Aly Richards (center), CEO of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children, with the Early Educator of the Year Award winner Jacquelyn Reno (left), and finalist Kathi Apgar (right), at the VAEYC Annual Conference 2016.

October 13, 2016 (Burlington, VT) — The Permanent Fund for Vermont Children announced the second annual Early Educator of the Year Award today at the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children (VAEYC) Annual Conference held in Burlington, VT. The award winner, Jackie Reno, Burlington resident and educator at the Janet S. Munt Family Room, was named 2016’s Early Educator of the Year. New Haven resident Kathi Apgar of the YMCA at University of Vermont Medical Center Early Childhood Program was the award finalist. The Permanent Fund created the Early Educator of the Year Award to recognize and celebrate excellence in the teaching of Vermont’s young children to bring attention to the importance of high-quality care and early education.

“This award is meant to honor early educators and recognize the impact they have on the lives and futures of Vermont’s children. Jackie Reno and Kathi Apgar and their centers are unsung heroes who work tirelessly as resource partners with parents to create a positive foundation for students’ education,” said Aly Richards.

“Quality early education means thoughtful services that evolve with what families need,” said award winner Jackie Reno, a 10-year veteran of early childhood education. “It means getting children and families out into nature, connecting families to each other, and strengthening families so that they can provide children with what they need over time.” The Janet S. Munt Family Room, a member of the Vermont Parent Child Center Network, offers free programming to parents and their children from birth to six years old in the Old North End of Burlington, including a licensed preschool, parenting support and education groups, and connecting families to community resources through its partnerships with other social service agencies. As the winner, Reno received a $5,000 award and all expenses paid to the VAEYC conference, along with one national conference. Her program was also awarded $2,500.

The award finalist, Kathi Apgar, who has worked with young children for 35 years, said “These children come to us with rich experiences, they just don’t know how to verbalize them, they don’t know how to put them together, but they can share with you the pieces they are interested in. It’s our job to facilitate that excitement and that interest and turn it into a learning experience.” The Y Early Childhood Program for UVM Medical Center provides high-quality child care for its hospital employees who often have demanding schedules. As the award finalist, Apgar received a $1,000 reward and all expenses paid to the VAEYC conference, along with $500 to her program.

To be eligible for this year’s award, a center-based childcare professional must have had at least four stars in the Vermont STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS), the state’s voluntary recognition and improvement system for early care and learning programs. Nominees must also have been providing care for at least three years, and must serve children age birth to 5. The award selection committee was comprised of local leaders in Vermont’s early education field, including: Laurel Bongiorno of Champlain College; Mitch Golub of the Vermont Achievement Center; Bethany Hale of VAEYC; Reeva Murphy of the Vermont Department for Children & Families’ Child Development Division; Melissa Riegel-Garrett of the Vermont Agency of Education; and Betsy Rathbun-Gunn of Building Bright Futures.

For next year’s award, the Permanent Fund will be accepting nominations for high-quality home-based programs in Vermont.


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