Awards & Grants


The Permanent Fund’s annual Early Educator of the Year award seeks to recognize excellence in the teaching of Vermont’s young children and emphasize the importance of high-quality early care and learning. The award alternates between honoring home-based and center-based programs each year. In 2018, the Permanent Fund accepted nominations for an outstanding center- or school-based child care professional who has demonstrated a commitment to quality early childhood education.

Congratulations to Melanie Zinn of Brattleboro, who was named 2018’s Early Educator of the Year! Melanie is the director of Horizon Early Learning Program in Brattleboro, VT, which she founded in 2012, then serving 6 children. Melanie expanded her program in 2015 to serve 12 children, and then re-established as a center in 2017 with the capacity to serve 24 children. Horizon Early Learning Program features multi-age classrooms and a low child-to-caregiver ratio, which allows the program to accommodate children with special needs.

Melanie has a Master’s Degree in Early Education Literacy and Language Arts. She has a strong commitment to pursuing professional development opportunities for herself and her staff to continually enhance the quality of her programming.

As the winner, Melanie received a $5,000 award and all expenses paid to the VTAEYC conference, in addition to one national conference. Her program also receives $2,500.

To be eligible for this year’s award, a child care professional had to be employed by a licensed center or school with at least four stars in the Vermont STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS). Nominees must also have been providing care for at least three years.

Past honorees include:

2017 Winner:

Cheryl “Cookie” Danyow

Mountain Road Preschool

2016 Winner:

Jackie Reno

Janet S. Munt Family Room

2015 Winner:

Geralyn (Gerri) Barrows

Discovery Hill Family Child Care and Preschool

2017 Finalist:

Ellen Kraft

Honeycomb Kids

2016 Finalist:

Kathi Apgar

The Y Early Childhood Program for UVM Medical Center

2015 Finalist:

Elsa Bosma

Puddle Jumpers


Vermont Birth to Five is working to create 500 new high-quality child care slots across the state every year from 2018–2025. Grant-making for program start-up and expansion is one pillar of this work.

Make Way for Kids

To ensure that high-quality child care programs can thrive and more families can access them, VB5 is offering short-term financial support and business coaching that supports program expansion, quality improvement, or start-up.

Who can apply:

  • Organizations, schools or agencies that currently operate or plan to operate a licensed child care/early education program.
  • Currently registered family child care programs planning to expand to a licensed program.
  • Individuals planning to open a registered family child care.
  • Organizations, schools or agencies with projects or programs that will increase the capacity of high-quality child care/early education for children ages birth through five years.

2018 grant cycle:

In 2018, Make Way for Kids will be awarding more than $450,000 in grants to 23 projects throughout the state, creating hundreds of new child care slots and enabling dozens of program to increase the quality rating of their existing slots.

Learn more about Make Way for Kids here.

Burlington Early Learning Initiative

In 2018, the City of Burlington launched its Early Learning Initiative (ELI) with the short-term goal of expanding the number of high-quality child care opportunities available in Burlington for children ages birth to three, and the long-term goal of ensuring that all Burlington children have the opportunity to succeed regardless of family income level.

To achieve the short-term goal, the City of Burlington is offering grants to increase the availability of high-quality child care for infants and toddlers through expanding or increasing the quality of existing child care or starting new high-quality child care programs. VB5 is overseeing and administering the grant program on behalf of the City of Burlington, with guidance from an advisory committee.

Who can apply:

  • Organizations or agencies that currently operate or plan to operate a licensed child care program within the city of Burlington
  • Currently registered family child care programs planning to expand to a licensed program within the city of Burlington
  • Individuals planning to open a registered family child care home in the city of Burlington

Learn more about the Burlington Early Learning Initiative here.

Pin It on Pinterest