September 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Jennifer Patton

Full Name:Jennifer Patton
Northern Illinois Chapter - Region 4

Favorite Quote: 
 “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It is easy to say, 'It's not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.' Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” 
― Fred Rogers

Who are you and what do you do? 
I am a thirty-seven year-old mother, United States Air Force Veteran, Early Childhood Teacher, and so much more. I currently am the Lead Teacher of the Infant Classroom at The Growing Place in Dekalb, Illinois. I have worked here for five years and absolutely love my co-teachers, children, and families.
How long have you been in the field?
I have been in Early Childhood since 2007; I cannot believe it has already been twelve years. I started out by having my own Family Childcare in South Dakota, which I owned for seven years. Life then brought me back home to Rochelle, Illinois and I have been working at The Growing Place ever since.
Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to make a difference, to be a voice, to advocate for our profession, and to learn as much as I can.
How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for six months.
What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am in my final courses for my Masters of Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood and am proud to say I have maintained a 4.0 GPA for the entire program.
What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
Spending time with the directors from our local community at the McCormick Leadership Connections National Conference this year. We not only learned a lot but we had a great time doing so.
What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I utilize the NAEYC website daily for information for both my courses and my classroom. There are so many tools to help teachers gather information for best teaching practices as well as tips and tricks to share with families.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
“The Day the Crayons Quit” by Drew Daywalt is my favorite children's book. This book is hilarious, engaging, and can lead to so many conversations about colors, feelings, empathy, sympathy, etc. No matter how many times I read it, it still makes me smile.
Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am a mom to a seventeen year-old son and two doggies. They keep me busy. In my free time, I play a geo-location based game called Munzee. It is a worldwide scavenger hunt in which you hunt down QR codes to scan for points. I have been playing the game for three years and have met people from across the U.S and talk to many on the other side of the world.

August 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Robin Haynes

Full Name:  Robin Haynes

Favorite Quotes:  "Be somebody that makes everybody feel like somebody”

"A teacher takes a hand, opens a mind, and touches a heart.”

"To the world you may be just a teacher, but your students you are a hero.”

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” - George 
Bernard Shaw

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a Pre-K Teacher at a public school in O’Fallon Illinois. I teach in a Preschool For All Program (PFA). I usually have blended classrooms, therefore I may have typical developing children and children with special needs. Each year varies, but I usually have two classes of twenty students. This year I am starting off with one session of Early Childhood and one PFA class.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been working in the education field more than twenty-five years. I received my Associate of Applied Science and Business degrees in 1985. I loved working with young children so much, I returned to school to complete my teaching degree. I have a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood with a Special Education Approval. I have taken more education classes and I love expanding my knowledge and professional experiences.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
AEYC is a highly recognized professional educational group. I joined to network with other professionals in the education field. I also joined to gain quality information, and how to advocate for students and teachers in various ways.

How long have you been a member?
I joined in fall of 2018.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
One of my biggest accomplishments and the one for which I am most proud is my current job as a Pre-k/Early Childhood Special Education teacher. I started and piloted the first preschool in the school district. Due to my previous Block Grant writing and work experience, I was hired soon after I was interviewed by the Superintendent and Principal. The preschool program started in a small house that was rehabbed and converted to classrooms. The classrooms had minimal to no furniture or toys and there was no current Pre-k curriculum. Each new school year, as funding was granted and economical budgeting for the program, the Pre-k program and supplies grew. The Pre-k program is going strong and now is in the fifteenth year of existence/school year!  Our program conducts yearly preschool screenings in the areas of concepts, language and motor and we use Creative Curriculum. I continue to enjoy and love working with preschool-age students. My goal as a teacher, has been and continues to be, to help all students love to learn and be successful learners.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?
I enjoy the board meetings I attend as a Delegate for Region 13. I was able to meet and talk with other early childhood professionals in a wide range of the positions. This meeting has a very highly experienced group of individuals from a variety of programs and locations around the state.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?
I find the NAEYC publications to be important and very useful. The articles spark discussion among school staff and provide interesting classroom ideas that have been used by others.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?
There are so many wonderful children’s books that it’s difficult to choose just one! Some of them that I really enjoy include are: Rufus Goes To School-Kim Griswell, Big Pumpkin-Erica Silverstein, I Am a Turkey-Jim Arnosky, and Amazing Bats- Seymore Simon. The children love hearing them. They listen so closely with glistening eyes.

Family, Hobbies, etc.
I have been married for thirty-seven years and have three grown children who have families of their own. I am very proud of my children, and they have become responsible adults who are productive members of society. I am also the proud grandma of two grandchildren! My family and friends are very important to me and I cherish them. My hobbies include camping and boating, and as time allows I also enjoy painting and crafting. We all have struggles in life, but I am thankful for everything life has given me. I feel truly blessed!

August 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Teresa Johnson

Full Name:  Teresa Johnson

Favorite Quote: 
"Choose to be happy. Make your own sunshine."

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a teacher. I teach preschool children ages 2, 3 and 4.

How long have you been in the field? 
I have been in the field twenty-two years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? 
I joined to fight for and stay up-to-date on early childhood education.

How long have you been a member?
I became a member in 2013.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? 
I am most proud of working in the same amazing NAEYC accredited center for twenty-two years! I take a lot of pride in my center and all we do as a team to teach in the field of early childhood education.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory? 
I love the annual conference and sharing ideas with fellow educators.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value? 
I really enjoy the magazine. I reference the articles often. I also enjoy the discounts we receive as members.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? 
I love so many! Right now, I would say I love all the Pete the Cat books. Who doesn't like rocking in their school shoes? LOL

Family, Hobbies, etc.? My husband and I have recently become empty nesters. We raised 3 wonderful young men and are soon expected our first grandchild! I absolutely love cooking Sunday dinners and visiting with my sons and my daughter-in-laws!

July 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Stephanie DeSpain

Full Name: Stephanie DeSpain

Favorite Quote:  To be honest, I am not sure that I have a favorite quote in the traditional sense; however, I always tell my students - "what you do, matters".   I want them to understand their value and instill this in their future students.

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Special Education, at Northern Illinois University. I teach courses related to the Early Childhood Special Education Approval (e.g., Assessment, Methods, Collaboration) for the Early Childhood and Special Education Programs. My background is in special education, with experience in diagnostics and teaching young children with developmental delays.
How long have you been in the field?
I started teaching in 2004 and moved to my first position in higher education in 2012.
Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined AEYC to better connect with other professionals and families in the field, and to ensure that I continue to be knowledgeable about best practice!
How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for about a year; however, I was a member when I was working in the field as well.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
These days I am most proud to be in a position where I can motivate and inspire our next generation of early childhood and special education teachers. My goal is to help pre-service teachers become not only great teachers, but great collaborators and school and community leaders.
What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?
I most appreciate and remember recent opportunities to connect with colleagues around the state; I enjoy how rigorous our community is and how well we support each other to continue to move the field forward.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?
I most value opportunities to attend and present at National and local conference and network with professionals and families in the field. Additionally, having access to high quality literature and research that I can reference in my own research and teaching ranks high!

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?
There are so many children’s books that I adore from my time teaching and raising my daughter; however, I think my all-time favorite is Tatty Ratty by Helen Cooper. I absolutely loved reading this story to my students and my daughter, and creating the character voices. It’s one that I fondly remember reading and being requested to read.  The book is about a little girl and her stuffed rabbit who gets lost; however, through the story we learn that the rabbit wasn’t lost at all – he was off on exciting adventures. I love the creativity, imagination, and images.

Family, Hobbies, etc.?
As a former swimmer, with a daughter who also swims, I spend much of free time cheering at meets and helping coach. My family and I also enjoy traveling and spending time together cooking and playing games.

Member Spotlight July 2019 ~ Deedee Buscher

Full Name:  Deedee Buscher

Favorite Quote:  There are three ways to ultimate success.  The first way is to be kind.  The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind." ~ Mr. Rogers

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the preschool program supervisor for the Fox Valley Park District. I’ve gone from overseeing the preschool program at one of our community centers to overseeing five locations—three in community centers, one at our Red Oak Nature Center and one at Blackberry Farm.  What do I do?  I do everything that it takes to run a top-notch preschool!
How long have you been in the field?
I’ve been in the education field for twenty-eight years with a few years break to raise my children.  I started my teaching career in the upper elementary school grades.  While my boys attended preschool at the Fox Valley Park District, I volunteered in their classroom and when they went to kindergarten I started teaching preschool. l taught for thirteen years before moving into a supervisory position in 2014.
Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I’ve always felt that it is important to keep learning about things in the education field, and Illinois AEYC has allowed me to do that.  Whether it is in a conference setting, small group meetings, or through the information that has been passed along. I also appreciate the time being able to network with people in the ECE community.
How long have you been a member?
I’ve been a member for five years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I never saw myself on the administrator’s side of education, but when life circumstances change, you have to adapt.  This position came to me at the perfect time in my life and has been an amazing learning experience for me!  As I said before, I do everything for my program.  I went from running one program to being in charge of five different locations.  We operate community center-based programs, as well as nature preschool programs.  In the five years since I moved into my new role, the district has grown to have continuity in its curriculum, our enrollment has increased greatly, and I have provided my staff with some of the most up-to-date professional development that is out there.  Professional development is important to ensure that we utilize developmentally appropriate practices and so that we can provide many students in our area an affordable and outstanding introduction to their educational career.  This past school year, my staff went through the training for the Pyramid Model: Promoting Social and Emotional Competence and Addressing Challenging Behavior.  I was told that we were one of the very first park districts to provide this training for our staff.  I am proud that we are doing all that we can to teach our kiddos about social and emotional development to help them grow to be well-rounded and successful learners.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I truly enjoy the different educational opportunities that AEYC provides.  The best workshop that I attended was presented by Joy Cooper on autism in the classroom.  Her training was so informative that I had her come and do professional development for my staff.  She brought such great insight to all of us.
What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I love the discounts they provide on their conferences but what I love most are their publications and articles that are shared.  NAEYC is an amazing wealth of information for early childhood educators.  The national conference that I attended in Atlanta a few years back was transformational for me!

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is The Kissing Hand.  I love how it shows that your parents’ love is always with you no matter where they may be.  Not only is this important for children to remember, but an important lesson for adult who’s elderly parents are ill or have passed away.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I was blessed with identical twin boys who love their mama!  They bring me joy every day! I enjoy crafting, cooking and baking, and doing thing that make others happy.  When I have the time and can afford to, traveling abroad is my hobby of choice.  I just spent two weeks traveling up the Danube with my mother seeing eastern European countries that I had never been to.  Not only did I see and learn lots of new things, but I had two weeks with my amazing mother and made memories that I will always cherish.

Member Spotlight July 2019 ~ Dr. Linda S. Anderson

Full Name:  Dr. Linda S. Anderson

Favorite Quote:
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a wife, mother, and grandmother. I am a college professor teaching at two different institutions. I am also a childcare consultant offering professional educational consulting.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been working in the early childhood field for forty-two years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
From my very first early childhood class I realized I would be in this field my entire life. I also wanted to help correct the general attitude that early childhood educators and caregivers were babysitters. With this organization I am part of a community of practice. We come together as a collaborative group to advocate, reach common goals, and develop knowledge.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for thirty-seven years. Back in 1982, when I graduated with my associate degree I asked for a NAEYC membership as a graduation present from my husband and have renewed every year. I had been told of this organization in one of my classes and knew that I would be in this field the rest of my life.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I have studied and earned various degrees in the early childhood field. Each graduation has elated me as I celebrated each accomplishment. I have owned and directed two child care centers. I have directed and taught at a laboratory college child development center leading a team into completing NAEYC accreditation. I have completed a dissertation and earned the title of Doctor of Education. I have written and published an article in Young Children magazine. With this love of early childhood, I continue to teach future teachers Pre-K to 12th grade.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?
I would have to say the conferences are my favorite times. The conferences are so much fun. I reconnect with colleagues and always take away new ideas. I have presented my ideas and always find the conversations stimulating.
 What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?
I love receiving the new resources to keep up with our evolving field. When I use the old resources, it is like greeting old friends.  I also enjoy the fellowship with a group of like-minded individuals and lifelong learning,

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?
This is the hardest question yet! I was introduced to Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag, a Newbury Medal Nominee in 1929, early into my career and it still remains one of my favorites. It teaches the possibilities of number and the caring of others. It is the oldest American picture book still in print.

Family, Hobbies, etc.?
I am celebrating fifty years of marriage (to the same man) in August. I have two sons who are musicians and who have each married wonderful women. My favorite way to spend time is with my six grandchildren. They continue to teach me about children with every encounter. My husband and I love to travel and often include our nine-year-old Yorkie.  I love reading and usually read a few books each month. I belong to two book clubs and love discussing each book with a delightful group of women and colleagues. I serve on a board for a chapter of the American Association of University Women, which is a philanthropic organization supporting girls and women around the world. I am also writing a memoir of my mother’s life.

June 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Laurie Rhodes

Full Name: Laurie Rhodes

Favorite Quote:  “Every child needs one adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her” – Urie Bronfenbrenner

Who are you and what do you do? 
I am the director of Lincoln Land Community College (LLCC) Child Development Center, in Springfield, IL. I have been with LLCC for twenty-one years. I also teach adjunct in the Early Childhood Education department.   I received my Masters in Early Childhood Education from the University of North Dakota.  I have the Illinois Director Credential Level 3, ECE Credential Level 5 and ITC Level 5.

I believe it is very important to be active on a statewide level in areas that affect Early Childhood Education and its workforce. I presently serve as a tri-chair of the Financial Supports Committee on Professional Development Advisory Committee (PDAC) and have been working with the compensation committee through the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood Development throughout the past year to look at ways to tackle the compensation issue that affects Early Childhood Educators in our state.

I am a Past President of Illinois AEYC and our local chapter, Capitol Area AEYC.  I have been involved with many (some years maybe even every) tasks related to the state conference throughout the past twenty years.  Last year was the first year that I just attended the conference as an attendee and it was such a strange feeling for me!!!!

How long have you been in the field? 
I have been in the early childhood field for over forty years (that sounds like I am really old!!)  I have been a classroom aide, teacher, family child care provider, assistant director and director.  I have worked in Head Start, for profit and not for profit centers.  I believe this provides me with a good understanding of the challenges ECE providers face in our state.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
Many years ago, I joined Illinois AEYC so I could get a discount on my conference fees, but this has evolved throughout the years.  I now join for so many reasons – publications and resources; to be part of a larger voice that advocates for young children, their families and those who work with them; for continued learning opportunities about the latest advancements in ECE;  and I still love to go to conferences!!!

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member of Illinois AEYC for more than twenty years and off and on before that.  I remember being a member of the Capitol Area Preschool Association (the predecessor of Capitol Area AEYC) back in the early 1980’s!

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am most proud of the recognitions of quality that LLCC Child Development Center has received throughout the years.  We have a long history with NAEYC accreditation having been accredited since almost the inception of NAEYC accreditation.  We were one of the first four star centers in our first QRS system and now maintain our Gold Excelerate Status here in Illinois. The things that I am proud of are only possible because the outstanding people that I work with at our center each and every day.  They give 100%+ each and every day to make LLCC Child Development Center a great place for children and families!!

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?
My favorite memories are behind the scenes memories associated with the conferences. Things like driving around Springfield with a car full of balloons with Tonya Frehner or a late night shopping trip to find the perfect chair for Ella Jenkins to sit in at her conference with Cindy Wall!! Attendees don’t always see the tremendous amount of work that takes place before, during and after the event.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?
Being a Comprehensive Member, I could not survive without my vast library of publications that I have amassed throughout the years.  They are always my go-to when a staff member approaches me with a concern or issue.  They provide me with information about best practice and how we can continue to enhance our program for the families we serve.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?
I love “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, so much so that my son’s name is Max!!  It speaks to me about the wonderful imagination of children, their ability to understand the world around them, and finally, the love of family when his soup is still warm!!

Family, Hobbies, etc.?
Farmer’s wife, Mom of three, Grandma of six and anybody who knows me knows that on any given weekend you will find me on the water at Lake Shelbyville!!!

June 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Jared Hennen

Full Name:  Jared Hennen

Favorite Quote:  “ I think it’s very important — no matter what you may do professionally — to keep alive some of the healthy interests of your youth.  Children’s play is not just kids’ stuff.  Children’s play is rather the stuff of most future inventions.” - Mr. Rogers

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an early childhood specialist with Chicago Public Schools. I help to expand access to quality preschool programming and aid in the professional development of school based administrators and teachers!

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field ten years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
The resources! It is often hard to find the tools you need in Early Childhood, as most school districts do not show much focus.

How long have you been a member? 
I have been a member off and on since 2011.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I won a teaching award my first year teaching Kindergarten!  I opened my first school’s first preschool program.  I have been able to present at numerous city-wide and state-wide conferences for early childhood educators!

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
Getting to visit the Professional Learning Institute (PLI) and meet the Illinois AEYC leadership!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value opportunities to network and connect around best practices.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My personal fave is “And Tango Makes Three” - a developmentally appropriate way to discuss that all you need to make a family is love!

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I love to read - I have over 400 novels in my personal library!

June 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Lazetta Farnham

Full Name: Lazetta Farnham

Favorite Quote: 
“When we cast our bread upon the waters, we presume that someone downstream whose face we may never see will benefit from our action.”   ~  Maya Angelou

Who are you and what do you do?
I am currently a Parent Educator for “MRI/Bright Start Birth to 5” program in Decatur.
I am a CEIM (Certified Educator of Infant Massage) and teach classes which assist parents in building attachment with babies. I present information involving child development for parents including at “New Life Pregnancy Center” in addition to also being an appraiser for the Illinois Trainers Network and a Field Instructor for the U of I School of Social Work. I have earned a Child Care and Education degree, a BA in Child and Family Community Services, and a MEd in Early Childhood Administration from National-Louis University. I had previously been a director of a Child Development Center at a community college for twenty-nine years and taught ECE college classes for sixteen years as adjunct faculty.
How long have you been in the field? 
I have been the field over thirty-five years.
How long have you been a member? 
I honestly can’t remember! I feel like I have been a member most of my adult life.
Why did you join Illinois AEYC? 
I strongly believe in the goals, values and beliefs of what AEYC stands for and appreciate being around other professionals in the Early Childhood Education field. Working with children and families has always been my passion.
What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? 
I participated in the pilot program of the Illinois Director Credential and therefore was in the first group to receive the IDC. There were approximately fifteen of us who were honored by being presented with our credential from Barbara Bowman, one of the cofounders of Erickson Institute, in Chicago. We had been informed this was an important step in paving the way toward establishing future credentials in the Early Childhood Education field. I am amazed at how far the credentials have come since then! I eventually earned the ECE Credential, the Infant Toddler Credential, and participated in the pilot programs for both the Family Specialist Credential and the Technical Assistance Credential. In addition, I had served as a PGA (Professional Growth Advisor) and a PDA (Professional Development Advisor) and assisted other ECE professionals in working towards furthering their education and earning credentials. I had previously served as the vendor coordinator for the Prairieland Early Childhood Conference for over twenty years. I have also presented at local and state conferences including the “Annual Statewide Conference for Teachers Serving Linguistically and Culturally Diverse Students” in Oakbrook. I am currently a member of the “Illinois Association for Infant Mental Health” and have completed a class in addition to participating in two ten month Reflective Practice Groups. I am hoping to earn the Infant Mental Health Credential in the near future. Having the knowledge and background in this area has enabled me to build improved relationships with families and empower them as parents.
What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I can’t think of just one. I appreciate very much being able to network with other professionals who have so many ideas and creative thoughts to share.
What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
I enjoy reading the publications in addition to reviewing the online discussions involving specific topics.
What is your favorite children’s book and why? 
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is one my very favorite books to read to children and is a classic. I have a story puppet which can be used while telling the story and children are able to participate during story telling by “feeding” the caterpillar puppet with a variety of “food”. The children also enjoy telling the story afterwards with their own version.
Family, hobbies, etc.?
My husband and I have three sons, two who are grown and have homes of their own. Our youngest son recently graduated from high school. This was difficult to accept at first since this means I no longer have any “children” at home, but I am gradually accepting this new phase in life. I love to read, play the piano, and enjoy crafts.  I love nature and want to promote it whenever I can due to the benefits it can provide for children, I volunteer at “Rock Springs Conservation Area” with children’s activities during special events and have also volunteered with children’s activities at “Eagle Creek State Park”.

May 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Michelle Wood

Full Name:  Michelle Wood

Favorite Quote:  
"Whatever you are, be a good one."  -  Abraham Lincoln

Who are you and what do you do?
Hi there!  It’s just me, your friendly neighborhood early childhood professional and Metro East Chapter President!  I have worn many hats in the early childhood world over the years.  In my current role as an early childhood principal consultant at the Illinois State Board of Education, I oversee state funded preschool for all and  
0-3 programs.  I am also a mom to two wonderful young adults.  Ashton, my daughter is 20 and a sophomore in college.  Mayson, my son is 15 and a sophomore in high school.   They really do not know how proud they make me!  I became a widow in January after almost 22 years so adjusting to single life has not been easy!  I have a supportive group of friends, co-workers and my Metro East Chapter of Illinois AEYC group are the most compassionate individuals!

How long have you been in the field?
I have been the field of early childhood almost twenty-three years.  I began my career in childcare.  I transitioned to Head Start where I spent a majority of my career, almost thirteen years.  I worked in the classroom and as a home visitor.  I also taught state funded preschool and early childhood special education before coming to the state board just over three years ago.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
One of the reasons I joined is because I am very passionate about best practices and guiding programs to implementing developmentally appropriate practices statewide.  The resources available as a member can prove to be invaluable to someone like me who gives best practice advice to early childhood programs.

How long have you been a member?
Three years in my current capacity.  But I was a member while in college.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Currently, I am attending Walden University to obtain my Ph.D. in Early Childhood Leadership and Advocacy.  I am a current Illinois Head Start Association Board Member, Board Secretary and Region V Representative for the friends component.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory was helping to plan the Touch-A-Truck event for Week of the Young Child.  I was amazed at how many families took advantage!  It was a great event!

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?
I received a $5000 grant and a 15% tuition discount as a NAEYC member on my tuition to Walden University.  To put it in perspective, it saves me around $1000 per class for doctoral classes!  That is huge!!

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?
The Pain and the Great One by Judy Bloom – It reminds of my two kids!  Read it if you have not!

Family, Hobbies, etc.?
When I am not at work, you can catch me at home with the kids watching a movie, at a concert with friends or walking the dam at the lake in Carlyle. 

May 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Robin Dermody

Full Name:  Robin Dermody

Favorite Quote: 
"Almost all creativity involves purposeful play."

Who are you and what do you do? 
I am a wife to David and mom to three girls, Lauren, 23, Amanda, 20 and Allison, 16. Currently I coordinate the Prevention Initiative, Preschool for All, and Preschool for All Expansion ISBE grant funded programs for Harmony Emge District #175 in Belleville. The Prevention Initiative program serves families with children aged prenatal to 3 at Ellis School, Millstadt School, Mascoutah School, and Belle Valley School. The Preschool for All program has two classrooms housed at Ellis School and the Preschool for All Expansion program has one classroom housed at Ellis School and two classrooms housed at Belle Valley School. I have been working at Harmony for nineteen years and was a home visitor before coordinating the programs. I also taught second grade, sixth grade, and substituted in a variety of grades. I enjoy working with families and children and connecting them with community services.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been involved with early childhood for twenty-six years and in the field of education for thirty years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I desired collaboration with other professionals and wanted to participate in a professional organization with individuals who value early childhood education.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member two years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
While I have coordinated the grant programs at Harmony District #175, our Prevention Initiative program earned BabyTalk fidelity and our preschool program earned Gold Circle of Quality.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?
The Metro East Chapter had a great family event called Touch-a-Truck in May 2018 that was very well attended.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?
I value access to online professional resources.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?
Good Night Moon because this was a favorite bedtime story of my children.

Family, Hobbies, etc.?
Travel, reading, spending time with my family, swimming, biking.

May 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Bina Habibi

Full Name:  Bina Habibi  

Favorite Quote: 
"The way you do anything, is the way you do everything."

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Bina Habibi and I am the Director of the birth-to-five programs at The Children’s Center of Cicero-Berwyn, a non- profit organization serving Cicero, Berwyn, and other neighboring communities during the past fourteen years. In that capacity, I have been coordinating and implementing Early Head Start home visiting program for the past nine years. In addition, I serve as a scorer/consultant at National Louis University for Aim4Excellence modules. I am passionate about the following areas about in early childhood: home visiting, teaching, professional development, leadership, developing high functioning teams, assessment, coaching and training. A few of my prior highlights include teaching as an adjunct faculty at the Northeastern Illinois University; developing kindergarten readiness summer program; coordinating disability services for young children; organizing assessment for Early Reading First project at NEIU; co-authoring and authoring grants; volunteer reviewing ISBE block grant applications; and presenting at conferences on thesis research, home visiting, leadership, and other topics related to early childhood.

I hold a Doctor of Education in Ethical Leadership, from Olivet Nazarene University.  Striving for a well- rounded educational background, I completed a MA in Early Childhood Special Education at NEIU; MEd in Curriculum & Instruction at Annamalai University, India; and a MA in Child Development at Barkatullah University, Bhopal, India.  In addition, I hold an Illinois Professional License in Early Childhood; a National Director Credential from McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, participated in a leadership program for directors Taking Charge of Change (TCC); and a Non-profit Executive Education Certificate from Notre Dame and the John Maxwell Team Certified Trainer, Speaker, and Coach programs.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the early childhood field for the past seventeen years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
Joining Illinois AEYC aligns with my purpose to support children and early childhood educators. It gives a platform to keep current in the field, learn from others, and become aware of resources to become the best version of me and help others do the same.

How long have you been a member?
I have been Illinois AEYC member since 2016.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
In the first place, I am truly thankful for extensive support from my supervisors, mentors, colleagues, friends, and family that have helped my achievements possible. Further, I want to be, do, and have more in the early childhood field. Co-presenting doctoral thesis research project at the NAEYC annual conference 2017; on leadership at Sharing a vision conference 2017; on Assessment at the Illinois Head Start Association 2008; photo documentation poster at the NAEYC 2007; and Early Literacy activities and assessment at the ACEI 2007 gives me inherent joy. Recently, I presented on “Home Visiting Essentials” at the Illinois Head Start Association Annual Conference in Normal Bloomington 2019.  Delivering professional development through trainings, coaching, masterminds etc. gives innate significance as these enable me to add value to the educators. Likewise, I am proud of the yearlong nutrition project that I lead on behalf of my team that was featured on the ISBE platform for exemplary mealtime practices. Consequently, I am humbly proud of these opportunities.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?
Attending the Illinois AEYC Board Meeting in Springfield, where I met numerous like-minded people invested for the same cause of supporting early childhood field through advocacy, professional development, and public relations.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?
The NAEYC publications keep me current in the field and nourish my reading hobby that gives me immense delight and value.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?
“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd is a fiction picture book and a classic children's bedtime story. As a result, this visually appealing book captures readers’ interest with minimum text. A fiction picture book, its vivid illustrations elicits reader’s imagination, observation, and language. Notably, the illustrations expand the story; the layout and design are visually appealing to the reader, with the vivid colors and details in the images. Little rabbit says Goodnight to the items in his room before going to bed, which is realistic in children’s lives. Despite the animal character, the qualities are human like, relatable to children’s lives.

Family, Hobbies, etc.?
In short, I have been married for 22 years and have a supportive, loving spouse and a beautiful daughter who is a junior in college. I take pleasure in reading, cooking, meditation, personal development, and traveling.

April 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Dr. Diane King

Full Name:  Dr. Diane King

Favorite Quote: 
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” - George Bernard Shaw 

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Coordinator of Early Childhood Education and Education Programs at Southeastern Illinois College in Harrisburg. I oversee the AAS and AA Transfer Degree Programs and am the full-time faculty member for both degrees and the majors for ECE, Elementary, Secondary and Special Education. I serve on a number of committees related to higher education and early childhood at the state and regional level and am active in a number of professional organizations.

How long have you been in the field? 
Many years. I have had a number of rewarding positions beginning as a classroom teacher, to having a private practice as an early childhood consultant, to founding my not-for-profit educational organization, to my current position in higher education.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? 
I first joined when I was a Pre-K teacher with the SIUC Southern Region Early Childhood Program. My first year was inspiring. The Pre-K teachers and administrators flew to Washington D.C. for the NAEYC Conference. A memorable day was when we gathered on the steps of the Capitol to hear Sen. Ted Kennedy advocating for the CCBDG! 

How long have you been a member? 
I have been a member 1989 – Looks like I am having a big anniversary! 

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? 
I have served as an officer and/or board member/committee chair for the majority of my membership years. I served 4 years as President Jan. 2009 – Dec. 2013. I received our SIAEYC Heart of the Affiliate Award in 2001 and The Children’s Champion Award in 2010. I received the Friends of Young Children Award from Southeastern Illinois College in 2004 when I was their NAEYC Accreditation Mentor. I was also in the first group of Illinois AEYC SAM Mentors and the Great Expectations Teacher Mentoring program. I am proud of my work as an ECE Consultant and working with many center directors and their staffs who received NAEYC Accreditation and for those who continue to maintain their NAEYC Accreditation. Our Southern Illinois Chapter sponsors fabulous events and we continue that spirit of reaching out to our colleagues and recruiting new members in our richly diverse geographical area. 

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory? 
I was honored to receive the Illinois AEYC Children’s Champion Award in 2010. I also accompanied some of our other SIAEYC Children’s Champions for their award and recognition events. Good memories of visits to Springfield and spending time colleagues from around the state as well as with our lobbyist, Betsy Mitchell.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value? 
Publications! Young Children, Teaching Young Children, Books, Books and More Books!

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April 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Marji O'Leary

Full Name:  Marji O'Leary

Favorite Quote:  
“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass… it’s about learning to dance in the rain”.  I have a copy of this over my desk along with a photo of my sons, now 24 & 26, playing in the rain as toddlers.

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Director and a teacher at a church based preschool, FCC Weekday Preschool, in the south suburbs of Chicago.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field 40+ years as a teacher, assistant director, director and consultant at different day care centers in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I have been with Weekday Preschool 1989 – 1993 (when my children were born) and returned in 1997 when my children could come to school with me. I have been the director since 1999.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
Initially joined in the late 70’s through my position as a teacher in a day care center to attend conferences and networking events.

How long have you been a member?
On and off since about 1978.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I have really enjoyed my work at Weekday Preschool and have been fortunate to be here long enough that former preschooler students of mine are back as parents of a new generation at Weekday.  I just started a term as president of the South Suburban Chapter of Illinois AEYC and also serve on the board of NINPA – the Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association. I am passionate about getting children outside!

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?
I enjoyed the National Dialogue meetings I attended in Arlington Heights and Bloomington where I was able to meet and talk with other early childhood professionals from a variety of locations around the state and a variety of types of programs.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?
I most value the publications. The articles spark discussion with my staff at the preschool, interesting classroom ideas and I enjoy finding out about new children’s books.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? This is really hard for me to answer as there are so many excellent books to choose from. I like authors Audrey and Don Wood and also Dr. Seuss books. I like Cows Can’t Fly by David Milgrim. The illustrations are not your stereotypical roles and I like the message of thinking, or in this case painting, outside of the box. I have always been one to “Color outside of the lines” (also a good song by Tom Hunter).

Family, Hobbies, etc.?
My husband and I are empty nesters now, although both of our sons live and work close by in the Chicago area. I enjoy working outside, playing golf and taking my dog for walks in a nearby nature area. I read a lot – both for a book club I am part of and other books that catch my interest and I enjoy cooking and baking.

April 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Jordan Harling

Full Name: Jordan Michael Harling 

Favorite Quotes: “Never look down on someone unless you’re helping them up.” And “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” 

Who are you and what do you do? I am an assistant teacher at Lincoln Land Community College Child Development Center. What sets me apart from most members is that I am a male. In high school, I had a part time job helping run a before and after school kids program and also worked at a daycare. Before my senior year, I took a mission trip to an orphanage in Haiti. I had been on several other mission trips, but this one was different. I knew that children would be my future. I spent the next summer at an orphanage in Mexico. That would seal my career plans. I got an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood from Lincoln Land Community College and was offered my current job at graduation. I work at a “Gold Star” center.

How long have you been in the field? My first paid job with children was at the age of 16. I have continued in this field for the last 8 years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? I joined for the professional development it offers through its publications and conferences. I also like being able to link up with other Early Childhood Professionals.

How long have you been a member? I have been a member since 2014.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? 1) I was able to pay my way through college with a variety of scholarships. Teaching children with diverse backgrounds and ages have helped a lot. 2) I was highlighted in our college catalog showing different career paths. 3) My biggest accomplishment so far is the fact that I’ve stuck it out in an almost all women field. I am a sports fanatic and outdoorsman. There were many routes I could’ve gone, but I knew I was good with children. At the end of the day, all that really counts is that I enjoy my job.

What is your favorite AEYC memory? My favorite memory so far would be this interview. It is an honor!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? The biggest benefit of NAEYC is that it keeps our center current on important education topics.

What is your favorite children’s book and why? “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is my favorite. It is a fun book. I like using the props because the children enjoy putting all of the food into the caterpillar’s mouth. It also gets them all involved.

Family, Hobbies, etc: I am single. I am an Uncle of four nieces and nephews and they are my life. I love them with all my heart and try to spend as much time as I can with them. I own a house in Hillsboro, Illinois where I am involved in a lot of things. I shoot a lot of pool and am on two different pool leagues, I also play on a softball team. I help with an autism awareness group called TASC every month, and I also volunteer for Montgomery county cancer association. I am a sports fanatic and attend a lot of Professional sports teams: Bears, Cubs, Blackhawks, and Bulls. I love fishing, hunting, boating at the lake, and camping. Traveling around the U.S. to different beaches and spring training camps is my kind of vacation. Going abroad on mission trips are another hobby of mine.

March 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Natalie Doyle

Full Name:  Natalie Doyle

Favorite Quotes:  
What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while. - Gretchen Rubin

The next time your mind wanders, follow it for a while.  - Jessica Masterson

Who are you and what do you do?
I currently serve as the Early Childhood Program Coordinator for the Preschool for All, Preschool for All Federal Expansion, and Prevention Initiative programs at the Rock Island County Regional Office of Education.  I have worked at the ROE since 2005 beginning as a Preschool for All Teacher.  I feel incredibly fortunate to work at an agency that is supportive, collaborative, and values continuous professional growth.  I have also inadvertently discovered that I like the challenge of grant writing!
How long have you been in the field?
15 years and counting….
Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I find it invigorating to network and feel connected to other individuals and organizations across the state and Illinois AEYC provides a forum for this.  The leaders of the organization are wonderful too!
How long have you been a member?
I believe since 2008-don’t fact check me on this!!
What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am most proud of the work that our team does in collaborating with our community.  We have primarily center-based PFA and PI, along with a partnership with 2 school districts in our county.  There are a lot of moving parts since we have a total of 30 classrooms across 13 locations.  Our team has worked diligently to instill programming across a spectrum of providers. I believe we do a fairly decent job of maintaining quality care and education along with regular dialogue with our partners. I am also proud of the work that our home visitors have accomplished over the last few years.  Like many program across the state, we have had some tough situations and our Family Support Specialists never seem to waiver from their belief that all families can achieve goals and be empowered for the betterment of their children.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?
I love going to the bi-annual conference with our team.  It’s always an enjoyable time to connect with each other and network with other programs.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?
Our program finds the publications-Teaching Young Children and Young Children- to be an effective resource in providing current information to our teaching staff.  We often share and discuss articles that are contained within these periodicals.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I have two- "The Beast in the Bathtub" because I always remember my mom or dad reading this to me as a child.  "The Polar Express"-as a child I recall my grandma loving Christmas (she kept her tree up until March).  My grandparents had 10 children so I had a large number of cousins and every Christmas I always remember the mob of grandchildren crowding around her for this story to be read on Christmas Eve.
Family, Hobbies, etc.?
Well, I have three children that keep me pretty busy: Finnegan-age 7, Gia-age 5, and Charlotte-age 2.  My husband tends to be a prankster so he keeps me on my toes.  I should really probably categorize him with the kids, so Adam-age 38.  I love to read and try to find time to do so before I go to bed. I am also working to embrace some concepts of minimalism.  It’s really hard with young children, but our family works hard to donate or consign a box of items at least once a week.  We began this journey a few years back and to date we have donated or consigned close to 3,200 items!

March 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Anna L. Brothers

Full Name: Anna L. Brothers  

Favorite Quote: Walk by Faith not by Sight

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a retired school teacher, a health consultant, a Statewide Accreditation Mentor, an Illinois Trainer Network Appraiser, and the proud owner of Sweet Lassteen’s Desserts for All Occasions, home-based baking business.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field of Early Childhood education since I graduated in 1975. I have taught Head Start, State-PreK, First, Second, and Third Grade. I have an endorsement in middle school science and taught that for two years. I have a master’s in early childhood education as well as a master’s in educational administration. In the year of 2004, I started mentoring day cares to get their National Accreditation. I am not sure of the year that I became an Illinois Trainer Network Appraiser. I know I have been doing it for over four years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC when I joined an affiliated group. I taught in Chicago and we were required to be a part of Chicago AEYC. I live in the Suburbs and join the South Suburban AEYC. While at SSAEYC, I was the president and became delegate to the Illinois AEYC. I now serve on the public policy committee.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since 1975, give or take a few years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Motivational Language Arts Teacher (Appeared in the Chicago Defender); McCormick Foundation Nominee; Emerging Leader Award; Statewide Accreditation Mentor; NAEYC Validator (Assessor); Illinois Trainer Network Appraiser; Presenter at Conference; and President SSAEYC.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory was when I was a Governing Board Delegate. I really enjoyed coming in on a Friday evening, socializing and working. It gave me the opportunity to network and meet people throughout the state. Great friendships were built. I also met some famous people in the field of education. That is an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

What NAEYC benefits do you most value?
I value the accreditation process and public policy. These are very important. Families need to be aware that there is quality education out there. We need to stay up on the laws and policies of early childhood education.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite book is the Hungry Caterpillar by Ezra Keats. I love his patchwork presentation in the book and how the caterpillar turned into a beautiful butterfly in the end.

Hobbies: I have quite a few hobbies: sewing, quilting, knitting, crocheting, gardening and baking.

Family: I have my immediate family, church family, colleague family, and my sorority family. I am so blessed.

February 2019 Member Spotlight - Miranda Lin

Full Name: Miranda Lin

Favorite Quote: I have two: one is geared toward how we behave as persons and the other is about education. 

Humility is the foundation by which love manifests. By Radhanatha Swami 

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. By Malcolm X

Who are you and what do you do?   I am a professor of early childhood education at Illinois State University. I teach mostly freshmen and junior classes. I like what I am doing; I get to teach, do research and service (at various levels). 

 How long have you been in the field?  I got my first degree in the 90's so I have been around for a long time though I look younger than my age (advantage of being a vegetarian, haha). I taught preschool and kindergarten for many years but I also taught high school for a year as well prior to teaching in higher education. 

 Why did you join Illinois AEYC?   I like the mission and the enthusiasm of the members’ and board members’. I believe they are trying their best to make a difference in young children’s lives. It is so precious to see a group of professionals who are fighting for our children, the future. 

 How long have you been a member?  I have been a member with ILAEYC since 2008 when I moved here. But I have been a NAEYC member since late 90's. 

 What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?   Seeing my students’ achievements make me proud profoundly, both personally and professionally. My personal accomplishments are nothing compared to their work with young children in the classroom. Being a teacher educator is more like a hand behind the scene. I am not important; my students are important because their impacts are so influential; they determine the quality of our future. 

 What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?   When we had a social event, when members would get together. We used to have picnics in McLean County. That was fun. 

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?   Social networking. It is always nice to see what is happening in the field and the good work that our members are doing. 

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?   “Where the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak. It is a book about imagination. The story explores the complexity of children’s emotions and struggles, and their resolution. It is a quality book that is so rich with meaning. 

 Family, Hobbies, etc.?   I am still single and available (do not work hard like me is my advise, haha)!  I am a world traveler and consider myself a soul rather than this body. I like to read, write recipes, visit museums, go to concerts, do gardening and crafts, and cook for friends! 

February 2019 Member Spotlight - Melissa Dawn Coleman

Full Name: Melissa Dawn Coleman

Favorite Quote: Verse: 
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

Who are you and what do you do?: 
This is my 18th year working at Eastern Illinois University Child Care Resource and Referral. I am currently the Training and Outreach Coordinator. Previously I have been the Literacy Specialist and the Provider Services Coordinator. I love helping providers and families!

How long have you been in the field?: 24 years

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?:
To network and be more involved in the community of Early Childhood Professionals 

How long have you been a member?: 7 years

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?: 
Starting my job at EIU CCR&R I had an Associates in Child Care. I continued my education at EIU by getting a Bachelors and then my Master’s degree in Family and Consumer Sciences; all while working full time with 3 small children. Thankfully I have a great family supporting me!

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?:
Being able to read stories to children at the Festival of the Young Child for many years.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?:
Access to great resources to be able to pass on to providers and families.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?:
The Rainbow Fish…”A long way out in the deep blue sea there lived a fish…” I have this story memorized because when I started out as the Literacy Specialist I thought it would be great to read the same story at every family child care home and center in our service delivery area…the next year I changed my plans! I believe this is a great story about inclusion and why it is so important in our early childhood programs.

Family, Hobbies, etc.?:
I have been married to my husband CJ for almost 23 years. We have 3 children: Payton-19, Dalton-15, and Ashton-13. I am very involved in watching my children’s sporting events. I also like to shop and spend time with my extended family when I am not at work!

February 2019 Member Spotlight - Amy Murrin

Full Name:  Amy Murrin

Favorite Quote: My favorite quote would be any thoughtful words from Fred Rogers. I admire how aware he was of the feelings and emotions that challenge young children.

Who are you and what do you do?  I am an Infant Toddler Specialist, Curriculum Director and the Lead Head Start teacher at A-Karrasel Child Care Center in Chicago. In my roles I guide the center’s teachers with curriculum, classroom management and issues, as well as being in my own classroom full time. 

How long have you been in the field? I have been in this field for 35 years – the changes I have witnessed have been so important, exciting and challenging!

Why did you join Illinois AEYC and how long have you been a member? I have been a member of NAEYC and subsequently Illinois AEYC for most of my professional years. I joined this organization on the recommendation of my instructors from where I attained my degree in early childhood. I have always valued my membership and have often been able to look to the organization to help validate my understanding of how children learn….even when feeling pressure to deliver a less developmentally appropriate curriculum to the children. It encourages me knowing that the field’s professional organization stands behind my own beliefs.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?  The benefits I enjoy from membership would be the information available through peer relations, printed materials available to members, and now by being an active leadership committee leader with our Chicago Chapter of Illinois AEYC!

What is your favorite Children's book and why?  I love classic stories – Wynken, Blynken, and Nod; Peter Rabbit; The Secret Garden. I think we often forget these wonderful classic stories. We need to continue to encourage children from every generation to enjoy them.

Family, Hobbies, etc.?  I live with my husband and two dogs. My hobbies would be my three grandsons and one granddaughter…..

January 2019 Member Spotlight- Frances J. Green

Full Name: Frances J. Green

Favorite Quote: God does not call the Qualified; He Qualifies those He calls!

Who are you and what do you do? I’m Frances Green, a Chicago native that’s residing in Peoria, Illinois. Relocated with plans to make an impact in the early childhood field, by bringing a high-quality child-care center into the area. I am currently the director of The Salvation Army Child Care Center.

How long have you been in the field? I have professionally been in the early childhood field over twenty years. Fifteen of those years I operated my own in-home family child care program.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? I join this organization to be a part of this vital professionally growing body whose role is to help educate, personally develop and support this most important group of early learning educational (teachers or support team) foundation builders. The AEYC chapters are collaborative partners with NAEYC, therefore the training, conference, education, proven-research and data are all part of a well-established career pathway. Once I became aware and understood the significance of this initial chapter of every young child’s educational journey, I knew I was predestined to be a part of help to set the foundation that will cause them to become life-long learners and to reach their fullest potentials.

How long have you been a member? I have been a NAEYC member since 2016 and a Gateways Registry Members since 2009.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? My main professional accomplishment as a divorced mother of 3 children is to know they were watching me as a godly-Christian woman as I led by example. They all have graduated, pursued higher education, and obtained professions/careers. Both sons waited to wed before having children. I am so proud of them. My daughter (my youngest) is still pursuing her career and I look forward to witnessing her greatness.

Another professional accomplishment was to go back to school after 30 years to obtain my Master degree in Early Childhood Administration. I really challenged myself by taking an online accelerated 18 months course through National Louis University. Working from home 15 years with my family child care program, I felt that I was left behind with the current teaching and new research in the early childhood field. I was taking EC classes periodically, but I wanted more than another undergraduate degree. I wanted to take my leadership/administrative role to the next level to be accessible to more families.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory? My favorite Illinois AEYC memory was attending my first Champion Conference luncheon in Springfield, Illinois with fellow AEYC sisters. I truly enjoyed the fellowship as we traveled and discussed various pertinent issues. The restaurant had great food and the atmosphere was informal and we were all excited for the champions that had been chosen. Everyone was friendly and appeared glad to be in attendance with a group that had one common purpose.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value? The NAEYC benefits I mostly value are the easy accessible knowledge and information that’s only a fingertip away, whether online or phone call.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? My favorite Children’s book is “Harold and the Purple Crayon” by Crockett Johnson. I like this book because it help children tap into their imagination and artistic skills. After reading this book as a child, I made a book by folding paper and drawing my own illustrations. I have always been artistic.

Family, Hobbies, etc.? I am very family oriented. I am the one who plans the family gatherings and dinners. I believe anyone you hold dear is family. During the operation of my family child care program all the families were my extended families. I attended their family gatherings, children birthdays, recitals and graduations. I am from a large family of nine. Thanks to God, all eight of my siblings are still alive.

The things I enjoy doing (I may not have time to enjoy much) are quilting and precisely making the toppers; paining, cooking/baking, home decorating and watching movies during down time.

I am committed to my church and the ministries I partake in. I am a lover of music and reading.

January 2019 Member Spotlight- Becky Boerner

Full Name: Becky Boerner

Favorite Quote:  There are so many quotes that are fantastic! I would have to say that Pete the Cat has some sound advice. “It’s all Good” and “You don’t need magic sunglasses to see things in a new way. Just remember to look for the good in every day.”

Recently, I heard a quote from Teddy Roosevelt and it truly encompasses my philosophy when working with young children. “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care…”

Who are you and what do you do? I am a PreK teacher in Collinsville School District Unit 10. I work in a co-taught classroom.

How long have you been in the field? I have been in Early Childhood for almost 25 years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? I enjoy networking with other people in this field and want to stay current with what it is happening in our community.

How long have you been a member? 2 years

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? I recently completed my master’s degree and focused on Social/Emotional Development in young children.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory? When I worked for Children’s Home + Aid in Granite City, I remember attending meetings and enjoying the collaboration happening among early childhood providers.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value? I enjoy the Young Children magazine (when I have the extra time to read it that is).

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? There are so many! Love You Forever connects with me as a Mom and ALWAYS makes me cry because having a child is a different kind of love connection compared to others. Pete the Cat books have become my favorites because of the positive message they portray.

Family, Hobbies, etc.? My family consists of my husband, Chris and my 16-year-old son, Tyler. We have been married for 22 years. I enjoy going to church, leading women’s bible study groups, playing LOTS of board games with my family and watching movies.

January 2019 Member Spotlight- Amie Belcher

Full Name: Amie Belcher

Favorite Quote: There are so many of them!

Teachers who Love Teaching, Teach Children to Love Learning!” -Robert John Meehan

Who are you and what do you do? 

I am the mother of an 18-year-old daughter who will graduate high school this spring. Everything I have ever done in life has always revolved around her.

I began my college career at the age of 32, in the fall of 2013, and graduated with highest honors in December 2017, obtaining my degree in ECE/CD. I began my teaching career as a student employee for the college I attended, Illinois Central College, at the on-campus Children’s Center, and eventually became a permanent part-time teacher there. After about 1.5 years as a part-time teacher, I have accepted a full-time teaching offer there. I have been with the 2’s & 3’s preschool children for most of my time at the center, but have much experience in the 2 other classrooms with 4’s & 5’s pre-K, and a mixed ages hourly room, which is mostly utilized by the college students who need only partial-day care while attending one or two classes during the day.

I love teaching! I also LOVE learning and am a lifelong learner. I hope that I can pass my love of learning to the children as well by engaging in learning opportunities with them through experiences which are relevant to them and which they enjoy! I believe this is best achieved through a combination of nurturing social-emotional development and solid intentional engagement during PLAY!

I have always worked in restaurants since the age of 16. With taking on the role as a full-time teacher I have swapped out my 40-hour a weekend restaurant job as a kitchen supervisor (had to have health insurance) at TGI Fridays, and now only working part-time there. Yes, for the past 3 years I have worked 60-70 hours a week and will now enjoy my 50-60-hour work weeks!

How long have you been in the field?

Officially employed in the field for 3 years. Have experience with children of all ages throughout my whole life, as my mother had an unofficial daycare in our home for most of my childhood and teen years, and I babysat many children for multiple families as a teenager. I also volunteered for several years in a first-grade classroom at a local public school for which my sister teaches at.

I completed my Student Teaching at the ICC Children’s Center for which I am currently employed. I also utilized this center for all my observation and coursework requirements for my degree and even volunteered some extra time here.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?

I joined ILAEYC at first just for my employment, but have enjoyed all the social events, conferences, and most of all, networking with other ECE professionals! It is always great to be able to decompress and reflect together as professionals, even if we have never previously met, because we are all in this ECE journey together!

How long have you been a member?

I will have been a member for 3 years this coming February.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?

I do not prefer to gloat on myself as I am humble, however, I have accomplished some things which I reflect upon and really “wow” myself. 1) I graduated college a year ago with highest honors, something I never ever imagined possible given 10 years ago I never would have even though of attending college. 2) I have been hired and promoted multiple times by the college in which I completed my student teaching. First as a student employee, second as a permanent part-time teacher, and third as a full-time teacher. 3) Within my classroom I can provide a safe, nurturing, and stable environment for not only all children to grow, but also for a child who desperately needs this stability as we know they have experienced and witnessed trauma. Within these past 9 months with this 3-year-old, we have worked diligently with the EC behavior consultant and the family counselor to turn this young child’s life, at least at school, from uncertainty and distrust towards a more consistent and stable place of hope. We have seen this child develop from violence towards others into a loving and caring person who now shows concern for others and even offers compassion and kindness. This has been a slow progression and there have been many setbacks and regressions, but there is steady positive progress in this journey!

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?

Honestly, I do not really have favorites with anything in life as it is constantly changing and ever evolving with adding new experiences. What I have enjoyed most is the conferences and workshops where I get to meet ECE professionals other than those I work with. This provides for great networking as well as self-reflection opportunities!

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value?

The HELLO blogs! I know it seems silly, but just reading them puts my mind at ease to know that we are all going through the same stresses and trials within this profession. I really hope that I may be of assistance to someone who has questions. I also like to read everyone’s thoughts and opinions on different topics and read all of the “feel-good” stories!

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?

Again, SO many! I like to read different children’s books for a variety of different reasons. Some books I like to read to the children because I like to do the different voices, such as Sesame Street books. Other books I like because I enjoyed them as a child myself, and others because I enjoyed reading them to my daughter when she was a little girl. There are other books I enjoy reading such as the Magic Tree House collection because they are genuinely interesting to me! Then there are some books I enjoy reading because they are comical for not only the children, but to me as well, such as the Pigeon books by Mo Willems and books by Doreen Cronin. Some books are just great to read because of the message and kindness they portray such as Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side or Matt de la Pena’s Last Stop on Market Street. There really are too many great ones to narrow them down to even a top 10!!!

Family, Hobbies, etc.?

I am the mother of an 18-year-old daughter, and I have been with my husband for 16 years. We like to go for bike rides on the bike trail and long walks in our neighborhood. We also grow a small garden every year and hope to one day have time to do some of our own canning. I love to cook and bake as well as make a variety of different crafts, especially to give for gifts! I love to paint and make pottery. My sister, my daughter, and I love to paint and enjoy attending the special event paint nights around town.

December Member Spotlight- Rhonda Costa

Full Name: Rhonda Lea Costa

Favorite Quote: Life Lessons from a Butterfly
Let go of the past.
Trust the future.
Embrace change.
Come out of the cocoon.
Unfurl your wings.
Dare to get off the ground.
Ride in the breezes.
                                                  Savor the flowers.
                                                  Put on our brightest colors.
                                                  Let your beauty show.

Who are you and what do you do?  I am the director of The Caring Place, Carle Foundation Hospital’s Child Care Center. Not only do we provide child care for the employees, but we are also open to the community. Currently I serve as the President of East Central Illinois EAYC. In my personal life, my husband and I are raising his (our) two teenage grandsons who are both on the Autism Spectrum. Because I spent my life advocating for my youngest son who is also on the spectrum and my grandsons, I have become a self-made resource for others whose children are on the spectrum, and those with other special needs. I am also the Committee Chair for Boy Scouts of America Troop 1.

How long have you been in the field? I have been in the early childhood field for more than 40 years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? I joined Illinois AEYC because I wanted to be affiliated with an organization that honored children and those who have dedicated their lives to children.

How long have you been a member? I have been a member of Illinois AEYC for more than 30 years. During that time, I have served in many capacities of the local chapter, East Central Illinois AEYC as well as been the Regional Delegate on the Governing Board of Illinois AEYC for Region 9.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? When I began in this field, I was not head teacher qualified because early childhood was not my college major. Over the years, I have taken further classes and have served in the director position for over 20 years. I also opened the first last night and subsequent weekend care center in the area. My favorite accomplishment, however, is the families who have share their most precious passion with me.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory? My favorite Illinois AEYC Memory is the ongoing friendships and relationships that have developed through our board meetings and conferences.

What NAEYC Benefit do you most value? I thoroughly enjoy the timely publications that help keep me informed about the early childhood field.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? My favorite children’s book is The True Story of the Three Little Pigs because it lends itself well to being embellished during reading and it’s nice to get a different perspective on the events in the original story. Fun!

Family, Hobby, etc.? Together my husband, Mike and I have 5 adult children and 8 grandchildren. Two of the grandsons who are on the Autism Spectrum live with us. They are truly a blessing and a challenge.

My hobbies including reading, crafting, and cooking.

November Member Spotlight- Fouzia Khan


Favorite Quote: Every day, in a 100 small unseen ways, our children ask, ‘Do you hear me? Do you see me? Do I matter?’ Their behavior often reflects our response.

Who are you and what do you do? My name is Fouzia Khan. I come from a family that stands on the foundation of education. I chose to pursue my career in the field of Early Childhood Education. Since mid-1990s I have been working at the Skokie Park District as the Childcare Services Manager for the NAEYC Accredited childcare program, Tot Learning Center.

How long have you been in the field? I have been working with children (young and school-age) for almost THREE decades!

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? Collaboration and teamwork is key to gaining knowledge; which in turn lays the foundation to providing quality education. Hence, I joined Illinois AEYC.

 How long have you been a member? Over 20 years

 What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?

I helped expand Tot Learning Center program. In 1997, planned and moved the existing program to a newer, bigger location. This enabled the center to add infant/toddler care and double its licensing capacity. Guided, mentored and led the program to achieve national accreditation with NAEYC. Following this, I guided and led the program to achieve GOLD Circle of Quality through Illinois Excelerate.

In 2017-18, I was nominated to join the National SEED program to bring equity and diversity through education and self-reflection. SEED (Seeking Educational Equity & Diversity) helped me create and drive towards organizational and societal change by connecting and conversing.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory?

My favorite memory of Illinois AEYC will be in the form of gratitude! Our program was preparing for NAEYC Accreditation and we were in desperate need of help. I approached Illinois AEYC and they assigned a SAM Mentor for our program. This was extremely helpful and made our prep fun and fruitful. We appreciate the help!

November Member Spotlight- Denise Henry

Full Name: Denise Henry

Favorite Quote: I’m not sure this is my favorite, but I like this poem that makes me smile. The president of Little Egypt AEYC, Ruth Smith, gave this to me in 2002. May the light always find you on a dreary day. When you need to be home, may you find a way. May you always have courage to take a chance. And never find frogs in your underpants.

* Attributed to a middle aged Scandinavian Woman

Who are you and what do you do? I’m the Project Leader for STAR NET Region IV. I’ve been with STAR NET since 2001. Before that, I held a variety of positions: teacher, assistant, consultant, server, and ice cream scooper at Baskin Robbins! I have my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Special Education and reside in a small Southern Illinois town with my husband, two sons, and Golden Retriever, Autumn.

How long have you been in the field? I’ve been in the field for 24 years. 

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? I joined IL-AEYC to connect with other like-minded professionals across the state and to support the mission of NAEYC.

How long have you been a member? I think I joined when I started with STAR NET, so seventeen years ago.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? I’m so proud of the work I’ve been able to be a part of around inclusion. I think my whole life I’ve been working toward including children with disabilities in settings where they would be if they didn’t have a disability. It’s so rewarding to look at the data in Illinois and see that we are making progress!

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory? My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is one from the work of a subdivision. Southern Illinois AEYC held a family event at University Mall in Carbondale during Week of the Young Child one year. We had Mrs. Illinois, Kristin Melton, there in her crown and sash to speak to families and take pictures with the children. Ms. Carole of Macaroni Soup was there to do a concert. Local child care groups set up booths with games for children to play. The mall was full of happy, giggling children!

October Member Spotlight - Erin Cetera

Quote: Each of us must come to care about everyone else's children. We must recognize that the welfare of our children and grandchildren is intimately linked to the welfare of all other people's children -  Lilian Katz.

Who are you and what do you do? My name is Erin Cetera and I am an Assessor and Training Specialist for the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University.

How long have you been in the field? Over 30 years

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? One of my favorite college professors impressed upon me the importance of belonging to a professional organization to stay up-to-date in the field of early childhood education. I've been a member of NAEYC and my local chapters and affiliates ever since. 

How long have you been a member? Since college...1982? 

What are some professional accomplishments you are proud of? I directed an early childhood program that was accredited by NAEYC three times while I was affiliated with the program. I've served on countless committees and work groups to professionalize the field, and I've presented workshops and college courses to many of my colleagues over the years.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC Memory? When I nominated Alice Giordano, one of my college professors, and a dear mentor, and was able to be present when she was honored in Springfield as the Children's Champion from the DuPage Chapter. There was also a really fun IL AEYC gathering at a NAEYC conference in New Orleans!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? I look forward to every new publication, whether it's a book or periodical.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney. The message is touching and important: "You must do something to make the world more beautiful." 

Family, Hobbies, etc…..My husband and I are brand new, first time grandparents! As with many things, I thought I knew what people meant when they talked about how great this part of life could be, but now I have a much deeper understanding. When I have free time you'll find me reading, exercising, or working in the garden.

August Member Spotlight - Blakely Bundy

Quote: Maybe this resonates with me now because of the times we are living in."When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers -- so many caring people in this world." - Mister Rogers

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Blakely Bundy. Since January 2016, I have been Co-Director of a national early childhood advocacy organization, Defending the Early Years, based in Boston. Between 1989 and 2014, I was the Executive Director of The Alliance for Early Childhood, which provided support and services to parents and teachers of young children on the North Shore of Chicago. From 1983-1993, I was a teacher at Willow Wood Preschool in Winnetka.

How long have you been in the field? 40 plus years, starting as a student teacher at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

Why did you join ILAEYC?I joined NAEYC and its affiliates, Chicago Metro AEYC and ILAEYC, for professional development including the conferences and publications; their advocacy efforts; and for professional networking opportunities.

How long have you been a member? I joined Chicago Metro AEYC/ILAEYC in the 1980s. I served as President of Chicago Metro AEYC from 2003-2005.

What are some professional accomplishments you are proud of?

  • Reaching a national audience on early childhood advocacy topics since 2016 as the Co-Director of Defending the Early Years
  • Being instrumental in founding the Preschool-Kindergarten Summit on the North Shore of Chicago in 2014, which brings together over 200 early childhood educators to hear about the latest in early childhood research and thinking.
  • Serving as Executive Director, The Alliance for Early Childhood, 1989-2014, and growing the organization from a small one, based in Winnetka, one that serves the early childhood community on the entire North Shore of Chicago and serves as a model for successful community collaboration.
  • Serving as President of Chicago Metro AEYC, 2003-2005, and working with a diverse and wonderful, hard-working board of directors and staff, coming from all over the Chicago area.
  • Serving as Chair of Chicago Metro AEYC’s Accreditation Project, 1996-2001, and helping over 50 preschools and child care centers in low income communities to achieve NAEYC accreditation.

What is your favorite ILAEYC Memory? Presenting at the “Play in Peoria Conference” in the 1980s with my co-teacher at Willow Wood Preschool on “using the feltboard in the early childhood classroom” and realizing that there were over 300 participants in the audience! Recently, participating in the NAEYC Public Policy Forum as an ILAEYC representative.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? I still attend the annual conference each year and also serve as a facilitator of the Community Collaboration Interest Forum. I appreciate their advocacy efforts but wish that they would do even more!

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? Each Peach, Pear, Plum which allows children to find familiar nursery rhyme characters in the charming illustrations. And, of course, everyone’s favorite, Good Night Moon, for younger children, and Paddle-to-the Sea for older kids.

Family, Hobbies, etc... I have four grown kids and 11 grandkids, ranging in age from 19 years old (with two in college) to 2 months old. Nine live on the North Shore of Chicago and the other two in Boston, where I frequently travel for work. We have recently taken some amazing family trips to places including Tanzania, Scotland, and the Galapagos. Next up: Iceland! I also love to read, play golf, and be in and on the water, whether snorkeling, swimming, water aerobics, or on a boat.

August Member Spotlight - Nasser Nabhan


Quote: “Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from       serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers

Who are you and what do you do? My name is Nasser Nabhan, and I am an Assessor and Training Specialist for the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership at National Louis University.

How long have you been in the field? I have been in the field for 7 years.

Why did you join ILAEYC? ILAEYC advocates for high-quality early childhood education, and that is exactly what I am passionate about. I wanted to join a group of people in Illinois that shared in my passion for young children. ILAEYC also provides opportunities to learn and grow in the profession. We all need to support one another and ILAEYC gives us the platform and space to do so.

How long have you been a member? Only a few months, but I have been a member of NAEYC for many years.

What are some professional accomplishments you are proud of? I am proud to have been given the opportunity to teach preschool. Young children are absolutely incredible and it was an honor to be able to guide them at one of the most critical times in their lives. I consider my years of teaching the bedrock of my professional development.

What is your favorite ILAEYC Memory? I really enjoyed spending some time with ILAEYC members at NAEYC’s Public Policy Forum in Washing D.C. There are many incredibly talented and hardworking people in the organization.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? NAEYC is a place that brings everyone in the profession together and gives us a voice. Children, parents, teachers, administrators, family advocates, and researchers all have a place in NAEYC. I was recently at a wedding party and one of the lady’s told me she was a preschool teacher. We talked about the low wages and struggles of being in the field. But then my mind went immediately to NAEYC, and I was able to tell her about an organization that is advocating for her and thousands of others in the profession. She got excited about NAEYC, and I felt proud. Of course, I also love NAEYC’s magazine “Young Children” and many of their book publications have been helpful throughout my career.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? “Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business” by Esphyr Slobodkina. My mother would read this book to me when I was young. I love how the story unfolds with such playfulness. I was overjoyed when my students fell in love with the book as well.

Family, Hobbies, etc…..

In addition to my deep love for the blocks center and everything Fred Rogers, I enjoy traveling, reading, spending time with family and friends, and cheering other people on as they run long distances.

August Membership Spotlight - Aminah Weaver

Favorite Quote: Don't just teach your kids to read, teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything - George Carlin

Who are you and what do you do?My name is Aminah Weaver.  I am a retired preschool teacher.  I am now planning my retirement career which includes presenting professional development workshops, parent workshops, and being a member of The Public Pokicy Committee for ILAEYC. 

How Long have you been in the field? I have been in Early Childhood for 30 years. 

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?  I joined Illinois AEYC to give back to the profession by sharing my experiences, my knowledge, and my leadership skills.

What are some professional experiences you are most proud?  Some of the accomplishments I am proud of are going back to school to get my Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Development from Kendall College, and then earning my Illinois Directors Credential Level 2. 

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? My favorite memory of ILAEYC is attending the NAEYC Public Policy Forum 2018, in Arlington, Va. It was professional, informative, well organized, and one of the best professional development decisions I have made.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? One of the best benefits of being a part of NAEYC is being kept abreast of the latest research concerning Children and Families.

Favorite children's book? My favorite book is I love Myself by Karen Beaumont.

July Member Spotlight - Patricia Steinhaus

Quote: Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world - Nelson Mandela

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Patricia Steinhaus and I am currently a tenured professor in the Early Childhood Program at Chicago State University.

How long have you been in the field? 

I have been an early childhood professional since 1972 when I started as a teacher in a two-year old classroom at a newly opened and publicly funded center connected to a housing project in Rockford where I also served as the director for two years. I taught state prekindergarten for 10 years, worked as a principal consultant in the Early Childhood Division of Illinois State Board of Education and will be beginning my 19thyear on the faculty at Chicago State University this fall. There was a nine-year (1975-1984) period when I was home with my very young children.

Why did you join ILAEYC? 

My colleagues and I were concerned about advocacy issues in the late 1980’s. We started a chapter in the Madison/Montgomery area of the state because none of us was willing to drive to Springfield to participate in the affiliate there. I served as their first president.

How long have you been a member?  30 years

What are some professional accomplishments you are proud of?

  • Working with parents (through the local community college) to enhance their understanding of using books with their children at the prekindergarten where I taught. I wanted to do this so badly that I overcame my deep and paralyzing anxiety of leading and talking with groups of adults (at the age of 45!).
  • Publishing a curriculum book through Gryphon House with my prekindergarten colleagues.
  • Going back to school when my son went off to college to complete my terminal (PhD) degree at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign (finishing at the age of 53). I did this while working at the State Board of Education as a Principal Consultant in the Early Childhood Division when travel funds were available to visit prekindergarten programs on a regular basis. Between the course work and the program monitoring, it was the most valuable educational experience of my life.
  • Working for eight years as the primary professional development provider to the Hull House Organization’s two federal Early Reading First Grants and in doing so, working in collaboration with the grant’s literacy coaches in Head Start and Prekindergarten classrooms across the city of Chicago. The grants represented a model of what, in my humble opinion, professional development should be: college credit, and on-sight observation and coaching. It was incredibly rewarding to be a part of classrooms that transitioned to environments where children engaged in deep learning through play and really meaningful interactions with their teachers.
  • Managing a Grow Your Own Teachers Grant which supported individuals from the local community in pursuing teacher licensure at Chicago State University. The grant lasted 9 years, before it fell victim to the state budget. Some students continued on after the program ended. One of the last of the students completed her degree as a non-licensure student this spring and is returning to school this fall to pursue a degree in counseling. The grant provided financial support for tuition, books, child care and transportation. It is slowly making a come-back.
  • Serving as the Chairperson of the Literacy Development of Young Children, the early literacy interest group of the International Literacy Association (formerly the International Reading Association). The last annual symposium which I organized included David Pearson, Susan B. Neuman, and Lea McGee, three giants in the field of literacy research, such a rich dialog about literacy development! I was able to take one of my graduate students to present at the poster session segment of the event.
  • Teaching! Young and old. It brings me joy!

What is your favorite ILAEYC Memory? 

  • Attendance at the first “Play in Peoria” Conference where 5 of my prekindergarten colleagues and I shared a room and the conference. Professional development funds were in just as short supply then, as they are now! We did our first presentation and were scared to death!!
  • Serving as the Co-Chair of the State Conference in 1994 which hosted Lilian Katz, Greg, and Steve and an evening of wine and cheese event at the Old State Capitol Building, with a tour.
  • Serving as Illinois AEYC President 1998-2000, with then Treasurer Jane Thomas and President-Elect, Jan Deissler. We did the work of opening up the first state office in Springfield and hiring our first Office Manager, financed by a McCormick Tribune grant and approved in part because of the DHS Statewide Accreditation Grant that Jane and I wrote on the plane on our way to the NAEYC Advocacy Conference that April (which I think no longer exists, too bad!!) in Washington, DC.
  • Believe it or not, the Re-Affiliation Project (many of you I’m sure probably do not remember it). I was tasked as the Past President with traveling the state and meeting with each of the (then 25) affiliates to help them re-write their by-laws, apply for 503c status, talk about their missions and goals, etc. I still meet people today, nearly 20 years later, with whom I worked in that capacity. It was a heart-warming and rewarding, and hard work!
  • Participating on a panel of Past Presidents at the conference in 2016 with Jan Deissler, Lilian Katz and others. 

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 

The advocacy capacity of the organization in Illinois!

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? 

One of the courses I teach is children’s literature, so I don’t really have onefavorite. My most recent discovery is Tomas` and the Library Lady by Pat Mora, illustrated by Raul Colon. It is about a migrant family who travels to Iowa each summer to work in the fields. Tomas`, encouraged by his grandfather, gets up the courage to go to the library, one of those old Carnegie Libraries that were funded in communities all over the nation. Reading became his refuge, and reading to his family, his “calling”. It’s a very poignant story about the power of reading, developing relationships and saying goodbyes.

It’s one of my current favorites because, while I was by no means a migrant growing up, I did go to schools in eight different towns in three different states during my 13 years of public schooling and spent 4 of those years in a small town in Iowa that had a library like the one describe in the story. Reading was also my refuge. Good books speak to the reader in some way.

Family, Hobbies, etc…..

  • I have two grown children (a son and daughter) and four grandchildren, one of whom lives fewer than 10 minutes away. Lucky, lucky me!! My daughter and three-year-old granddaughter and I have spent Tuesday mornings (free for teachers day) at the Morton Arboretum this summer, enjoying the out-of-doors, the Troll Exhibit, the Children’s Section, and their library, packing a picnic lunch to eat before heading home ahead of the heat.
  • Gardening! I waited 38 years of living in different dwellings while raising a family, until nine years ago when I bought the house I live in now, to have a garden. It is my “Happy Place”. From April to November I spend as much time in it as is feasible, which easily translates to 20 hours/week during the summer months. Some of the trees and shrubs make it as beautiful in the winter as it is in the spring, summer and fall. I am so grateful for this!
  • Reading is still my (other) refuge. About 6 years ago I joined an organized book club and have become a nonfiction enthusiast. I now get to read for pleasure again – outside my profession – a sanctioned excuse to set aside a Saturday once a month to settle down in a comfortable chair to read uninterrupted for a whole day and evening!

July 2018 Member Spotlight - Vita Bates

Who are you and what do you do? 

I am currently retired. Though I am retired, I remain a member of the South Suburban Chapter of ILAEYC and serve on the board as a member-at-large. I also am part of the SAM project.

How long have you been in the field?

I began my career in early childhood as a Montessorian in 1970 and soon opened Hickory House Montessori School. After returning to school for my master’s degree, I joined the faculty at Moraine Valley Community College and there I directed the lab school and taught in the Child Care program. I also joined the South Suburban AEYC and served on the board in many capacities.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?

In 1971, I traveled to Reggio Emilia. That experience greatly influenced my work with teachers and young children. It was amazing to be there with Lillian Katz and spend time with Eileen Borghia and the rest of the delegates. It was a magical time.

What is your favorite ILAEYC Memory? 

One of the most memorable positions I held was that of representative to ILAEYC board. What an exciting time it was to be in the field and be in the company of all the movers and shakers in Illinois! Favorite memory: Attending the board meetings. I enjoyed the comradery of meeting with a glass of wine on the night before and the intense and rewarding meetings on Saturday. Driving down with Kerri Nolan was also a great time; we are life-long friends.

What are some professional accomplishments you are proud of?

One of my favorite accomplishments on the SSAEYC board included starting a Director’s Network and working with them on Accreditation. The directors encouraged each other and great friendships were formed. They still meet on a regular basis and are an important part of our mission.

When the PreK at Risk program was developed, I was privileged to be a consultant; I was also PGA for a year as we encouraged young teachers to further their education.

 What is your favorite Children’s book and why? 

One of my favorite children’s books is The Best Nest, by P.D. Eastman. For me, it heralds spring. The children love it and are on a constant lookout for birds making nests and what they need. It paves the way for many projects.

Tell us about your family and hobbies: 

I spend my free time with my family. I am blessed with 14 grandchildren and 4 great-granddaughters! If there is any time left, I knit, crochet, read and have lunch with friends.

June 2018 Member Spotlight - Jessica Frederick


“The purpose of education: To enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them, so they can become.” -Sir Ken Robinson

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jessica Frederick and I am a kindergarten teacher at Bloom Community School.

How long have you been in the field? 

7 years.

Why did you join ILAEYC? 

To stay up to date on current Early Childhood Education research and be a part of the growth of NAEYC.

 How long have you been a member? 

I have been a member for 3 years.

What are some professional accomplishments you are proud of?

I received the NAEYC Lasting Legacy Leadership scholarship two years ago and was able to attend my first NAEYC Annual Conference.

Co-presenting a seminar on the importance of risk in the early childhood classroom for two consecutive years. Last year we got to present at NAEYC’s Annual Conference, and it was amazing!

What is your favorite ILAEYC Memory? 

Presenting at the NAEYC Annual Conference and being able to have individual conversations with those who came to our session. Being an advocate for children in such an impactful way made me swell with pride.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 

Conference opportunities and getting the monthly subscription magazines.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? 

“It's Okay To Be Different" by Todd Parr. Every school year I choose this book to be our first read aloud as a class, and as a new family. I want my students to know as soon as possible how valuable they are as individuals, no matter their differences. More so, I want them to know that I see that value within each of them. This book has a great balance of humor and meaning and has always started great discussion on our very first day of school. I recently started reading this book on the last day of school too. We use that second time as a reflection on our school year and why we value each other as individuals.

Family, Hobbies, etc…..

I am married to a fantastic guy who used to be a teacher himself. We have two crazy, adorable dogs. I am currently on my 4th year of playing roller derby. People usually don't expect that since I'm fairly small (5’0) and a teacher of young children. But it is tons of fun to have my students come cheer me on and watch me play! I also love getting a good coffee or chai tea with friends and colleagues to chat about life, and usually early childhood topics as well.

June Member Spotlight - Meet Neysa Riverea

Quote: The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.’ Maria Montessori

Who are you and what do you do?  I am Neysa Rivera and I am a Kindergarten teacher with Chicago Public Schools

How long have you been in the field? I have been with CPS for 24 years.

Why did you join ILAEYC? I have always looked to NAEYC as research base for anything I needed for my classroom - best practices and what is developmentally appropriate as kids don’t change but government initiatives do. I attended the NAEYC lobby day in Washington DC where I was introduced to members from the Illinois AEYC.

How long have you been a member? 2 years

What are some professional accomplishments you are proud of?

I serve on the instructional leadership team at my school. My level of advocacy experience has always been at the school level informing my administrators, of developmental appropriate instructional practices, testing practices and school initiatives that are not appropriate for kindergarten. Last year, my colleagues and I were not happy with the Reach Teacher Evaluation Framework for evaluating kindergarten teachers. I reached out to the Chicago Teachers Union in the summer of 2016 stating the Reach Framework does not consider early childhood teacher practice for evaluation and does not include how five-year old children are able to respond to questioning and learning tasks. I was summoned to speak before a Joint Committee comprised of CPS employees and the Chicago Teachers Union. They asked me, “What do you think should be done?” I said “A panel of teachers should come together and look at each Domain and refer to our state standards and NAECY to align the Teacher Evaluation Framework with early childhood best practice”. Over the summer of 2016, I had the opportunity of working with a group of teachers from grades kindergarten to second grade and we produced an addendum for the Reach Teacher Evaluation that was released in September of 2017 district wide. I also volunteer with a mission organization “Army of the Kind” for the past five years and have traveled to Santo Domingo to teach children in an orphanage that are 2 to 3 grade levels behind.

What is your favorite ILAEYC Memory? Washington DC lobby day where I met Carol Weisheit. All the people in my group who participated were so welcoming and after witnessing them speak, felt empowered to speak to legislators as well. I was so impressed with the information they armed us with, the practice role-playing, and it helped put my insecurities aside. I felt connected to the people in the group and the legislative process.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? Anything by Robert Munch but especially Love You Foreverbecause it talks about unconditional love. Even as our family structures are changing it still applies no matter who a child’s mother figure is:mother, aunt, or even a friend.

Family, Hobbies, etc.…. I have one daughter who is 19 and we like to take beach vacations whenever we can to have that rest and read a good a book. We are so busy all the time, we need that time together.

May 2018 Member Spotlight ~ Janice Deissler

Quote: A hundred years from now it won’t matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the kind of car I drove . . . but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.

Who are you and what do you do? Jan Deissler. Retired after more than 40 years of teaching, advocacy and managing a CCR&R. Retired I am on the Board of the League of Women Voters of Greater Peoria, distribute books to K-4 students 6 times a year at an inner city school, assist with an after school tutoring program, co-chair the local Delta Kappa Gamma chapter – an honorary for women teachers, chair the Outreach Committee for our church and whatever else needs to be done.

How long have you been in the field? Since 1970 when I went to Illinois Central College to teach in the Child Development Program and developed the college’s child development center.

Why did you join ILAEYC? A Board Member at the college was attending the Midwest AEYC (I think – don’t think it was NAEYC) Conference in St. Louis and she thought I should go. Well – the rest is history. I was a conference ‘junkie’.

How long have you been a member? 46 years

What are some professional accomplishments you are proud of?

  • Charter member/founder of Heart of IL AEYC.
  • My work with the IL AEYC – secretary, Central Region VP, President twice and affiliate (now chapter) delegate to the Board
  • Chaired 2 Illinois AEYC Conferences
  • Chaired Midwest AEYC Conference twice
  • Developing the Child Care Connection CCR&R in Peoria region.
  • Chairing the first ever Outreach Committee at our church – encouraging us to minister to the families around the church as well as reach out to potential new members from all over the area.
  • Campaigning at the NAEYC Leadership Conference for Lana Hostetler to become President of NAEYC – and again when Lori Longueville became secretary.

What is your favorite ILAEYC Memory? There are so many don’t know if I can name just one. Board Meetings when Deb Cassidy was the President, having Agnes Kovacs compliment on my sharing a children’s book to open the Board Meeting – making wonderful life-long friends. Sharing wine with my friend Shirley Dean near the end of her life – we had a wonderful evening.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? I used to value the conferences, but once retired not feasible to take part in expensive events. Young Children – but again, meeting and working with nationally known early childhood professionals.

May 2018 Member Spotlight- Leslie Layman

Full Name: Leslie Layman

Favorite Quote: "Don't just teach your kids to read, teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.:

Who are you and what do you do?

I am Leslie Layman and I am the Coordinator for the Child Development Program at Harry S Truman College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. I write and teach our INCCRRA approved ECE professional development, manage our Child Development lab spaces, support with curriculum and credentialing, and also serve as adjunct faculty for Child Development courses.

How long have you been in the field? 

I took my first job as an in-home therapist for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorders in 2005. I have worked either in service to children and families or in social work since that time. I have been in my current position since 2015.

 Why did you join ILAEYC? 

Truman College was one of the first community colleges to seek and receive NAEYC Higher Ed accreditation. I became interested in ILAEYC as I began working on our curriculum and accreditation. I appreciated the idea of there being a unified voice that spoke to best practice and supported ECE professionals. I became more involved in our local organizing and now proud to be the Secretary of the Chicago Chapter of AEYC!

How long have you been a member?

Since 2016.

What are some professional accomplishments you are proud of?

I am very proud of the accessible professional development offerings that we have built out Truman College for ECE professionals. We are currently, thanks to a grant from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, partnering with Western Illinois University to provide Math Based professional development to ECE professionals. I am also quite proud to have been involved in the create of the ECE Tinker lab at Truman College. As far as we know, it is the only one of its kind in the state!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 

I appreciate hearing the voices of other practitioners through the website and the periodicals.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why? 

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (I even have it in more than one language!) I love that this book shows a child being naughty and getting into some trouble and makes it a normal part of his relationship with his mother. I also love the alliterative langue, the repetition, and the exciting illustrations.

Family, Hobbies, etc.

I love to spend time with outside with my partner and I love to exercise, especially boxing. Much of our family lives far away, so we have built a small Chicago Family and we love to spend time cooking and traveling with them.

April 2018 Member Spotlight - Moushumi Kundu

Quote: “Being with children is a passion for me. When kids come running up to me to give me hugs, that makes my day.”

Moushumi Kundu joined NAEYC just 4 months ago and has become active within the state affiliate, Illinois AEYC, as the newest board member representing Region 5. Moushumi taught elementary and middle school in India prior to coming to the United States in 1997 with her husband and her older daughter. With a degree in secondary education, she has been working at the Rock Island County Regional Office of Education, as an Instructional Coach and Family Support Specialist, in the Early Childhood Department since 2015. Before then, she has worked as a supervisor of Headstart centers at Community Action of Eastern Iowa, and had also been a substitute teacher at all grade levels in the Rock Island county. Moushumi became involved with Illinois AEYC while working on the preschool expansion program and realized the two organizations work in tandem towards the same goals. We interviewed Moushumi, read more about her below!

What Accomplishments are you most proud of?

One of the recent accomplishments, that I am proud of, was when we were awarded the “Award of Excellence”at the Leadership Conference in Wheeler, and I had the opportunity to accept the award on behalf of our team. I am also proud of having received the highest level on the Quality Rating Scale for one of my Headstart classrooms at Community Action of Eastern Iowa.
I am also proud of my husband and our two daughters. Our older daughter has finished her PhD in Neuroscience from UIUC, and has accepted a post doctoral position in Portland, and our younger daughter is a freshman in college.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?

My favorite children’s book is The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle because there is so much built into the story. It’s visually beautiful, has a sensory component, mathematical concepts, and concept building.

What are your hobbies and how do you spend your free time?

I am a voracious reader and like to read a traditional book instead of an e-reader. I also enjoy arts and craft, music and cooking, among other things. Now that our children are all grown up, I enjoy the ‘me’ time that I am able to have for myself.