garden curriculum will stimulate curiosity and teach our children an appreciation for nature and reverence for living things.

Tarsha Miller
Hillsborough County Head Start/Early Head Start
Tampa, FL

My project is “Discovery Garden,” which will link classroom experiences to an outdoor oasis by creating a stimulating, noncompetitive environment where children can actively explore and learn. The discovery garden will be ever evolving, consistently sprouting positive attitudes, and exposing children daily to cognitive, social-emotional, and physical growth across the curriculum.  The garden will have colors, shapes, smells and textures and will bring nature to the playground to stimulate the natural curiosity within the children. The children will design their garden spaces through drawings, dictation and documentation boards.  The children will begin with indoor green houses and later transplant their plants outdoors.



Manda Monette
The Cottage Childcare and Learning Center
Post Falls, ID

My project is “Cameras for Kids”.  I will provide the children with a camera pack that they can wear and have them take turns using the camera for the day.  At the end of the day we will print out the pictures and use them the next day during circle time.  We will discuss the photos, use them in sequencing activities, for making collages and put them in individual and classroom books.



Jennifer Buehler
Koscuisko Co. Early Head Start
Warsaw, IN

My name is Jennifer Buehler.  I graduated in 2002 from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL with a Bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.  I currently work for Early Head Start of Kosciusko County, and have been in the position for over five years.   I am a co-teacher in a classroom of toddlers ranging in age from fifteen months through thirty-six months.  I have seen the EHS I work for grow from an unlicensed childcare center to a licensed center with a NAEYC accreditation in these five years.  I share the classroom with a wonderful team of co-teachers, and enjoy learning from each of them.  I enjoy spending my free time with my husband of four years and our friends.  My other hobbies include shopping, reading and, when it’s warm enough, golfing.


PROJECT-“Toddler Technology-The World Through My Eyes”
The enhancement project I created adds a bit of age appropriate technology to my classroom and builds on the childrens’ developing language skills.  The children in my room show an interest in photography.  Due to this interest, I want the children to have cameras so they can capture and describe to me what they see in the world around them.  The pictures they take and descriptions they provide will be placed in a book. Each child will have their own book created with their pictures and descriptions.  The books will be stored in the room for them to look at as they wish, and a keepsake once they transition out of the classroom.



Tamara Lathrop
Apple Tree Children's Center
West Des Moines, IA

I have been in child care for ten years with the last eight years at Apple Tree Children’s Center in West Des Moines.  I enjoy my classroom because I get the chance to watch as babies develop and gain their own personalities.  My husband, Eddie and I have two sons, Eddie Jr. and Jeremy.  In my spare time I enjoy reading, sewing and crocheting. 


Project-“Enhancing Parent Communication Through Technology”
I will be purchasing a digital camera so I can help ease the anxiety for parents leaving their babies with us.  A picture of a smiling adjusted baby through e-mail will go al long way toward calming those anxieties.  Pictures via e-mail will allow for parents to experience a portion of their child’s day in a quick and confidential manner.  The camera will also be used to track development in all areas and pictures will be placed in the babies portfolios. 


Faye Soer
Apple Tree Children's Center
Urbandale, IA

I am the Lead Toddler Teacher at Apple Tree Children's Center in Urbandale, Iowa.  I have worked at Apple Tree for the past 12 years and have cherished each and every day with my toddlers.  I receive much joy spending time with this age group as they are so curious and eager to learn.  In my time away from my toddlers, I enjoy spending time with my family, including my 3 wonderful grandchildren.  My husband and I take pleasure in traveling and make many trips to his Navy reunions throughout the country.    


Project-Terrific Toddler Theme Boxes
Having Terrific Toddler Theme Boxes will make our dramatic play center an exciting and educational place for our toddlers.  The theme boxes will provide for many different learning opportunities, such as naming new objects, identifying groups and classification.  They will also help our toddlers socially as they being to work on skills such as sharing and cooperation.  We will also use the boxes to encourage parent participation within the classroom.

Susan Ward
Apple Tree Children's Center
Norwalk, IA

I started my career with Apple Tree Children’s center in April 1996 and thoroughly enjoy working with our Infant Program.  It is immensely rewarding for me to witness the development of a tiny baby growing into a little one with his/her own sense of self and personality.  I am currently enrolled in the CDA program and am looking forward to furthering my education. 


Project-“Discovering My World Through Senses”
During the first years of life children’s brains experience dramatic changes through the use of their five senses.  The world is a magical mix of sights, sounds, smells, tastes and touchables.  Infants need the opportunity to participate in a world filled with multi-sensory experiences.  The brain takes in the external world through the five senses.  This award will enhance my classroom, to provide stimulation experiences to develop social, emotion, cognitive, physical and language skills. 

Elizabeth White
Apple Tree Children's Center
West Des Moines, IA

I am married and I have a one and a half year old son, Jason.  I have been working in child care for almost 10 years and have an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education. I joined Apple Tree Children’s Center four years ago and during this time I have been a Lead Teacher in the Toddler classroom, Two year old classroom, and currently, the Older Preschool Classroom.  I have also taken on the responsibility of Health and Safety Coordinator for my school as well.


Project-“Wonderful World of Writing”
I strongly believe that learning to write along with letter and number recognition should be a main focus in any older preschool classroom curriculum.  My project and the supplies that I have chosen will encourage both receptive and expressive language skills and guide the children in pre-reading. My goal is to meet each child’s individual needs and to incorporate their different learning styles into our writing program.



Wanda Davis
Barksdale AFB Child Development Center
Barksdale AFB, LA

I started as a family childcare provider in 1991 when my child, Felicia, was 3 years old.  I wanted her to be around other children her age and still be in my care with the family values that I had grown up with.   I feel that the work I do in caring for others is a special calling and I am privileged to take part in it.  Because of my desire to care for my own child and raise her with my ideals I was lead to a proud career in early childhood development.  I have a CDA that is currently being renewed for the 3rd time.  My motto has always been that “Many can teach but only a special few can REACH”.


Project-“Enhancing Language Development”
I plan to enhance language development through storytelling, using hand puppets as props, finger playing and flannel boards.  I would encourage the children to use their imagination to make their own stories.  As I read books the use of props would enhance the story for them.  Finger play puppets will help them visualize and verbalize the finger plays.  Hand puppets will let them express how they feel and provide a way for them to create their own stories, increasing their vocabulary.  They will also encourage them children to socialize with other children.  Flannel boards stories will help them interact with each other and let them have independent play as they learn to create new ways to tell the same story! 



Julie Waterstradt
The Learning Tree - South
Livonia, MI

I began my full-time employment with the Learning Tree Child Care Center in 1989.  Currently, I work in our Pre-Kindergarten class at our Livonia-South location and I love every minute of it.  I am pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Development and expect to graduate in May 2008.  In my spare time I study, play softball, dabble in scrap booking and work on home- improvement projects.  I also enjoy spending time with my dog, Kota, who the children know as “The Great Spoiled One”.


Project-“Building on Literacy”
I am addressing the need to present literature in a variety of ways to reach all learning styles.  I am using the award to purchase two flannel boards, one puppet, several felt sets and more than 40 books to build the children’s love of story time as well as address some of the developmental skills appropriate for this age group.  With the use of patterns, numbers, sequencing and social behavior, I will increase their comprehension of the lessons that stem from the book.  Together we will work on retention and expand on new, different, funny ideas and alternate endings within the storybook. 


New Jersey

Julie Jungk
Merrill Lynch Family Center
Pennington, NJ

I have been working with preschool-aged children for over 10 years.  I am the Toddler Lead Teacher for the Toddler Component at my center.  Before joining MLFC, I was a pre-school gymnastics teacher.  I believe you can only be truly great at something that you love-that’s how I feel about teaching.  It’s the perfect fit for me.  The children mirror my creativity, enthusiasm and sense of humor.  In my personal life, I love movies, surfing in Ocean City and I am a huge Dallas Cowboys fan.


Project-“Building Self-confidence Through Movement Education”
The movement education I hope to develop, using gymnastics as a model base, is the foundation for an “I Can” attitude in children, building self-confidence and self-esteem through attainable physical goals.  I believe a strong foundation in Movement Education encourages a healthy lifestyle for children in the years to come-it is designed to bring out the best in children.  It provides an energy outlet, and encouraging atmosphere, a positive approach to problem-solving and a structure for success.  My passion for this program runs deep; the need to give my children the best of everything-which includes a quality movement education program-runs deeper. 


New York

Jennifer Conover
Children's Corner at Rome, Inc.
Rome, NY

I am the head teacher in Preschool 2.  I have been in the child care field for over nine years.  I currently have my Infant/Toddler Child Development Associate Credential and my Preschool Child Development Associate Credential.  I will soon have my Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education.  I enjoy working with children and encouraging them to use their own potential.  I have a 13 year old daughter and a 10 year old son. 


Project-“Cozy Area”
This will be an area for the children to relax, read and socialize.  There will be a rug, soft couch, chair and ottoman to sit on.  There will be a bookshelf that the children can easily access books, tapes and CD’s of their choice.  This area would have a nice home-like appearance with pictures of their families.  This area would allow children to unwind from other active areas. 

Susan Drake
SUNY Cortland Child Care Center
Cortland, NY

I live in Marathon, New York and have been happily married since 1996 to my husband, Richard.  We live on our dairy farm with our three wonderful children, Kaycie Lee, Bookin and Braden ages 8, 6 and 2.  Needless to say they keep me very busy.  I have been working at this Center since 1994.  First, as an Assistant Teacher in the Preschool-4 Room, then Head Teacher in the Toddler Room in the Preschool-3 Room.  I enjoy participating in staff development opportunities which help me grow in my personal knowledge of early childhood.  I went to school to obtain my CDA in 2999 and renewed the credential in 2004.  In my personal time, I devote my time and energy to family activities.  Children are my life both at work and at home.  I wouldn’t have it any other way!


Project-“Exposure to Diversity Through Dramatic Play”
Our Center is part of a college campus at SUNY Cortland.  I enjoy my classroom everyday as I provide programming along with an assistant teacher for 14 three year olds.  We service a population that is rapidly growing to include many families from culturally diverse backgrounds as well as an increasing special needs population.  I plan to enhance our center with more multicultural props for our dramatic play area.  I will not have the opportunity to implement props which promote the diversity and cultural aspects of our community.   

Valerie Halla
Westminster Early Childhood Programs
Buffalo, NY
I have been teaching in early childhood for twenty years, with the last fifteen at Westminster Early Childhood Programs. I received both my Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from SUNY at New Paltz in Elementary Education with a concentration in Early Childhood. I am married with one child who is preparing to graduate high school this year. In my down time, I enjoy reading, crocheting, and watching movies.

Project -Nutrition & Excercise
With all the talk of childhood obesity in the news, I felt it is important to get our children up and moving. I feel it is also important to teach them about making healthy choices when they are eating. I chose different types of bikes for the gym - stationary bikes, krazy kars, and plasma cars - to get them moving in different ways. I also chose classroom activities that will help teach good nutrition. My hope is that this generation of children will have the basic knowledge of making healthy choices
M. Claire LaBonte
Campus PreSchool and Early Childhood Center
Binghamton, NY

My interests have always been in early childhood education and the outdoors.  I live in Northeastern Pennsylvania and work in Binghamton, New York.  I am currently the lead teacher in our four year old Pre-K program where I bring my love of nature to the classroom.


Project-The Panda Paw Printer
The Panda Paw Printers is a writing center which will enhance the large multicultural population at Campus Pre-School.  I have a desire to promote children’s small motor skills and imagination through creative writing.  I am looking forward to the addition of multi-seat desks and implementing innovative writing tools in my classroom.

Jessica Pritchard
Pee Wee Folks Preschool
Whitestone, NY

The first job that I ever had wasin a daycare center and I have never wanted another. I traveled a lot throughout my life and have worked in centers in many states. This has allowed me to learn different ways of doing things and to incorporatenewideasinto how I teach. I have been in the 3 year old class at Pee Wee Folks for six years now.While working I earned aCDA and an Associate'sDegreein Early Childhood Education. I couldn't have done it without the support ofmyboss, the staff at the center, my husband, Tony, and my three wonderfulchildren, Jaiden, 4, Kordell, 11 and Kyanna, 13.


Project-“Imagination Station”
My project is the Imagination Station. The ages and abilities of the children in my class vary greatly andtheytend to play in their own small groups. Older children in one spot, younger children in another, boys over here and girls over there. I think that having an attractive kitchen with accessories (including a birthday cake!)and a dress up area with new costumes and a rack for storage will give them a place where theycanall play together. I can't wait to see thecreative ways they use all of the new stuff!

Carol Slattery
Patty Cake Playhouse II
Newburgh, NY

I am married and a proud mother of four children.  I have worked with children over 20 years and have loved every minute of it!  Honestly, I can’t imagine doing anything else.  The joy I receive watching these children grow both physically and emotionally is amazing!  I truly love my job!


My project is to enhance my pretend play area.  The children in my class are toddlers and are learning to share and socialize.  More materials in our pretend play area would allow more children to participate as we practice important like skills through play.  I would like to add dress-up clothes, dishes, a small refrigerator, shopping carts and a doll crib.  I feel the most important skills I can teach the toddlers in my class all center around independence and appropriate social interaction. 

Colleen Walling
Campus & Community Children's Center
Fredonia, NY

I am an assistant teacher in the toddler classroom at the NAEYC Accredited Campus and Community Children’s Center, located on the campus of SUNY College at Fredonia.  I have worked at the center for 7 years, and am very passionate about the field of early childhood education and working in the childcare field.  I attend numerous early childhood conferences and events each year and am an active member of CCAEYC (Chautauqua County Association for the Education of Young Children).  I received my Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education from SUNY Fredonia, and am currently pursuing my Master's degree in Human Development with specializations in Early Childhood Education and Infant Toddler Care and Education at Pacific Oaks College. 


Project-“Toddler Transition Books
My project is designed to help children and families transition into the Twinkle Star (toddler) classroom and involves two books being created.  The first book, Welcome To The Twinkle Star Room (Child’s Name)!, is a  personalized board book that will be given to each child when they come for their initial visit to our classroom.  The book features photographs and descriptions of things the children will be able to do when they join our classroom.  For example, “This is a cot where you can take a nap”. It will also have photographs of the teachers.  The second book, created the first week of school, called Twinkle Star, Twinkle Star, Who Do You See? features photographs of each child and the teachers.  A laminated color copy of the book will be sent home with each family. 


North Carolina

Marilyn Elliot
Solid Start Child Care Center
Cameron, NC

I am the wife of Scott and mother to Alexis, Courtney, Mallory and Jonah.  I have lived in Oregon, Washington, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Germany and North Carolina.  I have a special love for all children.  I have taught for Solid Start Child Care Centers for 5 years.  I am currently pursuing my Bachelor of Science in Birth to Kindergarten Teacher Education.


Project-The Solid Start Stage
My project is the construction of a solid wood, outdoor dramatic play area that will house the Solid Start Stage and play props.  Young children enjoy pretend play and the opportunity to try out voices and personas to explore imagination and creativity. The stage is currently planned to be 8 feet by 12 feet across the back of the playground fenced in area.  The stage is elevated 12 inches with 6 inch steps at each end.  A front façade rising six feet high will have the curtain attached and tied back at each end.  The curtain is maid of water proof shower curtain material.  Since family involvement is an important part of my program, I look forward to inviting parents and family members to see the shows the children put on and hear the stories they have to tell. 

Laurie Wilburn
Solid Start Child Care Center
Sanford, NC

I have been married for 27 years, we have 2 grown children and 3 grandsons that we love to spend time with. I have been an early childhood professional for 12 years, having obtained an associate degree I am currently enrolled in a BK program. My husband is retired military, as is my father, so I truly cherish the time we are able to spend with our extended family.  We happily settled in the country 11 years ago and love it.  Along with plants, animals and children I enjoy scrap booking when the creativity strikes me.   


Project-Nature habitat
The project I have planned is a nature habitat where the children and I will grow plants that are native to our area and will attract wildlife.  We will also install a barrel to collect water from the roof, a birdbath, an amphibian house, birdhouses, a cold frame, recycling bins, a child size potting bench and another compost pile.  I know the children I teach now will gain so much from this as well as classes in the future.  We know children take care of the things they love.  If they take a love of nature with them when they leave our classroom we have all won!



Heidi Andrews
Chapman Child Learning Center
Tulsa, OK

I have been working in childcare for 14 years. I have been married for 8 years to my best friend David. I enjoy reading, singing, cooking, and spending time with friends, in my spare time. I love being an aunt to my six nephews and 2 nieces.


Project-“From Seed to Seed”
My project will allow me to create an outdoor classroom. The children will have to opportunity to grow a vegetable garden. This will allow them to see first hand how we get some of the foods that they eat. It will also allow for them to learn how to eat healthful foods. They will have the opportunity to plant, water, and care for the garden on a daily basis. The parents will also have the opportunity to help with the garden as well. The camera will allow for pictures to record the process of our project.



Nancy Connellis
Mountain View School for Early Care and Education
Matamoras, PA
I have been in the childcare field since high school. When I got married and started having children of my own, I knew I wanted to stay in the field so I could be close to my children. I obtained my associate degree in Early Childhood Education while working and caring for my family. I was able to all this on-line so I could dedicate my days to working with children. I have been at the Mountain View School for 3 years now. I have learned so much from my director, and want to continue dedicating my life to the childcare field. I am the Lead Toddler Teacher and hold the position of Training Coordinator. I am the Project Coordinator for our annual St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Trike A Thon. I just received a certificate for my dedication and leadership from them, and for raising money to help their children. I look forward to opening my own childcare some day.

Project-"Literacy Library"
My project will be able to enhance our library area in the toddler room by adding age appropriate books, books on tape, and to develop a comfy corner for them to go when they want to read or be read to. The New Literacy Center will increase their love for books, help develop language, get them excited about reading or being read to, show them how to care for books by keeping them organized, build relationships with their peers and staff by sharing a book, and forming new words.With the use of a digital camera I will make individual books for each child, with pictures of new words they form and new friendships they make. They will be able to take this with them as they transition into the pre-k classroom. I believe Early Literacy is so important to every child and it is our responsibility to encourage their excitement and further their learning.

Christine Dise
Pottstown Family YMCA Child Development Center
Pottstown, PA

I have worked in the Early Childhood field for 17 years.  I have experience with typical and special needs children and have been a preschool educator for 15 years.  I am married and have two daughters.  I am involved with Pottstown’s PEAK program and the Berks County Autism Society.  I keep busy being a “cheer Mom”, reading, exercising and spending time with my family and friends. 


Project-“Enhancing Literacy in Pre-K”
My project will help me create an even more literacy based environment in my classroom by allowing me to purchase new activities that reflect the children’s interests.  These activities include a Mystery Box, letter builders, a Question of the Day activity chart, storytelling gloves, various books and letter puzzles, letter sounds activities and a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom activity tree.  This award will help me encourage the children to build upon their conversation and rhyming skills, letter recognition and letter sounds.  I will be able to raise their awareness of language in everyday situations and they will apply this to their understanding of the world and literacy both now and in the future. 

Sherri Drouillard
Hildebrandt Learning Center at Park City
Lancaster, PA

I began my career as a caregiver by taking care of two little boys.  They were two and five years old.  Two years later I decided to move on to a childcare program.  There I enjoyed being part of a team of devoted caregivers.  At that time I cared for children ages nine months - two years.  I learned a lot while teaching there.  I have also taken care of two toddlers in their home.  I finally moved on to the program where I currently teach.  I have been a teacher in the infant room for five years.  I enjoy it immensely.  In my spare time I enjoy reading as well as watching theater productions.  I like shopping for antiques (especially books).  Hiking and picnicking with my husband and two dogs is one of my favorite pastimes. 


Project-The Natural Elements of Communication
My project is designed to help infants express themselves through a variety of methods.  It includes using sign language and songs in our daily routines with the children.  I also plan to include natural elements using different textures through wicker baskets, textiles and plants, etc.  I would like to create an environment where children can use all of their senses in a secure and home like environment. 

Stephanie Evans
Tender Care Learning Center
Pittsburgh, PA

I live in Moon Township.  I have a B.A. in Elementary Education and have been working in Early Childhood for about 7 years.  Currently, I am working with Pre-K children at a NAEYC accredited school and we are proud to say that we have been recently recredited.  I absolutely love spending time with my Pre-K friends and helping them to learn and grow.  I am married and have a four year old son of my own.  I enjoy spending time with my family.  We love all sorts of activities such as working out at the gym, swimming, playing games and just having quality time together at home. 


Project-“Education=The Minds of Young Children or E=MC2”
My project is a collaboration of both math and science and will be used to enhance my classroom environment.  My children will have access to microscopes, magnets, measuring tools, teaching cash registers, manipulatives, puzzles and much more!  The children in my program will be learning through hands on exploration and through play.  Children will have access to new materials that will be beneficial to their learning experience.  This project will help my children know that mat and science is anything but boing!   

Ilene Gallagher
Creative Beginnings Fox Chase Cancer Center
Huntingdon Valley, PA

Children have always been a part of my life; as a babysitter, mother’s helper, mother, and a teacher.  I graduated from Wilkes College with a degree in Elementary Education and will complete a Masters of Education in Early Childhood Education from Arcadia University within the year.  I taught Hebrew school for several years, substituted in area elementary schools, and joined the staff of Creative Beginnings in the Fall of 2000.  Outside of Creative Beginnings, I take pleasure in doing crafts and sewing, gardening, bird watching, and collecting children’s picture books.  I am the mother of two wonderful daughters, Jessie and Lauren, a junior and a freshman in college.  I enjoy taking a variety of workshops and classes as I believe that a teacher should never stop learning.  The most rewarding part of being a parent and a teacher in early childhood is seeing the wonders of the world through the eyes of a child – something I get to do every day.


By working in a garden, children can experience the satisfaction of developing, planting, and caring for something over an extended period of time.  Through gardening, children have the opportunity to explore nature and to develop an interest and concern for our environment. Our childcare center is at the end of a strip mall, which means that our playground had to be built on existing asphalt.  While our surfacing is an artificial grass-like material, we do not have the natural resources, such as flowers, trees, and soil to plant in.  My project is to bring the natural materials into our yard and create a garden that the children can be involved in planning, planting and growing. The garden would be two-fold; an area for vegetables and an area for a butterfly garden.  Children can observe the interactions and importance that insects have on the growth of plants.  In planting and harvesting a garden, the children can gain a sense of responsibility and the opportunity to develop an appreciation and taste for the produce they grow.

Kevin Kennedy
York Jewish Community Center Child Care Program
York, PA

 I work in the child care department at the York Jewish Community Center in York, Pennsylvania.  I have worked at the JCC in both major and minor capacities since 2000, while working with children ranging in age from one to eleven years.  I have concurrently worked as a counselor and staff liaison at Kingswood Camp for Boys in Piermont, New Hampshire and as an athletic director at York Catholic High School.  I am a 2005 graduate of Penn State University, where I met my beautiful wife Kristen.


My child care classroom will greatly benefit from the proposal I have made to the Lokoff Foundation.  My grant proposal focused mainly on the need to audibly record classroom information via digital voice recorders.  These recorders would serve many purposes, particularly for children with speech delays.  The audio clips could then be placed onto a computer, where they could be separated, categorized, and labeled to help the teachers, therapists, and/or pathologists to further understand with the specific needs of the child.

Brandi Kerstetter
The Children's Center of Camp Hill
Camp Hill, PA

I have worked in the child care field since high school.  I started as an aide, went to college and worked my way up to Teacher.  I enjoy hiking, bicycling, and just about anything you can do outdoors.   I am recently married and I am looking forward to having children of my own soon. 


Project –“Artful Expressions”
My project is to expand upon our Art Area.  A larger variety of materials will allow the children to be more creative and expressive.  At the same time they will be building upon all other developmental skills.  I will also invite the parents to come to a workshop where I can express to them how truly precious their child’s artwork is.

Emily Lopez
The Children's Center at Dock Woods/SMCCC
Lansdale, PA

As far back as I could remember I always had an interest in working in the Early Childhood Education field.  Watching how children develop and grow has been a part of my life growing up in a large family with many children.  While attending High School I had been a nanny for four years and upon graduation moved on to work in an Early Childhood setting.  It has been my professional goal to further my education and I am excited to receive my associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Montgomery County Community College this spring.    


Project-The Four Seasons Greenhouse
The Four Season Greenhouse will be a portable learning environment for children to plant seeds and watch them grow all year long.  This age appropriate sensory experience will help the children learn many valuable lessons.  One goal being to connect school experiences to home by the children planting their individual seedlings and taking them home to share with their families.  This project will include the involvement of residents at Dock Woods Community by inviting them to plant the along side the children facilitating our goal Intergenerational Program.  The children will take pride in sharing this experience with families, classmates, and residents. 

Nicole Morton
YMCA Preschool
Royersford, PA

I am 31 years old, married with three children!  I have been a preschool teacher for just over ten years and love every minute of it.  I am currently enrolled in the TEACH program and plan to get my Bachelors in Early Childhood Education.  I like to tell my parents’ that in my classroom we like to get down and dirty whether by cooking, doing science experiments or creative art activities.  I believe hands on learning are a must and this includes learning empathy and social skills as well as responsibility.


My proposal is for Pets in the Classroom.  I think that when children are exposed to pets and given the responsibility of caring for another living being they learn those very important social and emotional lessons.  I want to add on to our pet family by creating a Gerbil station next to our indoor Pond station.  The children will learn by taking care of our new friends and observing their habitats. 

Mary Pawlus
West Philadelphia Community Center
Philadelphia, PA

I am a first generation Polish American woman who was born and raised in Chicago.  My parents put a big emphasis on education when I was growing up and even though I am the product of Chicago Public schools, I graduated from the University Of Illinois-Champaign- Urbana with a degree in sociology.  I have worked in early childhood for over 6 yrs with a variety of different age groups.  Working with children keeps me young and helps me understand the world better through their eyes. I am the proud mother of a wonderful 4 yr old son, Seydou. 


Project-“Habitats for Toddlers”
I chose to improve my science area because this is one area of the room that does not get as much attention as the rest of the classroom.  I chose to get a turtle for my classroom because I feel that it can give an opportunity for children to learn many new things.  I feel that I can expand on the concept by teaching them about the turtle’s environment and what it needs to survive, this can be expanded to other animals and people as well.  They can learn responsibility and caring by helping to take care of the turtle.  It also gives them something concrete that they can actually see and observe to make the connection needed to understand the concept of caring for others.

Kali Strand
Parent Infant Center
Philadelphia, PA
I am from Philadelphia, PA. I have a BA in Philosophy and nearly 15 years of experience working with young children. I have lived and worked in Ohio, Seattle, Massachusetts and Japan and I love that I'm working with toddlers.

Project-“Cultural Physical Diversity
I will use books, puzzles, dolls and music to help toddlers learn about and understand the cultural and/ or ethnic differences and similarities of people, especially helping them understand and identify with children who have physicalor learning differences.

Carl Swansen
Children's Village
Philadelphia, PA
I am an assistant teacher in one of the preschool classrooms at Children's Village in Philadelphia where I have worked for the past nine years.  I am currently enrolled at Community College of Philadelphia, where I am pursuing my Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education.
With the money I receive from the Terri Lynne Lokoff /Children's Tylenol Award, I will purchase a computer for the classroom in which I work.  This computer will give the children an opportunity to use this valuable tool.  I believe it is essential for the children to attain computer literacy to be able to succeed.  The computer for our classroom will give them the skills they will use for the rest of their lives.  I thank the Terri Lynne Lokoff Foundation and Children's Tylenol for making this possible.

Katherine Vernon
YMCA Child Care Center
York, PA

I have a degree in Early Childhood Education and I have worked with children at the YMCA for 13 years.  I am currently the Group Supervisor in the three year old room and the center’s Family Services Coordinator.  My husband and I are blessed with two sons whom we adopted through Children’s Services of Pennsylvania.  I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, helping others, and I want to jump from an airplane (with a parachute) and ride a mechanical bull before I die.


Project-Literacy Enriched Classroom
Children with a strong literacy foundation are more confident in social settings and emotionally prepared to handle various situations.  I will expose the children to interactive literacy-rich activities in order to develop this foundation.  My goal is to help the children establish a strong base of literacy skills and to further their understanding of the purpose of print.  Most importantly I want to teach the children to enjoy learning.

Ariel Vicchairelli
The Caring Center
Philadelphia, PA

I have been working at the Caring Center since June 2003.  I am currently the Head Teacher of the young toddler classroom.  The toddlers in the classroom range in age from 12 – 24 months.  I graduated from Community College of Philadelphia in 2000 with an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education.  In addition to working full time, I am a part time student at Temple University studying Communication Sciences and Disorders. 


Project-“Encouraging Language Skills Through Sign Language”
I plan to introduce sign language to my group of one-year olds.  The purpose is to give the children an outlet to express their wants, needs and ideas without becoming overly frustrated.  I will first use signs of objects, people and simple concepts that are relevant to their everyday lives.  I also intend to use a video camera to make a sign language DVD which parents can use with their children at home. 

Crystal Williams
Green Byrne Child Care Center
Philadelphia, PA

I am a positive thinker, a go-getter, a creative expressionist, mother of two, active in my church and neighborhood activities, an entrepreneur, a Summer program designer and administrator!  I am a graduate of Harcum Junior College and a Professional Facilitator in Early Childhood Education and am currently preparing to continue my education through TEACH to receive a Bachelor’s Degree.  I have attended many literacy and development workshops, a graduate of DVAEYC Leadership Empowerment Action Plan, a member of NAEYC and Quest.  Presently, I am a Group Supervisor at my Center, a Keystone Four Star site.  I am a member of the Five Year Planning Committee at the center.  My philosophy is “When Nurturing a Child, You are also Nourished!”


Project-“Sensory Wall Plus”
The Sensory Wall is a free standing interactive wall containing three areas for sensory boxes.  Each box has elements that are changeable, giving flexibility to customize each child’s learning experience.  The walls allow purposeful play, stimulation of the senses as the children become aware of how to change and control surroundings, the building of self-esteem and the continuation of the building of their vocabulary.  It will give additional well-defined learning space that is comfortable and appealing for single and parallel play.  The walls of the unit are short enough to observe children without interfering and private enough to have one-on-one time with each child. 



Cathy Darbey
KinderCare Learning Center
Carrollton, TX

I am a single mother of one child.  I have worked in early childhood programs for 27 years.  I am currently working with pre-kindergartners where I provide the children with a solid foundation with excellent learning experiences.  My education includes child development classes at San Antonio College and Cardeen University where I received my CDA.  I also have my Director’s license, CPR/FA, SIDS and shaken baby certifications. 


To provide adequate opportunities for the children to fully explore and enjoy science in the classroom, the science area will have tools and equipment that allows hands on learning experience for the children.  Science activities and experiments allow children to problem solve, use critical thinking skills, perform experiments, classify and make predictions.  Give the children the base of science knowledge will prepare them to enjoy science and want to further experience throughout school.  I personally have always loved science and I love the opportunity that it provides to expand a child’s current level of thinking. 



Lacey Wilson
Kids on the Move
Orem, UT

My professional career started 15 years ago when I graduated from Snow College with my associate degree in Early Childhood Education. I was excited about my future and its new endeavourers. My first job was with Mountain Land Head Start. This is where my love for children flourished and I realized I wanted this type of work to be my life long career. I was a home care provider for six years and then was offered a job at Kids on the Move Early Education Center.


My Project is “Me Too”
The actual toys I would like to purchase are dolls with walkers, wheelchairs, leg braces, those who need hearing aids, glasses, or those who may be blind. By interacting with these dolls, the children will be aware of how to interact with the children who come into the classroom with these special needs. Children will learn and appreciate the individual differences of their peers. The dolls will be available to all the children in our center and out in the open so that others may use them also. My hope is that the children will feel valued and feel that they belong regardless of their abilities.



Adria Bader
Rainbow Station, Inc.
Richmond, VA

My project is “Teach with Texture”. I believe that textures help children to learn. I will introduce a few textural toys at a time into the classroom for the children to explore and manipulate either on their own or in small groups.  After the children have had the chance with each of the new toys, I will suggest additional uses for the toys. One example is the texture path where children begin to learn colors by associating the color with a texture.  Touch adds to the other senses, providing a physical reminder of what is being learned.


West Virginia

Amber Myers
Catamount Children's Center
Keyser, WV

I have been in the early childhood education field for over eight years.  I have taught all ages and have been with the Pre-K children for five years.  I am currently working on my MA in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from WVU.  My undergraduate degree is in Child Development.  I also have a Three Star Directors Credential.  I would also like to obtain a MA in Early Childhood Interventions and an endorsement in Autism and Sign Language.


Project-“Literacy Quilts”
My main goal is to create a learning environment for all children to grow and express themselves.  My classroom raises money for Cystic Fibrosis with a  Mini March and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.  My personal interests are in Autism Spectrum Disorders and using sign language to enhance learning in the classroom. 



Andrea Tallacksen
Woods Hollow Children's Center
Fitchburg, WI

My Project is the “Outdoor Sound Garden”. Music is an integral part of our day. Simple songs help us clean up the room, transition from one activity to another, and connect as a group. With my project, I will add instruments to our playground that will build on our musical activities inside. I will install two large chime sets with four mallets.  I will hang copper bells from our trees that will ring when the wind blows or can be rung by the children.  I will also install a large wooden drum with mallets on our playground.