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2009 Teacher Awards Recipients

The Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation Proudly Announces the 2009 Recipients of the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children's TYLENOL® National Child Care Teacher Awards

Photographs by Lafayette Hill Studios, Lafayette Hill, PA - Photographer Paul Csihas

First Name Last Name Project Center Name City State
Wendy Arnburg Growing Curiosity Momma Bear Daycare Des Moines IA
Cassandra Baker It's A Hands-on World After All Apple Tree Children's Center Johnston IA
Mildred Bearden Bridging the Gap Between Home and School Through Dramatic Play JCCEO Head Start Festival Pre-K Birmingham AL
Anne Brooks* Stepping into Backyard Science Happy Feet Family Child Care Clearwater FL
Kyla Burg Integrated Education Through Art Jewish community Center York PA
Elizabeth Cali As We Grow Greenhouses Guild of St. Agnes Devens MA
Claire Carradus Our Resourceful Earth USAFF Mildenhall Child Development Center Mildenhall Suffolk England
Melissa Cato Believe in Imagination Tender Care Learning Center Pittsburgh PA
Martie Davis* Giving Back with Books Rainbow Station San Antonio TX
Lynne Ehrman The Softer Side of Life The Nurtury Medina OH
Celestia Erickson Sensational Snacking Garden Celestial Beginnings Child Care Hollywood MD
Mary Eubanks-Schuster Wire Sculpture University of Nevada Early Head Start Child and Family Center Reno NV
Della Fischer Kids Going Green Reston Children's Center Reston VA
Regina Garrett Outdoor Classroom Evangelical Children's Home Early Education Center St Louis MO
Tama George Teaching the Whole Child Through Dramatic Play Hildebrandt Learning Center at Park City Lancaster PA
Robin Hills-Ellingboe Little Explorers Ladybug Child Care Center Waconia MN
Kim Hunt Memory Books Child Development Center Minot AFB Minot ND
Heather Hurteau* Multicultural Literacy Bags Suny Cortland Child Care Center Cortland NY
Crystal Jacobsen The Magic of Music Ladybug Childcare Center Chaska MN
Kaleena Kafka* Picture This Apple Tree Children's Center Hamden CT
Donna Kennebeck** Book Nook Iowa Health Child Development Center Des Moines IA
Kathleen Kenshur* Going Green Kenshur Family Childcare Encinitas CA
Edina Koco Art As Communication Apple Tree Children's Center West Des Moines IA
Irene Kornet Making Magnificent Muisc in Rooms Samuel Paley Early Learning Center Philadelphia PA
Maureen Liguori Outdoor Classroom CA Montessori Children's Center Islandia NY
Tanya Lohman Discover the World Around You Hildebrant Learning Center Elizabethtown PA
Tricia Luft Color My World Miss Tricia's Family Child Care Red Hill PA
Freda Lujan Self Awareness Through Dramatic Play Lujan Family Childcare Sun City CA
Katherine Maddox Super Science Rainbow Station Richmond VA
Mary Ann Makusi Things That Go Together YMCA/Early Learning University Edinboro PA
Rebecca Martin Rainy Day Activities Salford Mennonite Child Care Harleysville PA
Jennifer McConnell Peaceful Community Children's Choice Montessori Eugene OR
Michele McDaniel Books for Brain Power Michele's House Child Care & Learning Center Earlham IA
Margaret Oberg Outdoor Enrichment Oberg Family Childcare Reno NV
Kristy Owen Fine Motor Books Ohio State University Child Care Program Columbus OH
Young Oxner The World Around Me Hanscom AFB Child Develpment Center Hanscom AFB MA
Rashelle Perry Discovery Zone Tender Care Learning Center Pittsburgh PA
Elizabeth Petersen* Full Circle Garden Kitsap child Care and Preschool/Head Start Bremerton WA
Anita Polito Project Organization Jack n/ Jill Child Care Center Webster NY
Katrina Robinson-Williams* Make Me a Soft Place God's Rainbow Family Child Care Savannah GA
Melissa Ruffing Dramatic Play Tender Care Learning Center Pittsburgh PA
Adrienne Schreiber A Peaceful Presence: Emotional Regulation in the Classroom Hoya Kids Learning Center Washington DC
Tammy Sergeyev Pre-K's Eric Carles Chesterbrook Academy Chalfont PA
Lisa Simpson Active Thinkers & Doers Ken-Crest West Center Philadelphia PA
Jennifer Sortito Movin & Groovin Hospital of St. Raphael's Childcare Center New Haven CT
Sharon St. Onge Multicultural Center Apple Tree Children's Center Granby CT
Stacy Stefaniak Diversified Dramatics Child Care Center os St. Joseph's Hospital Marshfield WI
Eleanor Swope* Multicultural Music and Movement Tender Care Learning Center Allison Park PA
Susan Thom Discovering the World Through the Senses Apple Tree Children's Center Middletown CT
Connie Thompson* Discovering Science Through Gardening Apple Tree Children's Center Norwalk IA

*The top ten scorers of the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children's TYLENOL® National Child Care Teacher Awards and are eligible to apply for the Helene Marks Award and to be named the National Child Care Teacher of the Year.

**Donna Kennebeck, Iowa Health Child Development Center, Des Moines, IA, is the 2009 Helene Marks Award Recipent and is named the National Child Care Teacher of the Year.


2009 Helene Marks Award Recipient as National Child Care Teacher of the Year

Donna Kennebeck
Iowa Health Child Development Center
Des Moines, Iowa
“Book Nook”

I began my early childhood career 23 years ago as a family child care provider.  I am currently an infant teacher at Iowa Health Child Development Center.  I have a supportive husband, three grown children and a granddaughter.  I earned my associate degree in early childhood education and am currently working on my bachelor’s degree.   I have my child development associate credential. I am active in the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children.

My project is to set up a reading area in my infant classroom.  My intent is for the area to be attractive and inviting to both children and adults.  We will purchase a book self, comfy couch, rug and pillows.  We will supplement the area with touches of home, stuffed animals, soft books, board books and a rocking chair.

Winners are listed alphabetical by last name

Wendy Arnburg
Momma Bear Daycare
Des Moines, Iowa    
“Growing Curiosity”

I have been married to my husband,Scott,for 12 years and we have a beautiful 2 year old daughter named Peyton. We also serve as foster parents when there is a need for a loving home.I have been providing child care in my home for almost 5 years. The choice to pursue a career in child care has been a decision that has enrichedmylifebeyond any expectations. I have created an atmosphere that helps children learn, grow and be independent and have seen the benefits of quality care reflected in my daughter'sexperiences as well as the other children in my care. I enjoy the independence of running my own business and recently achieved the highest quality rating available in my state. In my spare time, I enjoy computer games, reading, going to the range and puttering around the yard.

I will be creating a raised garden for the children to grow their own fruits and vegetables.  The beds are made from recycled materials and will put the plants at eye level for the children to explore.  We will discover how plants grow and enjoy the taste of fresh food. The families of the children in my care will be invited to participate in planting, caring for and harvesting the crops.  My hope is to cultivate more than just plants, but to grow a sense of community, discovery and curiosity.

Cassandra Baker
Apple Tree Children’s Center
Johnston, Iowa
“It’s A Hands-On World After All”

I’m a lead teacher with transition twos at the Apple Tree Children’s Center.  I started my career at Apple Tree Children’s Center in 2004 working with the four year old preschool class.  While in high school, I was selected to be in a college development program for high school students interested in child development during my junior year.  I earned my associate degree in early childhood education from Des Moines Area Community College.  When not working at Apple Tree, I enjoy scrapbooking,  work at a toy store part-time and play with my three year old beagle.

I will be creating hands-on activity boxes that will help me implement Creative Curriculum into my classroom. I believe that young children learn best by doing.  Learning requires active thinking and experimenting to find out how things work and to learn firsthand about the world we live in.  The activity boxes I plan to create will encourage these ideas.  My goal is to add activity boxes to several of our interest centers, which will further utilize the many learning experiences we currently provide.

Mildred Bearden
JCCEO Head Start Festival Pre-K
Birmingham, Alabama
“Bridging the Gap Between Home and School Through Dramatic Play”

I am the mother of eight children and the grandmother of 12.  I am the teacher of 18 head start pre-K children.   I am a mentor teacher with special training to coach and advise other teachers. I have been teaching since 1992 and obtained my CDA in 1995.  I earned my associate degree in child development in 2003 and graduated Cum Laude.  Currently I am a senior at the University of Alabama working on my bachelor’s degree in early childhood education.  My love for and belief in children is evident in every aspect of my work in the classroom.  Teachers from far and wide come to observe me in my classroom.

This project will help to answer parent’s questions about what their child is doing and learning in our head start center and my Alabama First Class Pre-K classroom.  Dramatic play is the project focus because it is through play that children explore and learn by acting out everyday experiences, many of which connect their classrooms to their homes and communities.  Through this project parents will have the opportunity to see and understand that learning is taking place during dramatic play by taking pictures of their child at home and in the community.  They will compile these photographs and information about them in binders.  In our classroom, pictures of children engaged in dramatic play taking part in similar activities will be taken and added to the binders.  These special, personalized, dramatic play binders will be shared with parents when they visit our classroom, helping parents see that play is a learning process, that this critical learning happens at home, in the community, as well as in our center and classroom, and that it is very important to children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Anne Brooks
Happy Feet Family Child Care
Clearwater, Florida
“Stepping Into Backyard Science”

My husband and I have been married 37 years.  We are blessed with a wonderful family of 3 children, their spouses and 4 beautiful grandchildren.  I became a family child care provider because two of my children did not bloom and grow in pre-school and daycare settings, they only bloomed at home so I chose to stay home and bloom where I was planted.  I have been a licensed family child care provider for 27 years and during this time, with the help and encouragement of my family, I have earned an Associate of Science Degree in Early Childhood Development, a Directors Credential and my NAFCC Accreditation.  When asked I tell everyone that “I have the best job in the world.  I get to play with children all day.  I am a family child care provider”.  

I designed “Stepping Into Backyard Science“ with the goal of enhancing the multisensory experiences of the children attending Happy Feet Family Child Care.  The addition of new tools and equipment including a bird feeder, binoculars, outdoor weather station, large sand and water table and garden area will expand and provide new multisensory experiences making this project a reality for the children.  The families in my program are close and are planning a family involvement event to plan and plant with their children our first garden of flowers and vegetables this spring.   Stepping into backyard science through multisensory experiences and activities encourages enthusiasm, natural curiosity, and spontaneous learning in a familiar, comfortable backyard setting while helping to wire children’s brains in a positive way.

Kyla Burg
Jewish Community Center
York, Pennsylvania
“Integrated Education Through Art”

I have been with the York Jewish Community Center since 2001.  I have had the opportunity to work children ages 1-6.  I have two beautiful daughters ages 7 and 12.  I will be married this October and blending my family to include a 19 year old son and a 21 year old daughter.  I enjoy a good challenge and am a lover of life.

I plan to use the materials to enhance the children’s learning experiences through art, literacy and diversity projects.  Projects will include various doll making activities.  Supportive materials include globes, books, wood for building various types of boxes.  I look forward to implementing these project ideas with my children and future children.

Elizabeth Cali
Guild of St. Agnes
Devens, Massachusetts
“As We Grow Greenhouses”

I have been a resident of Leominster, MA for 46 years. My passion for teaching began when I was a little girl and used to return home from school only to play ‘school’ with my friends and pretend I was the teacher.  Later in life that dream came true as I decided to return to school in pursuit of my associate degree followed by my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education.  Seeing life through the eyes of a child is a special gift.  I wish to take my education, wisdom and knowledge as far as I can.  The sky’s the limit! Fred Rogers summed it up quite well: “I believe that by the time a child grows up, that child’s first and second teacher and all the child’s important adults will have become incorporated into that child’s development.  That’s the way it is with all children and although they might not remember clearly, those of us who were the educators of their early lives will always be a part of who they are.  Just like those who meant so much to us when we were children will always be a part of who we are.”

There is a growing concern and an increasing awareness for the future of our environment.  It is our responsibility as early childhood educators to teach our children about their natural world around them and instill in them a sense of respect and caring for the earth in which we live.  My project to establish a greenhouse for my students allows us to reach this goal.  We will be using egg crates for seed starters, recycled containers to transplant the seedlings, compost, and other recycled materials.  Students will experience concrete, hands-on opportunities to be actively involved in the life cycle of a plant.  This will empower children to practice responsibility and nurturing while forming the foundation on which later abstract learning can be built. Children will gain a new understanding and appreciation of the natural world as they enjoy the fruits and vegetables from our earth.

Claire Carradus
USAFF Mildenhall Child Development Center
Mildenhall Suffolk, England
“Our Resourceful Earth”

I have worked the CDC for five years.  Children are my life and I enjoy being around them.  Before that I worked in a nursing home with the elderly which I also enjoyed.  There are so many rewards I have experienced through working with the children which I started at the CDC 5 years ago. I had no experience when starting at the CDC.  I found that all changed as I had finally found something I was really good at and loved so I progressed well.  I first worked in 1 -2 yrs age group which I enjoyed.  After a year I wanted change and moved up to 2 – 3 year olds.  I became a room leader and achieved a CDA, I blossomed as a caregiver with the support of my trainer.  I was able to try some amazing things with my toddlers like raising butterflies and planting gardens.  I have recently moved up to pre-school age group and achieved a president’s coin from the 3rd general and was nominated as civilian of the year. My work history may not be many years at present but it’s rich in experience and I look forward to going to work every day.

My project is based on the need to educate children in a fun way on how to be resourceful toward our planet.  They can see for themselves how to plant vegetables, make paper and compost and be respectful towards others.  The project is fun and simple, yet imperative for future generations.  It also encourages exercise their cognitive, language and motor skills in a new environment.

Melissa Cato
Tender Care Learning Center
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“Believe in Imagination”

I am 26 years old and am currently enrolled in the teach program at Carlow University, where I am working on my bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education.  I currently teach young toddlers ages one and two years old.  They are my sunshine and happiness, because I love watching them learn and explore the world around them.  I love spending time with my boyfriend DJ and my family, especially my two year old niece Gracie.

Through the child’s imagination they will have the opportunity to explore more with dramatic clothes, phones, animals, books and much more.  They will be able to use many developmental skills and learn through play.  This award allows my project even more imagination in the classroom.

Martie Davis
Rainbow Station
San Antonia, Texas
“Giving Back With Books”


I am a teacher of four year olds and a Curriculum Specialist for Rainbow Station.I  have been working as a child care professional since 1994 when my youngest son started kindergarten. Like a lot of us in this field, I started out as a helper and worked my way up to lead teacher spurring me to go back to school and earn my associates degree in early childhood education. I have been married to a wonderful and supportive man for 24 years. I have two sons ages 21 and 20, both of whom attend college. I keep a photo of my sons at the ages of 3 and 4 in our teacher counter to remind me of how precious the time is I spend with my students.

In the “Giving Back with Books” project, we will give the children the opportunity to make an individual book about a subject that interests them to share and donate to others.  They will draw the pictures to represent their story, dictate the storyline to a teacher.  The teacher will make copies of the children’s book, laminate the pages and bind each one into a book.  The children will then choose from a short list of children’s hospitals, doctor’s offices, elder care facilities, and/or children’s charities from which they can donate their book.  The children will also donate a copy of their book to other classes in the school and read their stories to the children in those classes.  By designing, compiling and reading their books, the children in my class will have real life experience that reinforces the language and literacy skills they will need to excel in kindergarten.

Lynne Ehrman
The Nurtury
Medina, Ohio
"The Softer Side of Life"

I grew up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and always knew that teaching was going to be my life's passion. When I graduated from Miami University (Ohio), I first taught college level algebra and business mathematics. My teaching path changed when I became involved with my sons' preschool learning experiences at the Nurtury in Medina, Ohio. Fourteen years ago I began to experience the joys of being a preschool teacher. Through the years my position has evolved, and I am currently the head teacher of our full-time preschool program and lead teacher of our Young 4's Class. My young friends continue to both inspire and challenge me. I am extraordinarily fortunate to work with a talented and wonderful team of teachers.

My husband Skip and I are proud of our 3 sons, Geoff, Matt, and Drew. Geoff will graduate this spring from University of Akron with a degree in mathematics, Matt graduated in December from Ohio State University and is a chemical engineer, and Drew is currently volunteering at an organic farm in New Mexico. We enjoy sports, travel, reading, and cooking together.

The goal of my project is to promote comfort and relaxation in the classroom.  Soft furniture and pillow will enhance and further interest in our book corner.  In addition, a privacy cube will be added as a welcome retreat.  This retreat may be used to read a book, regain control when upset, snuggle with a friend for a quiet conversation, or just be alone.

Celestia Erickson
Celestial Beginnings Child Care
Hollywood, Maryland
“Sensational Snacking Garden”

I have worked as a child care provider for 13 years and have been NAFCC accredited and held a level Six Maryland State Child Care Credential for the last seven years.  I earned a bachelor’s degree in special education from Brigham Young University in 1993.  My husband and I have been married for 17 years and we have four amazing children.  Being a family child care provider has given me the opportunity to use my education in teaching and caring for children on a daily basis while allowing me to remain in my home with my own children.  I am grateful to have fabulous children and parents to work with who help fill each day with joy and wonder.

My project will provide opportunities for the children to concretely explore where the fruits and vegetables they eat come from while discovering the mysteries of the plant life cycle as the children develop a sense of responsibility through the gardening process.  Healthy eating habits and outdoor exercise will also be reinforced. Imaginative play will be encouraged by providing manipulative materials inside the center to extend and reinforce the concepts learned in our garden. I will lead the children in emergent literacy and art activities that build on our garden project and incorporate songs about gardens and growing to help build phonemic awareness through rhyme, rhythm and repetition.  Families and other community members will participate in various aspects of the gardening project as the children learn about the gardening process and share their newly acquired knowledge.

Mary Eubanks-Schuster
University of Nevada
Early Head Start Child and Family Center
Reno, Nevada
“Wire Sculpture”

I have worked with young children for more than 26 years, and 20 of which have been at the University of Nevada in the Early Head Start Child and Family Center.  I enjoy working in the community of care program to nurture long lasting bonds with the children and their families.

My project, “Wire Sculpture”, will help build a rich art environment for the children to discover and explore wire and metal.  This project permits the children to revisit and rework the art material, all without having to be confined by space or time.

Della Fischer
Reston Children’s Center
Reston, Virginia
"Kids Going Green"

I was born and raised on a farm in southwestern Kansas, with my twin brother and younger sister.  My elementary school years were spent in one and two room country schools.  I graduated from Bucklin High School in Bucklin, KS, and enrolled in Kansas State Teachers’ College. I earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in special education, certified to teach children with learning disabilities.  I taught in public schools in Kansas, North Dakota and Virginia over a span of 25 years. I have been teaching four and five year old children for 18 years at the Reston Children’s Center in Reston, VA.  It continues to be exciting for me to motivate and help children channel their natural curiosity into the joy of learning.

My ‘Helicopter’ group of eleven five year old children are learning what it means to “go green” in their homes, school, and community.  They and their parents are learning to conserve and recycle in their homes.  The children are learning the importance of water, air, soil, insects and plants and how they can be destroyed if we are not careful with our environment. The class is writing letters to local businesses about how they are interested in what recycling practices they use with worn out computers and copy machines as well as papers, bottles and cans. The class has gone on walking field trips to see how the Chesapeake Bay Project in our area has improved the small local waterways.  The children and their parents are very excited about our project.

Regina Garrett
Evangelical Children’s Home Early Education Center
St. Louis, Missouri
“Outdoor Classroom”

I haven teaching Pre-K at Evangelical Children’s Home for the last 30 years.  One of the greatest joys and privileges of having worked in the same place for so many years is that I now have former student bringing their children into my care.  I work hard to keep up with changes in the field of early childhood education.  By attending conferences and seminars, reading professional publication and taking pride in being a part of organizations such as Parents as Teachers and Head Start.

My project will feature most of the same areas that are found in our classroom, such as a science, music, blocks and reading/language.  I will purchase natural materials from the Arbor Day Foundation.  The children will help design the space and decide which areas they want represented outside.  I am looking forward to watching my children explore with all five senses and to instill in them a sense of wonder and curiosity that only nature can provide.

Tama George
Hildebrandt Learning Center at Park City
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
“Teaching the Whole Child Through Dramatic Play”

I graduated from Elizabeth College in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education.  Upon graduation, I began working as a preschool teacher with Hildebrandt Learning Centers in Lancaster, PA.  I have fallen in love with preschoolers.  I cannot think of anything more rewarding than to spend my days supporting young children’s curiosity and wonder about the world.  Young children need to form loving, secure attachments with people they can trust in their time a part from their families.  I love being able to teach the children and help them to have a better future.

One place where all the children in my classroom come together is in dramatic play.  The children incorporate their interests and abilities to work together to create an imaginary world in which they each play an important role.  Children learn about the world and make meaning through play.  They need to encounter real-life objects and situations so they can grow from imitation to understand life experiences.  For my project, I will create themed kits for dramatic play that are based on the Children’s interests.  These kits will include real-life props, environments, books on the theme, books on emotions and turn-taking and guides for children to use in facilitating play.

Robin Hills-Ellingboe
Ladybug Child Care Center
Waconia, Minnesota
“Little Explorers”

I have been in the early childhood education field for 20 years.  I started my career directly out of high school.  I knew that being a teacher in some capacity is what I was meant to do.   I started out as an aide in our preschool classroom and truly loved it!  Connie Kraus, the owner of Ladybug, saw I had a passion for the children and encouraged me to take some classes. After much coaxing I finally agreed.  Even though working fulltime, having a family and going to classes at night was difficult to juggle at times, I truly enjoyed the classes and sailed right through.  In my career at Ladybug , I have worked in all of the classrooms and in multiple capacities.  I have learned so much from my “Ladybug Family”, all of the children that I have cared for and their parents.  I feel very fortunate to have found a career that can bring such pleasure.  I have been married to my husband Allen for 19 years and we have two wonderful children, Christopher, 17, and Meghan, 14.  In my spare time I enjoy reading, cooking, cross-stitch and scrapbooking.

My project will introduce science and math into the curriculum.  Science and math are interesting subjects for children and I feel that it is my job as their teacher to encourage and expand on their natural interests.  If I give each child the right start as 3 year olds and expand on their interests they will take their love of learning science and math with them as they grow and develop.  I can also be proud of being part of that and may be helping instill that love of learning in them.  Young children have imaginations, but they are not adept at creating all of the pictures in their minds.  They need hands-on experience.  As teachers we can be creative and use just about anything and turn it into something that can “teach” a child.  With science materials that is much harder to do.  The “Little Explorers” project came about to help to expand our current curriculum to incorporate more hands-on science and math materials that could be used in our day to day planning.

Kim Hunt
Child Development Center
Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota
“Memory Books”

I have worked with children in a number of different capacities for approximately 20 years. I have worked with infants (6 weeks to 1 year) for almost 3 years. Each day, the little ones give me something to smile about in life. My husband and family have traveled a great deal with the military resulting in many diverse and wonderful experiences to treasure. Throughout the years, I have learned to “grow wherever the military sent the family and experience each local culture.”

My project is to make digital memory books for each child in my care. I currently give all the parents a CD of all the pictures taken in the room of their child. My project will extend on this idea in the memory books to include captions and descriptions of a child’s first year in the Child Development Center. The parents will have a permanent visual to reflect on the child’s growth and development of the many milestones accomplished the first year of life. 

Heather Hurteau
Suny Cortland Child Care Center
Cortland, New York
“Multicultural Literacy Bags”

I currently live in Homer, NY with my husband of nine years Don and our eight year old son Matthew, who keep us extremely busy.  In my spare time, I like to read, do crossword puzzles and spend time with my family.  I have a bachelor’s of science degree in elementary education from SUNY Fredonia and a Master’s of Science degree in education with a concentration in reading from SUNY Cortland.  I have been employed at SUNY Cortland Child Care Center as a head preschool teacher for 16 years.

My project is literacy bags that families will be able to sign out and use at home.  Each bag will contain a multicultural book and a stuffed animal or other manipulative.  The will also include a follow-up activity such as a game, a puzzle or a flannel board activity.  For the parents, I will include a list of materials, songs, art and writing ideas and movement activities.

Crystal Jacobsen
Ladybug Childcare Center
Chaska, Minnesota
“The Magic of Music”

I have been in the child care field for more than three years.  My classroom currently consists of nine busy boys and one sweet girl ranging in age from 31 months to 41 months.  I also have a beautiful four year old daughter that I enjoy spending my free time.

My project will be an influence in the children’s development.  I believe that many skills can be taught through songs and music.  I am so grateful to have the opportunity to enhance our music area.  I will accomplish this by purchasing multicultural instruments, CDs, a tape recorder and other musical tools.

Kaleena Kafka
Apple tree Children’s Center
Hamden, Connecticut

“Picture This”

I teach two year olds at Apple Tree Children’s Center in Hamden, CT.  I have been working in child care for ten years, have my CDA and will receive my associates in early childhood education this May.  I am also a designated head teacher by the state of Connecticut, as well as the current Master Teacher at my school. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family and having fun with my friends.

My project involves providing my children with two durable children’s digital cameras.  These cameras will help the children learn the basics of taking a picture, plus the benefits of photos.  We will use these cameras to document our achievements, create yearbooks, and just explore the world around us.  The photos will be shared with families, hung around the classroom and given to the children to create stories.  I believe that there are many benefits to my project, but the most important is that my class will be creating life long memories.

Kathleen Kenshur
Kenshur Family Childcare
Encinitas, California
“Going Green”

I have been married for 30 years to a great husband and am the mother of four wonderful grown children and a grandmother to two adorable granddaughters.  I have been an early childhood educator for 30 years and have been a licensed family childcare provider for more than 25 years in Encinitas, CA.  I am an ECCERS and FCCERS trainer, which helps me to raise the standard of quality in my program every day.  I have also applied the training practices learned to the NAFCC accreditation process. I am the president of the San Diego County Family Child Care Association, an instructor for UC Davis Childcare Series, a trainer for the YMCA Child Care Resource and Referral Service and I am a member of the San Diego Preschool for All Leadership Team.  In 2008, I became the first certified Eco Healthy Childcare in San Diego.  My passion for children also includes volunteering as a patient aid and Spanish translator for Fresh Start Surgical Gifts for children with facial deformities and birth defects.  In also enjoy training for triathlons and half marathons and working on my instrument rating for my pilot’s license.  I love traveling and attending early childhood conferences.

My project is to teach the children how to go green and to encourage them to recycle and take care to the earth.  I will add books about the earth, plants and science to enhance our library, which will help increase the children’s vocabulary and stimulate brain development.  With the award, we are going to set up an outdoor green house and water table, which will be used for planting plants.  We will be growing our own vegetables and celebrating with a Garden Pizza Party with the parents.  We will also be setting up a monthly recycling program that will include a book and toy swap.

Edina Koco
Apple Tree Children’s Center
West Des Moines, Iowa
“Art as Communication”

I am from Bosnia and Herzegovina.  I am married and have two boys who are college students.  In my country, I worked as a social worker for 17 years with families having a difficult time.  We came to the U.S.A. in October of 2000.  Soon after I began working at Apple Tree Children’s Center and I am still with the same school! In 2007, I completed my associate degree in early childhood education through the T.E.A.C.H. program and chose the two year olds as my primary classroom.

My project will create an environment that helps children to express themselves in a variety of ways.  Children use art as a form of communication.  I will be adding supplies that encourage growth in all areas: Social-emotional, language, cognitive and physical. When children are experimenting, exploring, involved and participating in art, they share a part of themselves.

Irene Kornet
Samuel Paley Early Learning Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“Making Magnificent Music in Rooms”

I have been working with children since I graduated from college.  I have lived in the United States for 20 years and have spent 17 of them teaching for FELS.  I love children and enjoy working with them.  My hobbies include listening to classical music and reading books.

My project is about the role that music plays in a child’s life.  By singing songs the child improves his memory, increases his vocabulary and learns how to participate in group activities.  Music is not only for pleasure but serves as an educational tool.

Maureen Liguori
CA Montessori Children’s Center
Islandia, New York
“Outdoor Classroom”

I earned my Bachelor’s degree from Temple University in Early childhood and Elementary Education.  I attended St. Joseph’s College where I received my Master’s degree in Special Education, focusing on early intervention.   I have had the privilege to teach children aged 3 – 6 at our center for the past 10 years.  I am a dedicated NAEYC member and educator who continuously seeks new ideas and materials to inspire and excite children to learn.

My project will focus on enhancing our school’s Outdoor Classroom.  As part of our “Green Initiative”, the children are learning how they can conserve, reduce waste and show respect for our environment.  This will provide the perfect means to develop the children’s love and reverence of nature.  They will learn about and implement worm composting, using the compost in our Center’s garden and then plant seeds to observe plant life cycles.  Additional enhancements will include providing magnifying glasses, binoculars and field reference books to assist with discovery.  Notebooks and labels will be supplied and a specimen table will be set up to display what nature’s treasures are revealed. 

Tanya Lohman
Hildebrant Learning Center
Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania
“Discover the World Around You”

I have worked at the Masonic Village for 14 years and am the infant teacher.  I love my job and I try to volunteer for the Make A Wish Foundation.  I am also a foster parent because I want to help the children while the parents work on trying to get their lives together.

I want to set up individual stations around the room.  I want the stations to focus the children’s mind and body on developing individual skills.  I am going to focus on four key areas: manipulative, cognitive, colors and science.  I have had a lot of great ideas for these stations!

Tricia Luft
Miss Tricia’s Family Child Care
Red Hill, Pennsylvania
“Color My World”

For the past 21 years I have run a family child care out of my home.  It has been a real joy caring for all of the children God sends my way!  This past year I renewed my Star Four Certification and was selected as Family Practitioner of the Year in Montgomery County!  In addition, I completed the Directors Credential and appreciated the support and expertise from other colleagues.

My project was inspired by a song about the beautiful colors of the human rainbow that teaches acceptance of all people.  To promote cultural awareness in my centers, a variety of cultural “sounds from afar” will be added to the Music Center.  Children will be exposed to different style paintings and artists in the Art Center.  Two groups of block people, an African American family and Friends with Disabilities will promote a love for all people and an inclusive attitude towards those with physical disabilities.  A “Learning to Get Along” resource library will teach children to respect others and behave responsibly.

Freda Lujan
Lujan Family Childcare
Sun City, California
“Self Awareness Through Dramatic Play”

I have lived in Southern California for almost all of my life.  My husband, Michael, and I have been married for 19 years and have two beautiful daughters, Breeann & Paige.  I’m the middle child of three girls and love spending as much time with my sisters and my Mom as possible.  In my free time, I love spending time with all of my girls to go to the movies and shopping.

My project will help the children in my care expand on their unique differences through dramatic play.  By enhancing this area children can learn problem solving, social skills, curiosity, language development, self esteem and self confidence.  Circle time will become our time of fantasy as we journey to other parts of the country through music, books, dress up clothes and pictures depicting people from around the world!  As a teacher, this will help me to promote understanding and acceptance of diversity.

Katherine Maddox
Rainbow Station
Richmond, Virginia
“Super Science”

I have been working with Rainbow Station since June 3, 1998.  I am currently the lead teacher in the Pre-K Class, mentor to new hires to our preschool, curriculum specialist for our extracurricular programming and the movement teacher for our infant – 4 year olds.  I have my CDA and am currently enrolled at J.S.R. Community College completing my Associates degree in Childcare Education.  I have presented at VAECE as well as co-presented in Dallas, Texas at our latest NAYCE conference.  I enjoy teaching and working with both children and my peers.

I picked items that support hands-on learning from the Measuring Worms and Card Set to the Hydro-Green House that grows plants without soil.  I am hoping to ignite the curiosity of a new generation of learners and help them realize that science is everywhere.  I also added in two resource books both myself and for parents to use to continue the growth of our science center well after the implementation of “Super Science”.  My job is to provide children with the best resources possible, show them how to use and care for them, and then stand back and watch them learn

Mary Ann Makusi
YMCA/Early Learning University
Edinboro, Pennsylvania
“Things That Go Together”

I have worked at the YMCA Learning Center for 10 years, the past 5 years as the lead preschool teacher.  I earned my CDA credential in 2004 and am presently working on getting my Associates degree in Early Childhood Education through a TEACH Scholarship.  In 2006 I was chosen as PACCA’s Educator of the Year, what a great honor that was!  When not working with my preschoolers, I enjoy spending time with my friends, family and my two wonderful grandchildren!

I want to add games and hands-on activities to my learning centers that will help develop the children’s visual perception.  The activities will help the children develop skills such as sorting, classifying, shapes, color recognition and patterning and also benefit their hand-eye coordination, sound recognition, counting and observation of like and different.  These concepts will stimulate the children’s curiosity, intellectual ability and verbal skills.

Rebecca Martin
Salford Mennonite Child Care
Harleysville, Pennsylvania
“Rainy Day Activities"

I have worked at Salford Mennonite Child Care Center for 6 years.  I began teaching after graduating high school in 2002 and worked part-time until finishing my degree in Early Childhood Education from Montgomery County Community College in 2005.  I then began as a full time teacher in the 3 year old classroom which we at Salford refer to as “The Chipmunk Room”.  I continue to grow in my professional development by attending in-service days, workshops, reading articles and staying up to date with my CPR and First Aid training.   Outside of work, I am also involved at my church youth group leading the 6th-8th grade class bible study which meets every Wednesday night.  I also plan monthly activities for the youth which include retreats, and other fun activities such as bowling, mini-golfing and snow tubing.

My project will include many large motor activities for our children to use when we cannot be outside.  It also includes sensory, movement and exploratory activities such as head lamps for the children. 

Jennifer McConnell
Children’s Choice Montessori
Eugene, Oregon
“Peaceful Community”

I have been working with young children (ages 2 1/2 - 6) for over 20 years.  I received my first teaching job right after high school and knew that's what I was created to do.  I received my first Montessori credential in 1997 and am now a Montessori Teacher-Trainer, in addition to teaching and directing a Montessori Pre-School and Kindergarten program.  I have had a long-standing career with Children's Choice Montessori and also own my own school, The Children's House.  I live in Harrisburg, Oregon with my husband and 3 children. 

Due to mixes ages in our Montessori classroom, we resemble a “community” more so that a classroom.  In keeping with Montessori’s philosophy in regards to Peace Education, we have been in need of some materials to enhance and encourage opportunities for “PEACE”.  My desire has been to purchase a Rainbow Peace Rug, designed with squares to encourage self-space, an easel for nurturing peace within and expressing emotions in an artistically peaceful way; as well as a booklet titled “The Peace Rose” to teach the children peaceful conflict resolution.  As always, my work would never be complete without educating the parents with a set of Parent Education Booklets on Montessori explaining how we can attain a Peaceful world, starting with the Children!

Michele McDaniel
Michele’s House Child Care & Learning Center
Earlham, Iowa
“Books for Brain Power”

I have been a childcare professional for 14 years and am a state registered child development home provider.  The 9 children in my program range in age from 16 months to 5 years old. All of the children in my care are on target for meeting the ages and stages of development. My 16 month old sits with the other children at meals and snacks, attempting to use silverware and joining in with the table “conversation”. The toddlers are typical two’s with sharing issues, and all toys are “mine”! My pre-school children are forming friendships with each other and interact rather well with each other. They have such compassion for the younger children, they love to be helpers assisting them with their coats, shoes, singing with them and looking at books with them. I have created a wonderfully safe, happy environment where children are allowed to explore, learn and have fun. I strive each day to make sure each child’s experience is positive.

I will purchase quality literature for the children‘s “library” to enhance my program. I believe that children learn vocabulary and the rhythm of speech through listening and experiencing language as it is spoken and sung. I strive to offer a language rich environment to promote the children’s communication success. I have created reading areas in each room to encourage independent reading. My goal is to add many titles to our current “library“, and be able to have enough books to rotate seasonally. I wish to add books that teach self-help, rhyme and rhythm, diversity, understanding feelings and emotions, and some classics as well. I would like to offer these books in the form of board books, paperback, and hardcover for children of all ages to enjoy. I aspire for the children in my care to learn the value of reading through positive and happy experiences with books.

Margaret Oberg
Oberg Family Childcare
Reno, Nevada
“Outdoor Enrichment”

I have been a licensed as a home child care provider for over 30 years and the proud mother of four grown children & four beautiful grandchildren!  I have been happily married for 37 years.   Professionally, I have belonged to the Northern Nevada Child Care Association since it was formed in 1978, serving on the Board as Secretary, Vice President and President.  I have been accredited through NAFCC since 1998, a member of the UNR Family Child Care Network since 1996 and on the Board of the Reno Association for the Education of Young Children for the last six years, currently as President.  I am a member of the Nevada Registry and serve on both the Washoe Co. Child Care and TEACH Advisory boards.

My planned project will enrich my outdoor play area to include more opportunities for children in my care to enjoy nature and hands on learning experiences to stimulate interest and wonder for the environment.  My vision includes a wavy slide that will fit into the existing slope of my yard for the children to enjoy the natural feeling of sliding down uneven terrain.   I plan to create a pathway of natural wood stepping stones leading the children along a mini labyrinth, adding the opportunity for longer walks in a smaller space.  Best of all, I will include a special water feature allowing water to trickle down a textured path embedded with natural mosaic colored pebbles.  I believe this project will create a tranquil, exciting place to be, grow and to learn!

Kristy Owen
Ohio State University Child Care Program
Columbus, Ohio
“Fine Motor Book”

I have worked in the early childhood field for over 19 years.  I graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.  I have experience with special needs children in a preschool setting.  I have been a preschool teacher for over 13 years.  I am married and enjoy being an Aunt to my two nephews and my friends’ children.  In my free time I volunteer with the Hilliard and the Ohio Jaycees.

My project is designed to help all of my preschool children with their fine motor skills.  The classroom books will be made of fabric and will help the children in mastering zippers, buttons, snaps, belts and other types of closures. 

Young Oxner
Hanscom Air Force Base
Child Development Center
Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts
“The World Around Me”

I have been working with children for 17 years.  All of my experience is in Air Force Child Development Centers throughout the world.  There is nothing I would rather do than teach young children their lifelong skills.  I have been married for 26 years, and have a 7 year-old daughter.  I was born and raised in South Korea, and have followed my husband throughout his 30 year career in the Air Force.  Because of my unique background and military experiences I can relate to some of the feelings the children in my care experience when separated from one and sometimes both of their parents.  I am driven by the look on my children’s eyes when I talk to them from my heart and show them the love that I have for each one of them.  If I can say that I have made a difference in the life of one child, I will consider my career a success!

Because of our unique situation (teaching at a military installation) I have a classroom of fourteen children from a variety of cultures and family backgrounds.  Many of the mothers and fathers of my children deploy to all kinds of different locations as well.  Because of this diversity coupled with the many deployments, I would like to provide an activity for my children to better connect with the diverse world around us.  I would like to provide a learning environment for my children to explore the likes and differences of people and cultures throughout the world.  We will experience all different parts of the cultures we explore such as location on the globe, food, language, music, climate, animals, plants, customs, etc.  My main focus in creating this project is to help my children, and other children in my Center, better understand and adapt to the incredibly diverse environment around them.

Rashelle Perry
Tender Care Learning Center
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“Discovery Zone”

I have been teaching the Pre-K class at TCLC for the past four years.  Prior to joining the staff at Tender Care I taught at several public schools as a substitute.  While my children were young I enjoyed a very active role in PTA, Girl Scouts, softball and our Church Youth Group.  Now that they are grown I am able to continue my dedication to children through TCLC and my own grandchildren.

My project is designed to encourage my students to seek out materials that will enable them to discover various math and science concepts.  A microscope, balance scale, pattern blocks and magnifying set will be displayed on child accessible shelves.  Having these items organized in one area will better define the math/science center that hopefully will become a more inviting free choice center.

Elizabeth Petersen
Kitsap Child Care and Preschool/Head Start
Bremerton, Washington
“Full Circle Garden”

 I am the lead teacher at the Kitsap Child Care and Preschool in partnership with Kitsap Community Resources Head Start.  I have been in the early childhood profession since 1998 and the lead teacher for 4 years.  In addition, I am the president of the non-profit organization Bremerton Urban Garden Society, which encourages people to connect with the earth, their food and one another.  With the position comes the other opportunities for teach in my community. As a teacher, wife, and mother I enjoy growing lots of my own food and preparing it with my class and for my family.

My class will beautify our existing garden by placing handmade stepping stones in a spiral design around our two plum trees.   Within that spiral will be edible and sensorial plants that will be placed using shovels just the right size! All the children that are in my class now will be able to make their own stepping stone to take home as well as be a part of making the class stepping stone.  For years to come we will replace pre-fabricated stones with class made stones so that when the kids come back to visit they will be able to experience the progress of the garden and  they will feel a sense of belonging when they gaze on their own classroom stone.

Anita Polito
Jack ‘n Jill Child Care Center
Webster, New York
“Project Organization”

I am married to Chris and the mother of 9 year old twins, Brianna and Christopher and expecting another son in May!  I live in Greece, New York, which is a suburb of Rochester.  I am currently working as a teacher in the 4 year old preschool classroom as well as the curriculum coordinator.  I have been doing this for about 4 ½ years.

My project requested a large manipulative shelf to better organize our classroom supplies such as cubes, pattern blocks, tangrams, etc.  A shelf like this will be easily seen for choice and clean up by the students.  Clear and concise order of materials makes for happier and more successful learners.  The children with special needs will benefit from the organized material.

Katrina Robinson-Williams
God’s Rainbow Family Child Care
Savannah, Georgia
“Make Me A Soft Space”

am married and have two children.  I have a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry and a Master of Education degree in secondary education.  My decision to forgo the career I went to college for and to open a family child care business stemmed from my dissatisfaction with the child care center that my son was attending at the time, my work, coupled with the fact that I really wanted to raise my own children.  Nine years later, with both of my children now attending school, I continue my very rewarding professional career raising “my children” as a Family Child Care Provider.  My family child care home is accredited by the National Association for Family Child Care.  As a life-long learner, I have recently returned to school to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education so that I can be better equipped to attain my goal of helping children to develop to their fullest potentials and also to develop life-long learners.

My project is centered on creating an area just for infants.  My current space has grown with the children that have been with me for the past three years and are now getting ready to go to Pre-K.  The space needs to be revamped to easily accommodate infants.  Having a consistent and safe area in which the infants can explore and practice gross motor skills without interruption form the older children is important for their growth and development.  A soft play space will increase the quality of my program for infants by giving them more space for independent exploration.

Melissa Ruffing
Tender Care Learning Center
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
“Dramatic Play”

I graduated from Baldwin High School in 2004.  I then went on to CCAC and completed my Associates Degree in Child and Family Studies in 2006.  I have been working at Tender Care Learning Center since 2005.  I enjoy my job as a Preschool teacher and I thrive for my students to be successful!

My project is for a multi-cultural dramatic play items.  I requested multi-cultural and handicapped dolls for the classroom as well as clothes, food and puppets for our dramatic play area.  My students enjoy learning about different cultures, especially those of other classmates.  I am really looking forward to these additions to our classroom!

Adrienne Schreiber
Hoya Kids Learning Center
Washington, DC
“A Peaceful Presence:  Emotional Regulation in the Classroom”

I am a goofy, energetic, smiley, entertaining, motivated, appreciative, interested, passionate, creative, chill, happy 20-something from Washington DC!  When I am not hanging out with the kids, I can be found skating around with the DC Roller girls for finding sweet places in DC to chillax with my friends.  I have an extensive knowledge of (mostly) useless trivia.  Sometime soon I would like to fly to Portugal and see if I can make it overland to China.  It will be awesome!

The most important thing a child learns is to love and be loved.  My project is to create an open, inviting multisensory experience for the Quiet Corner in the classroom.  The space will include a wide variety of implements for the children to explore with all five senses.  By creating a place for one or two children, or a child and an adult, they will develop a positive emotional expression and receive appropriate support.  It will be a peaceful presence among the busy activity of the day. 

Tammy Sergeyev
Chesterbrook Academy
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
“Pre-K’s Eric Carles”

I am a certified K-6 elementary teacher education teacher currently teaching the Pre-K class.  I graduated from Millersville University with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in French.  I have lived in France, Germany and Mexico.  These experiences have enabled me to bring an international perspective to my classroom activities.

The premise of my project is to integrate the arts to actively engage four year olds so that they will be able to become environmental stewards by understanding the terms threatened, endangered and extinct.   The topic is especially meaningful and relevant to the children because of the recent razing of natural woodland adjacent to the school and the subsequent loss of native wildlife.  By studying the author and illustrator, Eric Carle, they will be exposed to a stimulating approach to art since he uses mixed media such as paper tissue, acrylic paint and mod podge to create his unique illustrations.  This culminating activity will enable children to model his understanding of the importance of animal habitat preservation but also promoting their long retention of subject matter. 

Lisa Simpson
Ken-Crest West Center
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“Active Thinkers and Doers”

When I received my undergraduate degree in 1978 I was clueless to the rich, bountiful, yet challenging mission that I had initiated for myself as an educator.  My teaching career exceeds 29 years in the preschool classroom.  Children have taught me invaluable lessons about the strengths of human connections.  My relationship with young children can be described as a strong reciprocal exchange of ideas, interest and cooperative participation in designing foundations for early learning.  Every day the reality is that I get the play with the masters of fun!

Children will enjoy “A-ha” moments in daily preschool experiences.  The proposed plan centers on giving children abundant practice to make asking and answering questions a basic skill that carries over into all areas of learning.  Given hands-on activities, they will develop critical thinking skills that expand their natural curiosity.  Adults will engage children to play, to discover, observe, study, experiment and compare/formulate logic to address early PA early learning standards and high scope curriculum key experiences.  Adults will provide rich accessible materials to extend the reach of a child’s senses as “tools” in an exclusive classroom.  Parents will act as partners to volunteer their time, no cost materials and conduct activities at home. 

Jennifer Sortito
Hospital of St. Raphael’s Childcare Center
New Haven, Connecticut
“Movin’ & Groovin”

I have been working at the Hospital of St. Raphael’s Childcare Center for almost six years.  I have been working in the field of early childhood for more than eleven years.  I graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in early childhood psychology.  Children are very important in my life that is why I became a teacher.  I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life.

My project was created to inspire young children to want to exercise.  I believe that if children are exposed to exercise early in life they will want to continue it throughout their life.  Obesity is a growing problem in our nation and as a teacher we have an obligation to help our children stay healthy.  Therefore, I feel that having a place for children to burn some energy, have fun and stay healthy is important.

Sharon St. Onge
Apple Tree Children’s Center
Granby, Connecticut
“Multicultural Center”

I have been working in the infant classroom for three years now.  One of the biggest joys of working there for me is that I am continually amazed to see the children grow and reach milestones right before my eyes.  I have been taking classes in Early Childhood Education and in May of 2008 I received my CDA certificate.  I plan to take additional classes to receive my Associates Degree.  I am the mother of two children, Adrianna age 19 and Frank age 15.  I love animals and have five cats, a cockatiel, parakeet, fish and a puppy.

My project idea is a multicultural cart containing a variety of multicultural materials.  I have researched different games, CD’s, musical instruments, posters, puzzles, globes, resource books and a felt board with Velcro people.  This also comes along with a farm, house and animals.  The materials will be placed on a cart where all of the teachers can choose what they want to use for their classroom.  We will be able to introduce and expose the children to see that there are different people and materials from around the world. 

Stacy Stefaniak
Child Care Center of St. Joseph’s Hospital
Marshfield Clinic
Marshfield, Wisconsin
“Diversified Dramatics”

I have been working in the education field for over eight years.  Six of those years have been happily spent in early childhood.  I have a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Northern Michigan University and an associate degree in Early Childhood Education from Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.  I also teach children that have autism and look forward to expanding my career in early childhood.

The enhancement project that I am implementing expands the dramatic play center to include more diversity and provides more learning experiences for the children.  I would like to move it beyond just kitchen experiences, providing family and community ones.  It will provide learning across all subject areas in the curriculum.  It will especially enhance the social development of the children in the room.

Eleanor Swope
Tender Care Learning Center
Allison Park, Pennsylvania
“Multicultural Music and Movement”

I have been the lead infant teacher for eight years and feel honored to have been a part of so many little lives.  I also work as my school’s health and safety coordinator, a duty I take very seriously as it affects all the children in our school.  I share this award with my wonderful husband Doug, who gets me to work rain or shine, and often helps me bring my ideas to life. I also have two sons Jason and Brian, who taught me not only love, but patience, and my beautiful daughter-in-law Jess, who became a member of family in October.  I am truly blessed in all areas of my life and look forward to many more years as an early education professional.

My project, “Multicultural Music and Movement”, will help fill my infant room with the wonders of sound and movement.  I want our babies to hear and experience the different textures that multicultural music provides.  Through the use of instruments they will not only hear, but feel the beat of the gathering drum, or the soothing sound of the Chilean rain stick.  With the use of multicultural music, I hope to introduce them to upbeat rhythms and appealing melodies from around the world.  I believe that the first year of life is the most crucial time in the development of young children and that we, as educators, must provide these diverse and wonderful experiences for them to become tolerant, well-rounded grown-ups!

Susan Thom
Apple Tree Children’s Center
Middletown, Connecticut
“Discovering the World Through the Senses”

I began working in childcare nearly 10 years ago at Apple Tree Children’s Center.  I have worked with several different age groups and enjoyed them all.  However, my real passion is working with infants.  I love providing the one on one attention and stimulation that is unique to that age group.  It gives me great pleasure to see my infants reach their first developmental milestones.  My goal is to make this time in their lives as enriching and productive as possible.  I hope that the infants in my care leave the program with bright outlook and trusting nature that will enable them to succeed in the future.

Infants learn about the world around them through the use of their five senses.  They see, feel, smell and taste in order to explore, draw conclusions and learn about their world.  Bearing that in mind, it is my intention to provide a variety of toys and activities geared towards sensory exploration in order to give my infants the most comprehensive and satisfactory of learning experiences. 

Connie Thompson
Apple Tree Children’s Center
Norwalk, Iowa
“Discovering Science Through Gardening”

I have been married to my husband, Gary, for 39 years.  We have four adult children and three granddaughters!  I enjoy spending time with my family.  I have worked for Apple Tree Children’s Center for 7 years with various age groups.  I really enjoy working in my current class, the two year olds!

My project will give the children the hands on experience of working with soil and they will see how it is needed to grow a garden, as is the sun and water.  As the foods are prepared, they will use their abilities to scrub, spread, mash and whisk.  My weekly planning will include introducing fruits and vegetables that we have grown and an opportunity to taste foods that may be new to the children.