October 12, 2017 (Killington, VT) — The Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children announced the third annual Early Educator of the Year Award today at the Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children (VAEYC) Annual Conference held in Killington, VT. The award winner, Cheryl “Cookie” Danyow, of Addison, was named 2017’s Early Educator of the Year. Richmond resident Ellen Kraft 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.
“Besides parents, early educators are the first teachers our children have and their work lays an important foundation at the most crucial time of development in our children’s lives,” said Permanent Fund CEO Aly Richards. “By honoring outstanding early educators like Cookie Danyow and Ellen Kraft, we are demonstrating to all Vermonters what high-quality early care and learning looks like.”
Cheryl “Cookie” Danyow has been working with children for 30 years. She’s worked in a variety of settings – from centers to homes to schools – before opening her own home-based program, Mountain Road Preschool, in Addison.
Danyow’s program includes both an indoor and an outdoor classroom; hers is the first and only Nature Explore-certified early care and learning program in Vermont. “The philosophy of my program is to provide a safe, healthy, hands-on learning environment where children can learn and explore and expand at their own pace,” Danyow said. “I feel the most important thing I can do as an early educator is to allow the children to explore their environment safely and to know that they’re loved.” As the winner, Danyow received a $5,000 award and all expenses paid to the VAEYC conference, along with one national conference.
The award finalist, Ellen Kraft, is the owner of Honeycomb Kids in Richmond. Kraft said she and her staff focus on being positive influences for the children in the program.
“The adults, we are the curriculum … Making sure we are truly worthy of imitation is a huge part of what we do,” Kraft said. “My hopes for kids who come out of my program are that they know themselves, feel comfortable in their own skin and that they have the language skills and the gross motor skills and self-regulation skills to really be successful.” As the award finalist, Kraft received a $1,000 reward and all expenses paid to the VAEYC conference.
To be eligible for this year’s award, a home-based child care 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: Geralyn Barrows, 2015 Early Educator of the Year; Laurel Bongiorno of Champlain College; Kim Buxton of VAEYC; Chloe Learey of the Winston Prouty Center; Sheila Quenneville of the Vermont Child Care Providers Association; Betsy Rathbun-Gunn of Building Bright Futures; and Stacy Weinberger of the State Board of Education.
Each year, the award alternates between honoring home-based providers and center-based providers. For next year’s award, the Permanent Fund will be accepting nominations for high-quality center-based programs in Vermont.