Early childhood educators recognized with Smart Start Excellence Awards    

Monroe Smart Start recognized early childhood educators, providers and partners at its 3rd annual Early Childhood Excellence Awards on Thursday, April 14 at WTIU.

Each of the providers and educators recognized are committed to addressing school readiness in Monroe County and improving the quality of early education throughout the community.

“Because most brain development occurs in a child’s first five years, providing the right foundation is important for children to succeed in school and eventually in life,” said Monroe Smart Start Director Jennifer Myers. “

“The incredible work of early education providers is often overlooked, but research has shown that it is critical to to improving success in school, graduation rates, workforce readiness and community engagement. That’s why we’re thrilled to acknowledge and recognize the incredible work of Monroe’s County’s early childhood educators each year.”

Early Childhood Excellent Educator Awards were given to educators and teachers demonstrating high quality care and excellent collaborative efforts. Seventeen early childhood teachers were nominated by Level 4 and Level 3 early childhood directors and their colleagues for the 2016 awards.

“The 2016 educator award recipients are an amazing group who inspire children, families and colleagues,” added Myers. “These educators demonstrate developmentally appropriate practice, exemplify high quality care, collaborate with other instructors, and serve as excellent early childhood role models in our community.”

2016’s Early Childhood Excellent Educator Award recipients include:

  • Sarah Agmon, Edgewood Early Childhood Center
  • Alex Ballard, Early Head Start Jack’s Defeat Creek
  • Dawn Berkenstock, IU Campus Children’s Center
  • Jennifer Brinegar, Summit Elementary Title I Pre-K
  • Kim Clay, Monroe County United Ministries
  • Robin Cole, St. Marks Nursery School and Kindergarten
  • Laura Creed, Head Start Lindbergh Center
  • Rachel Draughn, Bloomington Developmental Learning Center
  • Kim Freeman, Penny Lane East
  • Alexandra Green, Monroe County YMCA Center for Children and Families
  • Jennifer Hare, Hoosier Courts Nursery School
  • Cathy Lawson, Head Start Walnut Woods
  • Charity Prince, Children’s Village Child Development and Education
  • Kate Putnam, Children’s Corner Cooperative Nursery School
  • Samantha Sisk, Campus View Child Care Center
  • Katie Stallsmith, Bloomington Center for Global Children
  • Kathy Yonkman, MCCSC’s Ready Set Grow

Recognition awards were also given to 34 early childhood quality providers that have achieved Level 3 and 4 Paths to QUALITYTM designations and national accreditations. Paths to QUALITYTM represents Indiana’s voluntary quality rating and improvement system for child care providers. Level 4 programs are nationally accredited and demonstrate a commitment to the highest level of professionalism in quality child care. Level 3 programs have demonstrated the knowledge and skill necessary to plan appropriate activities and opportunities that lead children toward school readiness.

Paths to QUALITYTM regulations are designed to keep children safe while helping to ensure early learning is developmentally appropriate and follows Indiana’s Early Learning Standards. Level 3 sites are accountable for providing a curriculum that appropriately readies children for kindergarten. Research shows children who are ready for school are also ready for life.

Twenty-two Monroe Smart Start early childhood cohort providers have improved Paths to QUALITYTM ratings since 2013.

“Monroe County is seeing some nice progress in the number of early childhood sites that have increased levels in Paths to QUALITYTM, but we still have a major shortage of quality early childhood sites for children to attend,” added Myers.
“We are proud of our early childhood community and their desire to increase the quality of care given to children and their families. The Early Childhood Excellence Awards is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of quality early childhood professionals while motivating others to continue striving toward quality improvements.”

The providers recognized by Monroe Smart Start this year include:

  • Arlington Heights Elementary Title I Pre-K, Level 3
  • Binford Elementary Ready Set Grow, Level 3
  • Bloomington Center for Global Children, Level 3
  • Bloomington Developmental Learning Center, Level 3
  • Campus View Child Care Center, Level 4, NAEYC Accredited
  • Children’s Corner Cooperative Nursery School, NAEYC Accredited
  • Children’s Village Child Development and Education, Level 4, COA Accredited
  • Cookie Club Daycare, Level 3
  • Deborah Hawkins Day Care, Level 3
  • Early Head Start at Jack’s Defeat E, Level 3
  • Early Head Start at Jack’s Defeat F, Level 3
  • Early Head Start at Jack’s Defeat H, Level 3
  • Early Head Start at Jack’s Defeat N, Level 3
  • Early Head Start at Jack’s Defeat O, Level 3
  • Early Head Start at Jack’s Defeat P, Level 3
  • Grandview Elementary Title I Pre-K, Level 3
  • Head Start Lindbergh Center, Level 3
  • Hoosier Courts Nursery School, Level 4, NAEYC Accredited
  • Imagine Daycare, Level 3
  • IU Campus Children’s Center, Level 4, NAEYC Accredited
  • Jenny’s Place, Level 3
  • Kid Angles Early Education Butterfly Bungalow, Level 3
  • Kid Angles Early Education Monkey House, Level 3
  • Kiddos World Childcare, Level 3
  • Lakeview Elementary Ready Set Grow, Level 3
  • Levato’s Little Ones, Level 3
  • Little Peeps, Level 4, NAFCC Accredited
  • Monroe County United Ministries, Level 4, NAEYC Accredited
  • Monroe County YMCA Center for Children & Families, Level 3
  • Penny Lane East, Level 4, NAEYC Accredited
  • Penny Lane West, Level 4, NAEYC Accredited
  • Sandy’s Kids Child Care, Level 3
  • Mark’s Nursery School and Kindergarten, NAEYC Accredited
  • Walnut Woods Head Start, Level 3

In 2013, Monroe Smart Start began its first Cohort of Quality Providers. Early childhood sites actively seeking to progress in Paths to QUALITYTM are invited to participate each year. Providers receive funding and training that improve the education and ultimately the school readiness of the children in their care.
Since 2013, 22 local, licensed early childhood sites have participated in Monroe Smart Start’s Quality Cohorts. These cohorts have successfully progressed through Paths to QUALITY achieving level increases and offering 461 children higher quality care.

The 2015 Cohort of Quality providers recognized at the event include:

  • Jack and Jill Daycare
  • Kid Angles: The Early Education School
  • Korra Bells Playhouse
  • Little Angels Daycare and Preschool
  • Love & Learn Preschool & Daycare
  • My Little Blessings
  • New Hope Early Childhood Development Center
  • Rise and Shine Child Care

In addition to early childhood providers and teachers, additional recognitions were given to quality advisors, partners and parent liaisons that work collaboratively to improve preschool programming, resources and school readiness in Monroe County.

2016 Early Education Leadership Award recipients:

  • Jolene Wright, Parent Liaison, Monroe County Community School System
  • Jill Ferguson, Parent Liaison, Richland-Bean Blossom School Corp.
  • Emily Roth, Education Coordinator, Purdue Extension-Monroe County
  • Jackie Bond, Coach, Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children
  • Danielle Riddell, Coach, Paths to QUALITY, Chances and Services for Youth
  • South Central Indiana Association for the Education of Young Children Executive Committee

Monroe Smart Start began in 2009 in response to an urgent need to increase and improve preschool programing and resources in our community. Facilitated through the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County (CFBMC) and the United Way of Monroe County, Monroe Smart Start is an initiative to develop and improve early childhood education opportunities in Monroe County so that children enter kindergarten ready for school and ready for life. Coalition members include local leaders in education, government, health and human services, as well as parents and other community members.
Monroe Smart Start initiatives include foundation educational grants for programs to achieve quality designations or accreditation, tuition-free preschool classes for less advantaged children, preschool parent liaisons, continuing education and quality improvement efforts for early childhood educators, and community education activities to promote the awareness and importance of school readiness.

“Four years ago, the Community Foundation highlighted early childhood education as a major priority for Monroe County and Bloomington due to the lack of state funding for preschool and the abundance of research demonstrating a connection between school readiness and academic and professional success,” said Tina Peterson, CFBMC president and CEO.

“Through more than one million dollars in Community Foundation grants and our partnership with United Way, Monroe Smart Start has been able to provide the resources to build our capacity for more early childhood education and prepare our community’s children for success in school.”

In addition to improving school readiness in Monroe County, Smart Start partnered with the City of Bloomington’s Monroe County Energy Challenge in 2015. As part of the program, Jackie Duemler, Energy Outreach Coordinator, works with interested home-based childcare sites to provide information on energy efficiency and potential savings opportunities to their client families most in need of assistance. Willing households receive free in-home energy and air quality assessments and information on grant programs and other resources.

Monroe Smart Start invites early childhood home providers to participate in the free energy assessments. Participating home providers received LED light bulbs, faucet aerators, outlet insulators, and weatherization to help them to reduce home energy use and save money on utility costs. By paring improved environmental quality with improved childcare, children and their families are healthier, safer and more likely to prosper in the future.

Providers that completed energy assessments were recognized at this year’s Early Childhood Excellence Awards:

  • Marcella Ettinger, Director, Rise and Shine Child Care
  • Jenny Dittfach, Owner, Jenny’s Place
  • Noel Hanson, Owner, Kid Angles Early Education School: Monkey House, Kid Angles Early Education School: Butterfly Bungalow
  • Linda Jackson, Owner, Jack and Jill Daycare
  • Marianna Edmonds-Hogue, Owner, Cookie Club Daycare
  • Jackie Perez, Owner, Little Peeps

About Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County:
Created by individuals, families and businesses who share a passion for Monroe County and a vision for its future, the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County has granted $23 million to more than 400 local nonprofit organizations since its incorporation in 1990. With a growing $26 million endowment, the Foundation makes a difference by connecting caring people, important causes and community resources.

About United Way of Monroe County
United Way of Monroe County improves people’s lives by addressing critical needs today and working to reduce those needs tomorrow. Through its Community Action Fund and grant initiatives, United Way works with 25 member agencies and community partners to focus resources on the building blocks for a better life: education, earning, and the essentials.

About Paths to QUALITYTM
Paths to QUALITYTM is dedicated to supporting the well-being and success of all Indiana children through a statewide system that improves child development and age-appropriate learning experiences, promotes high quality child care, and supports and empowers parents as teachers and decision makers. More information on Indiana’s Child Care Quality Rating and Improvement System can be found at http://www.in.gov/fssa/2554.htm.

About Monroe County Energy Challenge:
The Monroe County Energy Challenge (MCEC) is a broad coalition of community organizations collaborating to reduce energy use in Monroe County, Indiana. More information on specific energy reduction initiatives can be found at http://mocoenergychallenge.org/