Illinois AEYC Member Spotlights 

June 2021 Spotlight – Jennifer J Ramirez

Resides in Region 7- Joliet Chapter
Served on the Illinois AEYC Policies and Bylaws Committee

 Favorite Quote:
“Patience is not simply the ability to wait- it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.” –Joyce Meyer

Who are you and what do you do?
I currently work for the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago as the Senior Administrative Coordinator for the Early Childhood Services Programs. I have been with the YWCA for six and a half years during which time I have worked with the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (TUMMY), and our Tiny Boots Program.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the early childhood education field for over seventeen years. During which time I have worked in positions from an Assistant Teacher to an Executive Director and a Curriculum and Special Events Planner.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to stay current on information in the ECE field, to use as a resource for my current graduate degree program, and to volunteer where applicable.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member of Illinois AEYC for almost two years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
During my time in the ECE field, some of my proudest accomplishments are running a childcare center and being a teacher. I loved conducting “What Is CCAP?” and “Mandated Reporter” trainings. I am also proud of supporting the launch and growth of a new program called Tiny Boots which is aimed at providing free childcare to veterans.

More recently, I have had the pleasure of being a guest speaker on a Podcast called Early Childhood Chatter to speak about National CACFP Week. I have also served on the Illinois AEYC policies and bylaws committee.

I am a part of the ECE club at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UGAC) and represent this club on the UAGC student board. I will also be the first student to present at the UAGC Annual ECE Conference this August, where I will be giving a presentation about the importance of family engagement in the ECE classroom.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite memory of Illinois AEYC is serving on the policies and bylaws committee. Over the course of several months I had the pleasure of meeting and working with a great group of ladies, where we reviewed and updated the policies and bylaws.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The resources NAEYC offers such as Code to Ethical Conduct and Statement of Commitments have been very valuable to me as an ECE professional.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Is my favorite children’s book because I use to read it to my daughter when she was a baby. I can remember her humming along to the rhythm of the words. My second favorite book is “Blue Hat, Green Hat” (the oops book) by Sandra Boyton, because my son would hum along to this book when he was a baby.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am the proud mother of two wonderful children. I have a daughter who is a freshman in high school and a son who is in middle school. My experience in the early childhood field has supported me tremendously with raising my children. I love reading with my children and supporting them in their extracurricular activities such as band, color guard, and baseball.

June 2021 Spotlight – Jennifer Buchter

Resides in Region 10 – Spirit of Illinois Chapter
Served on the Illinois AEYC Bylaws Committee

 Favorite Quote:
“Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for a dynamic and equitable society.” – Desmond Tutu

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an Assistant Professor at Eastern Illinois University. In addition to teaching classes and supporting students, I am active in research and service at the local, state, and national level.

How long have you been in the field?
I started my first position in early care in a child care center in 1992. I have had the absolute joy of working with young children, their families, teachers, and caregivers for over twenty-eight years in child care, Head Start, early childhood mental health, child welfare, early intervention, early childhood special education, and higher education.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I have always been a member of NAEYC. I recently moved to Illinois from Las Vegas, NV and transferred my membership to Illinois. My professional and personal goals are to support the well-being of young children and their families. I can do that through active participation with Illinois AEYC and my local affiliate, Spirit of Illinois.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a NAEYC member off and on since 1993.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am so proud of my students! To see them work so hard to be able to one day make the difference in the lives of children and families is just amazing! This impact is much bigger than what any one person could do on their own.

I am also really proud of my research on inclusive practices for young children with disabilities and supporting diverse teacher candidates to support diversity and representation in early childhood professionals and leadership.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I’m pretty new and am just starting to make memories but my favorite so far was running into our local Spirit of Illinois president in the post office in her NAEYC jacket! I probably scared the daylights out of her when I excitedly screeched out “THERE YOU ARE!!!! I just moved here and am looking to connect with my local NAEYC friends!!!!” The rest is history…

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I appreciate the leadership and advocacy NAEYC provides. The Joint Position Statement on Inclusion with DEC, the DAP resources, the accreditation process, and being an advocate for young children and families in national policies are just a few of the benefits most valuable to me.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats for its impact on increasing diversity in children’s literatures.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
In addition to loving my professional work, I like to cook, go on summer road trips to learn about this great state, visit farmers markets, garden, and kayak.

June 2021 Spotlight – Cyndi Lopardo

Favorite Quote:
This is a reminder to me of the impact I have on everyone who crosses my threshold.
“… I am the decisive element in the classroom. It’s my personal approach that creates the climate. It’s my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child’s life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or dehumanized.” -Haim Ginott

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a preschool teacher in a Chicago Public School. About midway through my career, I became very interested in how young children learn math and about how primary teachers teach math. The more I learned, the more I saw the need to mathematize the preschool classroom the same way we typically fill it with language and literacy. I currently plan and facilitate workshops for colleagues in different arenas to share what I’ve learned.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been teaching preschool for thirty-one years, twenty-seven years at Onahan School. Because I’ve worked in the same community so long, I am lucky enough to have the children of former students in my classroom. I am blessed to work in a school and community I love in the grade level I love.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to connect with early childhood teachers. I found it especially helpful during the pandemic to learn about how teachers were coping and connecting with their students during this time.

How long have you been a member?
I have been an Illinois AEYC member for two years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud to be a teacher leader and mentor in my district and school. I have been a trainer in Project Approach at Kohl Museum and was one of the city wide facilitators in a three year Math Network Partnership Professional Development. I have been a presenter at NAEYC, Chicago Metro AEYC, NCTM, and for the Early Childhood, Math, and STEM departments of the Chicago Public Schools. I am proud to have earned my National Board Certification.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
One of the silver linings of the pandemic was the abundance of free NAEYC trainings I was able to access this year.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
NAEYC has always been a valued resource about what is best in early childhood education. “Young Children” always inspires me to be faithful to best practices while challenging me to try new things. I frequently share information from NAEYC’s Family Newsletter with my families. It has valuable information, ideas and tips to answer caregiver questions and concerns.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I have MANY favorite books and authors, it’s hard to name just one. Currently, I am reading Mo Willems Pigeon books with my students. I absolutely love how Pigeon’s feeling and responses mirror those of the students. It’s a great platform to talk about emotions, and they are SO much fun to read! My students always have such good ideas for what Pigeon can do in his next book. When my son was a toddler, we loved to read the Jesse Bear books by Nancy White Carlstrom. My son named his bear Jessie, so he thought the books were about him.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My husband and I have been together for thirty-five years. We have one son, who is graduating from college this June, and two cats. I love to read, ride my bike, and go for long walks with my favorite guy.

May 2021 Spotlight – Patricia Ann Twymon

Resides in Region 2- Chicago Southland

 Favorite Quote:
“Children are the result of their experiences.” – Unknown Author

Who are you and what do you do?
After twenty-eight years, I am no longer a home-based educator. Currently, I am a Senior Program Assistant with the Helen Miller Education & Training Center. My responsibilities include, planning, staffing, and curriculum development.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the Early Childhood field for twenty-eight years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because I believe in its mission, that all young children will reach their full potential, and its vision, to advance high quality learning for all children.

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

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud to have earned the Gold Circle in ExceleRate Illinois. I am also the proud recipient of the 2009 Kohl McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Award. I serve on the Professional Development Advisory Council (PDAC), and am a committee member for DCFS, Good Shepherd Center, Providers in Action, and the National Child Care Care Provider Panel.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
During my years with Chicago Chapter of Illinois AEYC, I really enjoyed participating in the conferences as both a participant and presenter.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I am an information seeker, and NAEYC is my go-to place to find useful, relevant and reliable information.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
“Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch is my favorite children’s book. I am the mother of three grown sons and if I could still rock them I would. The way the book ends is the adult son holds and rocks his mother in his arms. It’s all about unconditional love between a parent and a child.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am happily married to my husband Steven for thirty-five years. We have three wonderful sons and three delightful granddaughters.

May 2021 Spotlight – Lee Eklund

Resides in Region 15 – Southern Illinois Chapter
Serves on the Illinois AEYC Finance Committee, Public Policy Committee, & Bylaws Committee

 Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Lee Eklund I am the Director of Malones Early Learning Center, Inc. I started working in child care because my wife’s parents owned a center, and I was about to be a dad and wanted to know more about taking care of children. I always thought I would be in food services, which is what I did prior to working at the center. Once I started working with children, I decided to make a career change because I thought I could help make a difference in children’s lives.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been working in child care since 1964.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
It all started out because my mom needed a ride to the board meetings after my dad passed away. I grew not only as a professional, I also really enjoyed being engaged with helping making decisions in policies for young children’s lives.

How long have you been a member?
I have been an Illinois AEYC member fifteen years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
My professional accomplishments that I am most proud of include being awarded the Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary; being selected as a Children’s Champion from Southern Illinois Chapter of Illinois AEYC; receiving my bachelor’s degree in ECE; and earning the Directors Credential level 2, ECE Credential level 5, and Infant Toddler Credential level 5. I have served on the Southern Illinois Chapter Board as well as the Illinois AEYC Board of Directors for many years.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My most favorite memory of Illinois AEYC is when I was awarded the Children’s Champion award from Illinois AEYC.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The benefit I value from being a NAEYC member is being in the know of potential policy and or law changes on the state and federal level. My mom was a big advocate in public policy, and I have followed her footsteps.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
I don’t have any certain favorite children’s book. I do enjoy reading “Chick a Chick a Boom Boom”, because that is my granddaughter’s favorite book.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
Hobbies include hunting, snow skiing, and water skiing. I value my family time with my wife and children and make sure I put them first overall.

May 2021 Spotlight – Shamika L. Brown

Resides in Region 1- Chicago Chapter
Served on the Illinois AEYC Bylaws Committee

Favorite Quote:
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious”. – Albert Einstein

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an educator and Director at Over the Rainbow Learning Center, Inc. I also have a blog for educators called Exquisite Teaching with Social Distancing. https://www.slqczhn.org/

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because I wanted to communicate with other educators and gain access to training; continue to grow and advance my career; and to stay informed regarding all new policies and procedures.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since November 4, 2020.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Some professional accomplishments that I am proud of are that I began my career as the food manager and a teacher assistant. I decided to further my education and become a teacher. I went to Ashworth College and graduated with my Child development Associate within 3 months. I decided to continue to advance my career, I am now 5 classes away from graduating with my MS in Early Childhood Education Administrative Management and Leadership.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
My favorite NAEYC benefit is the Family Engagement resource. This resource has provided me with information to bridge the gap in my center between educators and families. It has tips and great information for parents. I also value the NAEYC Learning Lab. It has great on-line learning resources.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “I Hear a Pickle” by Rachel Isadora. This children’s book brings all five senses together. It starts with hearing and ends with being able to use all five senses with a pickle. It teaches and keeps the children’s attention and they can even experiment with a pickle after the story.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am a single parent of six children. My hobbies are arts & craft Saturdays. I love reading and finding new educational techniques and resources for educators.

April 2021 Spotlight – Beverly Cavanaugh

Resides in Region 7- Joliet Area Chapter

 Favorite Quote:
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the program manager for Joliet Junior College’s Early Childhood Center Preschool Lab.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in my current position since 1996.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to network and learn from like-minded leaders in the field. I was not disappointed.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member of Illinois AEYC for nearly forty years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of having been in my current position for nearly twenty-five years and fourteen years as owner and operator of Wee Care Home Care. I have had the privilege of seeing many of the children and families I’ve served grow and make their own way as contributing members of the community. Many of the children from my licensed child care home became students at Joliet Junior College and even a few came back to enroll their own children into the Joliet Junior College Early Childhood Center. What a gift! Those relationships and connections have been the shining jewels of my career.

I am also honored to have been chosen as an Illinois AEYC Children’s Champion, receiving “The Limit is the Sky” Award from Joliet Area Chapter of Illinois AEYC, and for all the opportunities for personal and professional growth that came as a result of working with children and families.

Bringing our program successfully through a renovation and restructuring process that resulted in a NAEYC accredited preschool lab environment is one professional accomplishment I am very proud of. Other fulfilling work and friendships came as a result of working with Gateways on the Illinois Trainers Network, various roles on the Joliet Area AEYC Chapter Board, advisory committees, local conferences, managing the CCAMPIS grant, Taking Charge of Change through the McCormick Foundation, teaching as an adjunct instructor, Little Free Libraries, Early Math Awareness through modeling with Dr. Ty Jiles and Dr. Xiaobo She. I have had a full and rewarding career in the field.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
There are so many favorite Illinois AEYC members over the years. Truly, working with amazing colleagues while on the board, planning workshops, community events during Week of the Young Child and Prevent Child Abuse campaigns, as well as the annual local conference. The planning for the conferences were possibly among my favorite memories with Joliet Area Chapter. Good people doing good work.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value the benefit of the NAEYC publications and trainings made available to members at discounted rates.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book changes with every year and every life event, season, experience, and challenge. I love children’s books and there isn’t a holiday or special occasion that doesn’t include a favorite children’s book as part of my gift. “Where the Wild Things Are”, “I Promise I’ll Find You”, “Good Families Don’t”, “The Paper Bag Princess”, “Goodnight Moon”, “The Snowy Day”, “Blueberries for Sal”, “Little Bear”, “A Bargain for Francis”……”Oh, The Places You’ll Go”…..when you open your heart and mind to sharing books.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I have a large family. I enjoy spending time with my eighteen grandchildren who range from three years of age to twenty-three. They wear me out, fill me up, and provide all the joy, love, and laughter any heart could hold.

April 2021 Spotlight – Rebecca “Becca” Dunn

Resides in Region 9 – East Central Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Don’t quit on a bad day. Embrace those days for they make the good days that much sweeter.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a mother of two wonderful boys and a beautiful baby girl. Their father/my husband and I were high school sweethearts. We have been married since 2010. I teach preschool in Tolono and lead outdoor Tinkergarten classes in Tuscola.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field since 2005. This is my fifteenth-year teaching preschool at my current position.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I have always been interested in AEYC all throughout my schooling. I had joined the Illinois AEYC Facebook group and followed information for years. With some gentle persuasion from my friend Amber, I finally joined. I am excited to be more involved in the advocacy of Early Childhood Education.

How long have you been a member?
I just recently became a member in 2021.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
My major accomplishment would have to be my schooling. I am proud to advocate learning through play and outdoor learning. Throughout my years I have helped many families navigate through some tough times with learning and development. I also built our website from scratch.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
None yet, but I cannot wait to make some great memories!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I most value the NAEYC benefit of community. Having a group of like-minded people come together is the most valuable thing a person could have.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
I have so many favorite children’s books! I would have to say right now, we enjoy “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen. This is such a great book to pretend to go on an adventure when we have all been ‘stuck’ for so long. The children can bring this book to life with their very own bear hunt. We have also pretended to go on other hunts as well! With the repetition of this book. My early readers have enjoyed sharing the story to their peers.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My immediate family consists of my husband, three children, and our cat Katana. They are my pride and joy. My favorite thing to do is spend time with them outside.

April 2021 Spotlight – Laurel Mateyka

Resides in Region 7- Joliet Chapter

 Favorite Quote:
“Play is the highest form of research.” ~ Albert Einstein

Who are you and what do you do?
I am currently serving as the principal at P.H. Miller Elementary School (grades PK-1) in Plano CUSD 88. I am also chairman of the Plano Area Alliance Supporting Student Success (PAASSS) community collaboration whose mission is to ensure that all families in the Plano area are aware of and have equitable access to services and supports that empower them to raise children that are safe, healthy, eager to learn, and ready to succeed.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field of education for over thirty years. I started my career as a middle and high school math teacher, served as an assistant principal for curriculum at Plano High School, and am in my fifth year serving as principal at P.H. Miller Elementary School. Having served in the same community for sixteen years, I am blessed to be able to have my former high school students show up as the parents of my current preschool, kindergarten, and first grade students.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to learn more about early childhood care and education, to build a strong network of early childhood advocates, and to stay up to date on trends and best practices in this field.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for five years. I joined during my first year as a primary center principal so that I could begin to understand and appreciate the needs and challenges of the early childhood community.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am very proud of our preschool program earning the Gold Circle of Quality rating from ExeleRate; opening a Family Resource Center in our community; collaborating with the Fox Valley YMCA to offer before and after care to our preschool students; hosting a monthly satellite site for our local food pantry at our school; providing Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University as part of our parent education program; and sponsoring a screening of No Small Matter to inform our community about the importance of early care and education. I am also very proud of the strong network of colleagues I’ve built in a very short time; it is with their wisdom, support, and collaboration that I’ve been able to learn and accomplish all that I have in five short years.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite memory of Illinois AEYC is accessing the free NAEYC trainings during the quarantine last year.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I absolutely love the publications, HELLO @NAEYC platform, and the many resources available to educators. I also appreciate the reputation of NAEYC and Illinois AEYC as trusted organizations in the field of early childhood and regard these groups as the ‘go to’ sources for all things early childhood.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I really love ‘Goodnight Moon’. I was a stay-at-home mother of four children between 1990 and 2000 and read this book so many times over the course of that decade that I still have the book memorized! My favorite part of the book was (and still is) having my children (now my grandchildren) find the mouse on each page. It’s always so much fun to see if they can find the mouse and then to see if they remember where it is the next time we read the story. And of course, I have to make sure to teach turn-taking when I read to more than child so that each child gets a chance to find that little rodent on the page when it’s their turn.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My husband and I have been married for 33 years. We have four adult children and two grandchildren. We have two cats and a dog and love sitting outside on our back deck and listening to classic rock at the end of the day. I like playing games with my family, baking, reading non-fiction, and walking for miles while listening to a great podcast.

March 2021 Spotlight – Jessica Stockl

Resides in Region 2
Public Policy Committee Member

 Favorite Quote:
“Be a voice, not an echo.” – Albert Einstein

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Early Childhood Manager at the Glencoe Park District. I oversee our full day school, preschool enrichment classes, and more!

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in Early Childhood for fifteen years. My first ever job was working afternoons at a full day school when I was just fourteen years old (it was legal at the time!).

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC for the local connection to other early childhood professionals.

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

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Any time I am able to provide support for another person, I feel like I have done something worthwhile.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My best Illinois AEYC memory is being a part of the Public Policy Committee. I have learned a great deal. One of my favorite aspects is listening to others in the field, as everyone has had different experiences that shape their viewpoint.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I most value the NAEYC benefit of ongoing training opportunities. They have a great deal of on demand trainings, so it’s a great resource when you are faced with a new issue and need back up.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
“There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly!” By Lucille Colandro is my favorite children’s book. I love a good, silly story. I remember the first time I was reading it to a four-year-old classroom and the teacher stopped me right before the end and whispered, “we don’t do the die part”. Death is not a subject to shy away. Our little ones face a lot at a young age and it’s our job to support and normalize these hard topics.

March 2021 Spotlight – Barbara Warmoth

Resides in Region 10 – Spirit of Illinois Chapter
Public Policy Committee Member

Favorite Quote:
“It’s always something.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I retired after forty years as Director of Charleston Community Early Learning Center in Charleston, Illinois. Prior to that, I worked seven years in public schools and three as an advocate with DCFS.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field of education and ECE fifty years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC for the professional association, a desire to gain knowledge of statewide EC and advocacy, and to represent the Spirit of Illinois Chapter of Illinois AEYC.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for approximately forty years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
My professional accomplishments include serving on several advisory boards over my fifty year career in education; several large dollar amount grant writing successes early in career at CCELC; teaching as an adjunct faculty member at EIU over a two year period; and having been honored as an Illinois AEYC Children’s Champion.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memories include serving on the governing board in various capacities over many years; getting to know various professionals throughout the state; meeting participants and vendors when helping at state conferences; and experiencing the comradery of board members.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
“If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” is my favorite children’s book. I love the way children learn to anticipate and to think sequentially.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My family consists of my son, daughter-in-law, four year old grandson, and spouse. My hobbies include reading, simple photography, crocheting, and scrapbooking/cardmaking. I also love to travel, both internationally and domestically, while experiencing the various cultures and broadening my perspectives.

February 2021 Spotlight – Laurin Atkinson

Resides in Region 3- DuPage Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

 Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Quality and Data Analytics Manager for Early Childhood Services at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. I oversee the Quality arm of the Child Care Resource and Referral for Kane and DuPage Counties. I also oversee data and ongoing monitoring for our Early Childhood Services programming.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field of early care and education, in some capacity, for more than fifteen years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to stay current on trends within the field and to connect peers in the ECE field.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a NAEYC member for over three years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of my professional growth within YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. I have held several different roles within this agency, each one better suited to my purpose and potential. In my current role, I am able to blend my two passions: data and high quality early care and education. Not only am I able to use a data mindset to improve quality throughout our service area, I am able to help others learn to use a data lens to examine the work of early childhood educators.

I am also proud to have been instrumental in the creation and launch of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago Early Childhood Ambassadors Group, a select group of leaders within the field seeking to enhance their leadership and advocacy skills. Through this group, I have built strong relationships with ECE providers and helped them to enhance their skills

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I enjoy access to print and online publications; reading current literature from the field keeps me informed.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
One of my favorites is “Daniel’s Good Day”. Although I did not read this book as a child, I read it every night to my children before bed. They all have the entire book memorized, and if I miss a page or use the wrong word, they will let me know. The story depicts a child traveling throughout his neighborhood asking people he passes what makes their day good. It’s special to me to read this book to my children because we always add different quotes and little sidebars to the storyline.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I have three children under five, so I spend a lot of time playing. I enjoy building LEGO structures, making forts, and, recently, I’ve started creating my own wooden stacking stones. I also enjoy preparing meals with my children, spending time outdoors, and starting home projects.

February 2021 Spotlight – Linda Miller-Lacy

Resides in Region 10 – Spirit of Illinois Chapter
Spirit of Illinois Chapter Contact

Favorite Quote:
“Tell me and I forget, Teach me and I remember, Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a mother, grandmother, and a retired Head Start Assistant Director of thirty-nine years. I started as a teacher aide with Head Start, became a Home Visitor for several years and then went into the office to become the Assistant Director.

Previous to Head Start, I had a child care, was a secretary for public school, and a circulation manager for a national fishing organization.

I have two grown children that have given me six beautiful grandsons. I was born and raised on a grain farm where we also raised registered Hereford cattle. I now live back in my home place since my parents passing. I live close to my children and grandsons and love having them so close. They are my life.

I have been a Sunday school teacher for twenty years and Sunday School Superintendent for twenty-five plus years. I have held many positions in my church and presently a Trustee. I am an active local township board member and Chair of a local cemetery board. I belong to our local Farm Bureau Association.

I am a two times cancer survivor and decided to retire to be able to spend more time with my family. So since retiring I have enjoyed going to baseball games last summer, enjoyed reading, and reorganizing my house and working on cleaning up the farm since being quarantined. I am looking forward to being able to travel some and be more active in church and community after quarantine ends. I firmly believe that will be soon.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field more than forty-three years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC when my Director invited me to a meeting and we held the Week of the Young Child festival. I felt it was an organization that was working for a better quality of care and education for our young children and in our state and nation.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member more than thirty years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud to have developed a tracking format for our Head Start student outcomes to show the yearly growth of the children. I set up several new Head Start centers in our program, wrote many grants for quality improvement, set up book giveaways to make sure every child had at last 3 books to keep every year, set up conferences to train staff for work in our centers, and hired qualified staff for our program. I am proud to say I left the Head Start program with a more qualified preschool than when I started.

Within our local chapter (Spirit of Illinois Chapter) of Illinois AEYC I have been very active in setting up our Week of the Young Child Festival every year where child care providers and preschools participated in giving children and families a free day of fun activities to do together in honor of their young children.

I am honored and proud to have been nominated and chosen as one of Illinois Children’s’ Champions in 2012. I am so proud to belong to NAEYC and served on the Illinois AEYC Board and our local chapter, Spirit of Illinois Chapter and be a part of improving quality in care for our young children in our state of Illinois.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I believe that my favorite memory of Illinois AEYC is all the knowledgeable and friendly people I worked with at our Board meetings and the commitment shown for the cause.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I really value all the books and trainings NAEYC offers with up to date information for the ECE field.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
I have so many favorite children’s books! One would be “The Kissing Hand” because it gives such a beautiful message to share with the young children just leaving their caregivers for their first time.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I have a wonderful family. My daughter and son-in-law have four sons; my son and daughter-in-law have two sons. I love being able to be available to attend baseball and basketball games and for whatever else they may need. The pandemic has thwarted some of the games played at this time. We had a few baseball games this last summer. I do like to read, crochet, and gardening in the summer.

February 2021 Spotlight – Nykisha Barefield

Resides in Region 3 – DuPage Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.” – Maya Angelou

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Assistant Director of Education and Support Services for Catholic Charities Diocese of Joliet – Head Start. My primary role in our program is to promote school readiness and I do that mostly by working with teachers to ensure that have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to effectively provide quality services to our young children and their families.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field eighteen years!

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to broaden my skills, to be a part of a network that further connects me to the community, and to be able advocate for early childhood development on a larger scale.

How long have you been a member?
I recently rejoined AEYC in 2019 however, I originally became a member in 2009.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of the following accomplishments:

  • Coordination of our coaching program.
  • Designed new onboarding training/orientation for teaching staff.
  • Facilitated the process of developing education procedures.
  • Graduated from the Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce Community Leadership School.
  • Worked with the local school district to receive donated libraries for five of our six sites.
  • Becoming a Trainer of Trainers for the Pyramid Mode.
  • Coordinating our program pre-service training.
  • In Process – Implementation of Early Childhood Apprenticeship Program for our division.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is participating in the “No Small Matter” event.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I enjoy the NAEYC membership discounts.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
One of my favorite children’s book is “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”. This is one of my favorites because I enjoy acting out the story and seeing the excitement on children’s faces.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I have one adult son and a puppy! I enjoy listening to music, being with my family (in any way), and close friends. I also enjoy traveling and watching a good love story. My favorite color is blue, and I celebrate my birthday (July 15th) the entire month of July! 😊

January 2021 Spotlight – Megan Gessler

Resides in Region 3- DuPage Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the motions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil. Once the emotions have been aroused – a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love – then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning. It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.” ~ Rachel Carson – The Sense of Wonder

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Early Childhood Program Coordinator for The Morton
Arboretum where I manage the Little Trees Early Learning Program.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to hone my craft and network.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member about ten years depending upon institute support for membership.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am so excited to be part of a growing movement to get children outside and engaging with nature. As founder of the Northern Illinois Nature Preschool Association (NINPA) I have seen our first national regional association grow from just a handful of members to over 250 members. And on a national
level serving on the Leadership Team for the Natural Start Alliance, we have seen the field grow to more than 550 recorded nature preschools with one in nearly every state. This means that more children have access to nature. I can’t wait to see where the future takes us in terms of finding ways for ALL children to have access to learning in nature.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I loved the opportunity to meet Claire Warden at the half day workshop at Opening Minds in 2017. What a joy to connect with others who value nature-based child led curriculum.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I love attending conferences and networking. I find value in connecting with other practitioners in a venue that allows space for organic and honest peer discussion.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
Books are to me as water is to a fish! I’m going to go with Kobi Yamada’s books as my favorite children’s books: What Do You Do With an Idea/Problem/Chance. Those three books tackle growth mindset, problem solving, and perseverance all while utilizing such beautiful representational imagery to make a big topic developmentally relatable for a young child. Fostering a growth mindset is such an important life skill that can have positive implications as a child grows into a productive and happy member of society.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
Our family loves to go camping, skiing, hiking, and swimming.

January 2021 Spotlight – Dr. Ty Jiles

Resides in Region 1 – Chicago Chapter
Member of the Public Policy & Advocacy Committee

Favorite Quote: 
I do not have any children but if you are a student of mine you will hear me say “I know you are all grown but this semester you are all my children.”

 Who are you and what do you do?
I am a first-generation college student from the south side of Chicago. I am an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education and Department Chair of Education Studies at Chicago State University

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field 18 years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
When I was in college my teacher education program was NAEYC accredited. I learned so much about the organization that I wanted to become a member so over the years I have been involved with the organization.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since 2000.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of becoming a NAEYC Commissioner! This was definitely one of the highlights of my career. The first time I went to Washington to visit the office I definitely behaved like a happy child.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memories includes the conferences!!! OMG! I always love going to the conferences. Me and my friends would meet up and have lunch together. It was more than just workshops and meetings. It was super cool awesome sauce fun!!!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I most value the NAEYC conferences and resources. I love my journals and magazines. I incorporate lots of the ideas in my teaching all the time. I actually still have a lot of them in boxes in my storage closet because some articles are too good to throw away!

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch. If you know me, you have heard me speak of my mom. I am a momma’s girl…she my bestie. So, this book reminds me of our relationship and the circle of life.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am a creative person who loves to design, decorate and plan events. I love to workout, dance, spend time with my friends and families. I love to travel too!

January 2021 Spotlight – Kadi Juris

Resides in Region 8 – McLean County Chapter
Past Region 8 Delegate
Member of the Professional Development Committee

Favorite Quote:
“Logic will get you from A to Z: ‘imagination’ will get you everywhere.”  –  Albert Einstein

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a director of a child care center in McLean County. We have ten classrooms and we are licensed for 176 children.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been the field seventeen years!

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to meet other like-minded people in our profession and to get more involved in early childhood education advocacy.

How long have you been a member?
I was a member when I first started teaching and then reconnected with the organization about two years ago.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am always proud each time our school achieves accreditation. The process is rewarding from start to finish but being able to share that accomplishment with a whole team makes me feel that I am a part of something very special.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I remember how fun some of the Illinois AEYC conferences were when I first started teaching. It was the first time I was able to meet other teachers in my area and connect over shared experiences. Those are my favorite Illinois AEYC memories.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I enjoy the NAEYC discounts that I get on books and trainings. NAEYC has so many publications, there is always something that sparks an interest or meets a need.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book that I love is “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina. I loved reading this book as a child and watching my mother act out the monkeys part. Now, I love reading it with my own children and making the same silly voices and gestures.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I live in a pretty small town with my husband and two children. We love being outside, taking walks and going on bike rides. I enjoy working with numbers, so I love Sudoku and playing card games for fun.

December 2020 Spotlight – Amanda DeFord

Region 11 Delegate
Capitol Area Chapter President & Chapter Contact
Resides in Region 11 – Capitol Area Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the current President of the Capitol Area Chapter of Illinois AEYC and Delegate for Region 11. I am a wife, a mom, a fur-mom, and I love coffee! I am the Clinic Manager and Registered Behavior Technician at Behavioral Perspective, where I also coordinate and oversee the Apple Academy program for children with autism between the ages of 2-8.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because I wanted to be a voice in the field of early childhood and I wanted a chance to network with others and make meaningful connections.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member five years!

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
The professional accomplishments I am most proud of include: getting the opportunity to be a part of the McCormick Center’s Taking Charge of Change cohort; being a part of the Autism Support of Central Illinois Board of Directors as Vice-President; representing the Capitol Area region of Illinois AEYC; and taking on the responsibility and privilege to mentor others within my company.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is working events and networking!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I always like to read the YC and TYC magazines and getting a book that always helps my classrooms in some way. Typically, Capitol Area will do a book club that revolves around a NAEYC book, which is helpful to have conversations and idea-building with other early childhood educators.

What if your favorite children’s book and why? 
My favorite children’s book is “Giraffes Can’t Dance” by Giles Andreae.  It helps children (and adults) learn that we are all unique. Gerald sees all of these beautiful dancers around him and feels inadequate, which is easy to do in our daily lives…until we realize and learn that we are all unique in our own ways and to stop comparing ourselves to others, then we will find our own brand of happiness.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I have a husband, Adam; two teenage bonus sons, Casey and
Colin; and a five year old daughter, Ireland. I love the Golden Girls, coffee, and coloring with my daughter.

December 2020 Spotlight – Reyna Munoz

Region 6 Delegate – completes term 12/2020
Resides in Region 6 – Heart of Illinois Chapter

 Favorite Quote:
“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass…. It’s Learning to Dance in the Rain.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an Early Learning Coordinator at Tazewell-Woodford Head Start. My job duties include site supervisor, supervising teachers, professional development and working with children and families.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field twenty-two years. I worked at a child care center the first couple of years and have worked at Tazewell-Woodford Head Start for twenty years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to collaborate with other professionals in the Early Childhood Field.

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

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Some of the most important accomplishments I have had is being able to see teachers, children and families grow throughout the years by supporting them and helping them to achieve their goals.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite memories of Illinois AEYC is the many times I have been able to help others in this field and the collaborations.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The NAEYC benefit I most value is sharing information and being able to collaborate with other professionals.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
“No, David!” is my favorite book because I have three boys and David shows a true description of how my boys were/are growing up, curious and high spirited. Also, no matter what, David is always loved.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I enjoy my family, learning new things about the Early Childhood Field, and sometimes scrapbooking.

 

December 2020 Spotlight – Kim Hahn

Heart of Illinois Chapter Contact & President

Resides in Region 6 – Heart of Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” – Mr. Fred Rogers

Who are you and what do you do?
This is difficult to answer at this point. In July I was looking forward to becoming the Manager of the program where I have dedicated my career to serving, but that was not to be as our program has been closed since March with no hopes of reopening until at least next fall. So technically I am the Interim Manager of a program that does not exist, though as Mr. Rogers pointed out, “the end of something is just the beginning of something else.” I have been temporarily reassigned to a different department within the Community College where my program is located. This transition has been quite eye opening and has given me a new perspective. I am also helping to redesign the childcare program to make it more sustainable in the future.

Though not directly involved in the field through my current job, I am the President of the Heart of Illinois Chapter of Illinois AEYC. This role has kept me tied to the profession and has kept me grounded in my beliefs.

How long have you been in the field?
I graduated with my associate degree in Child Development in 1996 and immediately began a position at Illinois Central College Children’s Center, where I have served until the temporary closure in March due to COVID-19.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
My teacher, mentor and friend Jan Deissler convinced me to join years ago and my boss Melanie Fleming encouraged me to stay connected through the years. It really is a great way to network and continue learning about our chosen field and to stay engaged with up-to-date information about early care and education.

How long have you been a member?
I cannot remember exactly, but pretty much most of my career. There may have been a couple of years where I lapsed, but I have been consistent for the last six to eight years at least.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
In 2014, I decided it was time to pursue my bachelor’s degree. I entered college again at the age of thirty-nine. It took me a few years to complete at a part time rate, but in 2018 I received my degree and was proud to boast a 4.0 GPA!

In 2014, I also joined the board of the Heart of Illinois Chapter of Illinois AEYC, and within a few years was named President. These accomplishments are something that I never thought would happen, but I am very proud that I was able to try and succeed.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
Participating in the Affiliate Board Meetings is something that I have enjoyed. The wealth of knowledge and experience that this group has is amazing, and I take away something new in each interaction.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
As a NAEYC Accredited program, I appreciate the resources provided in going through the accreditation process. I also enjoy the Young Child magazine with the fabulous articles.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Another difficult question, as I have different favorite books for different reasons. One of my favorite things to do is “read” books that have a tune with them. Any of the Raffi books like “Baby Beluga”, or any Isa Tripani like “Itsy Bitsy Spider” are great, because it allows me to be musical and theatrical with the children. My staff may not appreciate the sound, but the kids enjoy the production.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My parents and I bought a new house last year that is accessible for my father. We have spent the last year making small updates and are in love with our new home. We love to travel with our favorite locations being Alaska, Tennessee and Disney. This year we have spent a lot of time outdoors enjoying nature.

My new passion this year became “glamping”. My sister and her husband bought a camper and invited me on many of their journey’s. I truly enjoyed our trips and was happy to spend so much time with them before this fall and winter kept them at bay. (My sister is a nurse at a hospital and stays away for our health).

 

November 2020 Spotlight – Danette Connors

DuPage Chapter President & Contact

Resides in Region 3 – DuPage Chapter
Favorite Quote:
“In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.” – Mother Teresa
Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Vice President of Early Childhood Services at YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. I oversee our Child Care Resource and Referral, Child and Adult Care Food Programs, Preschool for All Expansion, Head Start/Early Head Start Program, and Tiny Boots programs. Our goal is to support early care and education professionals, families, and children to ensure all children have access to high quality early learning experiences.
How long have you been in the field?
This year I celebrate my twentieth anniversary with YWCA Metropolitan Chicago where I started my experience in this field.
Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to get more information and resources and stay updated on trends in early care and education. I use this information when making program decisions about and designing supports for our communities.
How long have you been a member?
I have been a NAEYC member for over a decade.
What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I have had the opportunity to serve in leadership roles at several local and statewide groups. I chaired the Illinois AfterSchool Network(IAN) Finance Committee for several years and learned a great deal about the agency. I am grateful for the insight I gained on the Before and Afterschool child care sector’s successes and challenges.
I currently serve as the President of the DuPage Chapter of the Illinois AEYC Board, which has helped me form close connections with local family child care and center providers. By working with this group, I have gained a rich understanding of child care providers’ needs in DuPage and Fox Valley.
I also currently serve on the Director’s Leadership Council of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies as well as Vice President of the Board of the Illinois Network of Child Care Resource and Referral(INCCRRA), where I work with agencies across the state of Illinois on the ever-evolving climate of child care. I have used my experience with each of these groups to amplify early care and education practitioners’ voice.
What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
Many of my favorite memories with Illinois AEYC come from serving on the DuPage Chapter board, as I have developed rich relationships from this group.
I also have a good memory from a couple of years ago where several of my colleagues and I attended the NAEYC conference. We wanted to take a group photo with all of our Illinois AEYC friends. When we lined up on the stage, we were warned we might collapse the stage because there were so many Illinois representatives. We all smiled to get the quick picture, but I remember that we rushed to get off the stage as soon as the picture snapped.
What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I enjoy being able to attend the NAEYC conference every year. It has helped me maintain an understanding of the field at the national level. It is a well-done event and I always get a lot of rich content.
What if your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. The story is about a small raccoon named Chester who is terrified because he is going off to school for the first time. His Mom eases his fears by kissing the palm of his hand. She tells the little raccoon that when he misses her, he can place the palm of his hand against his cheek and he would be filled with warm thoughts.
I read this book to my children when they were experiencing those normal fear of transitions. It helped to ease their worries and honestly helped ease mine as well.
Family, hobbies, etc.?
My husband and I have been together for twenty-one years this year. We have three adult children and have our first grandson on the way this month. I am an avid outdoors woman and love to camp, garden, hike, bike, and snowshoe. My favorite place to visit in Illinois for these activities is Southern Illinois in the Shawnee National Forest.

November 2020 Spotlight – Mary Anne Bjork

Mary Anne Bjork

Mary Anne Bjork

Northern Illinois Chapter Regional Delegate

Resides in Region 4 -Northern Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Play is the work of early childhood.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am currently serving as a school psychologist for Plano Area Special Education Cooperative.

How long have you been in the field?
This is my twenty-seventh year in public education. I have served as a school psychologist, county preschool screening coordinator, department chair and student services coordinator.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because of the commitment to inclusion and excellence in the education of young learners. The resources for early childhood educators are fantastic!

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

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am most proud of the collaborative efforts with my fellow educators on behalf of children: revising the early childhood screening & evaluation procedures and developing early childhood program eligibility guidelines and implementing the student-centered collaborative Facilitated IEP process for a
school district.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is during quarantine, TRYING to make a video of a recipe with my son for the NAEYC Week of the Young Child to be posted on our Facebook page for Tasty Tuesday. Our unsuccessful attempt resulted in much-needed laughter!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I love the resources for educators. The access to a variety of webinars has most recently become incredibly valuable.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
When my children were young, we loved any book by Ezra Jack Keats. “Whistle for Willie” was a particular favorite because of Peter’s persistent adventurous spirit and the conversations we had about how he felt trying to learn to whistle.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My husband and I have two children. We live with our two rescue dogs (a doberman and a dachshund) who run the place. Our family enjoys pretty much anything involving water. I love reading, running and a great cup of coffee!

October 2020 Spotlight – Stephanie R. Jefferson, Ph.D.

Stephanie R Jefferson, Ph.D.

Stephanie R Jefferson, Ph.D.

Resides in Region 3 - DuPage Chapter

Favorite Quote: 
There is a Ghanaian proverb that says, “The ruins of a nation begin in the homes of its people.” However, I have added that, “The strength of a nation, also begins in the homes of its people.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am in the second act of my career. Currently, I am a teacher in a Preschool Expansion classroom in Aurora. I am also preparing to start a preschool blog.

How long have you been in the field?
My career in Education has come full circle. I began in ECE in the early 1980’s. My first position was as an Assistant Teacher for a Head Start program here in Illinois. After being in the profession for six years and progressing to a Director, I left ECE to go into Higher Education. I stayed in Higher Education for over 30 years, working with programs to increase college access and retention of minority students. I just returned to ECE in 2019.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because I enjoy being part of a community focused on the development of children and families. I have participated in webinars and especially appreciate being kept up-to-date on issues.

How long have you been a member?
Back in the early 1980’s, I was a member of the Chicago Association for the Education of Young Children (CAEYC). I was introduced to the association by the Director of the Head Start Center where I worked. I enjoyed attending the conferences and receiving Young Children magazine. I renewed my membership in NAEYC a few years ago and just recently renewed my Illinois AEYC membership.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am very proud of being the first in my family to earn both a Masters (Early Childhood Education) and Ph.D. in Human and Community Development (aka Human Development and Family Studies). I am proud of my accomplishments of supporting students and families from preschool to college, creating a program to support college students with young children, and creating a retention program.

My experiences in higher education have strengthen my belief in the power of good, developmentally appropriate early childhood educational experiences. Good ECE experiences build the foundation for future educational success, prepare children for college, and to be lifelong learners. Having a solid education helps to build strong families and communities. I am looking forward to serving children and families in ECE.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I am still new to Illinois AEYC but, I am looking forward to creating my favorite memory.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
As a person just coming back into ECE, I value the professional development opportunities to grow and support the children I teach and the families to which I come in contact. I also appreciate NAEYC’s Advancing Equity Initiative.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “The Runaway Bunny” by Margaret Wise Brown. I bought the book and “Good Night Moon” when my son was born. I read it to him almost every night. The story really resonated with how I felt as a mother. Now, I buy both books to give as gifts to new parents. In fact, I gave both books to my son and daughter-in-law when they had my grandson.

Family, hobbies, etc?

I am a wife, mother of a grown son and a grandmother of an 11- month-old grandson. I enjoy crafting. I crochet and I am learning the art of Sashiko, a method of using fabric patches and decorative stitching, that was developed by the Japanese, to repair clothing.

October 2020 Spotlight – Emily Anne Reilly

Emily Anne Reilly

Emily Anne Reilly

Northern Illinois Chapter Contact

Resides in Region 4 – Northern Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Fairness does not mean everyone gets the same. Fairness means everyone gets what they need.” – Rick Riordan

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a wife, mother, and a Virgo—so I am a bit of a perfectionist, have high expectations of myself and others, and am a lifelong learner. I am also the Assistant Project Director for Illinois STAR NET Regions I and III. In that role, I am a facilitator of adult learning and reflective practices.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field 18 years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC as an undergraduate student on the recommendation of one of my child development professors to learn more about the issues and needs of the profession. I have maintained my membership over the years for the networking and advocacy.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member 19 years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
The accomplishments I am most proud of are seeing educators I have supported make a shift in their practice. As one example, an educator I supported with implementation of the Pyramid Model was able to reflect on current practices and shift their mindset from a punitive approach (and eliminated time out) to a teaching approach (and began actively teaching social and emotional skills). The other accomplishment I am proud of is while working as a Director in a University lab school program, I fought to increase the starting salary for the civil service classification the teachers were in and was successful. Educators, particularly in childcare settings are grossly underpaid—all leaders should fight for higher wages and benefits for early childhood educators.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite memories with Illinois AEYC include volunteering at conferences and being part of the restructuring process. Restructuring was a long and in-depth process—with Carol Weisheit as our leader, the governing board and members rose to the occasion and even managed to have some fun along the way.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I enjoy the NAEYC HELLO open discussion forum as it provides a platform for members from all over to connect, share ideas and problem solve issues.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
This question is hard…I have so many for various reasons. The one I will share today is “Tell Me a Tattoo Story.” I appreciate tattoos as a form of artistic expression and have seen family members be unfairly judged based upon their appearance. I adore how the authors of this book shine a positive light on tattoos and go through a journey of family history and memories by a father sharing the meaning of his tattoos with his child.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I live with my husband, three-year old, Rowan, and 13- year old puggle, Vino. I enjoy being outdoors and staying active, whether that’s biking, dancing, running or yoga. I also enjoy baking with Rowan, trying new foods, and going to concerts with my husband. I LOVE soup and could eat it every day of the year…pretty exciting stuff, I know.

October 2020 Spotlight – William Gingold

William Gingold

William Gingold

Resides in Region 9 - East Central Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Happiness is good health and a bad memory.” – Milton Berle

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an octogenarian and Holocaust survivor who immigrated to the USA in l951. I have retired three times and reinvented myself each time. Currently I direct a social entrepreneurial incubator that helps develop products and services for health and human services that can be donated once viable.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field for over fifty years, involved in health and allied health services as a clinician and teacher, researcher and administrator in the areas of pediatrics and geriatrics.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined because I wanted to maintain a professional affiliation based on my interests for parents with young children.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for about five years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of the following accomplishments:
*Nearly 50 years ago I helped to establish the first lekotek, which originated in Sweden, in the library of Fargo, North Dakota
*Established the Developmental Infant Program, using IBM card sorting machines (cerca 1975).
*Developed and implemented the Parent-Children Together Community Screening Program and services for children, ages 2.5-5.5 years.
*Developed Dr. G’s Brainworks (www.drgsbrainworks.com).
*Created Sage for Aging (www.sageforaging.com) for caregiver.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
Attending presentations on early childhood for updating and stimulation are my favorite Illinois AEYC memories.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I most NAEYC benefits I most value are the educational and networking opportunities.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “You’re Only Old Once” – Dr. Seuss. I use this book with kids and grandkids.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My wife, Phyllis of 55 years and I read extensively and enjoy creating screening and assessment instruments and intervention programs. Personally I enjoy playing racquetball and doing speed skating on ice.

September 2020 Member Spotlight – Kathy Jo Williams

Kathy Jo Williams

Kathy Jo Williams

Resides in Region 2- South Suburban Chapter

Favorite Quote:
There are many, but I do believe in Maria Montessori’s quote to “follow the child” is the most profound. “Give him what he needs to secede on life and see where he goes.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the administrator of Southwest Suburban Montessori School in Palos Park serving children ages two through Kindergarten.

How long have you been in the field?
A former first grade teacher, I stayed at home when my sons were young. My eldest began to attend Montessori at two and by the time my youngest son began there, I had fallen in love with the program and never left. That was 1981.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I always felt that AEYC was an important investment in professionalism and a way of connecting with other educators in the field and keeping abreast of issues that faced all educators of young children.

How long have you been a member?
I really don’t remember exactly when I joined, but a very long time ago. I had a friend who was an educator at a local community college as well as a Montessorian herself who encouraged (probably invited) me to join South Suburban AEYC Chapter, which is our local Illinois AEYC Chapter, .

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Besides successfully heading school, I feel one of my greatest accomplishments was mentoring young professionals as they entered the field of education (I was a field advisor for our Montessori teacher education site visiting trainees during their practicums). I also frequently volunteered as a “validator” for sites during their accreditation process by NAEYC. I always felt these were ways of “giving back” to the profession.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
There are many favorite Illinois AEYC memories but one light-hearted event stands out. The South Suburban AEYC Chapter always had a yearly appreciation dinner that I attended with my staff. They honored us for over 100 years of service, counting how long we had all been teaching together!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The NAEYC benefit I value the most is Accreditation! Although a long tedious task, it forces you to look at each aspect of your program and make sure you are the best you can be. We have held our accreditation since 1991, my first task as a new administrator. I believe we were one of the first Montessori’s in the state to obtain it.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Shel Silverstein’s book, “The Giving Tree” is one of my favorite children’s book. It holds such profound lessons that the young child understands. I always give several copies to Kindergartners at graduation.

Family, hobbies, etc?
I have two grown sons, two wonderful daughter-in-laws and two of the most delightful granddaughters you could imagine. I am so lucky that they come to school with me daily too! Free time finds me gardening, cooking, traveling and I do love to attend historical and cultural events.

September 2020 Member Spotlight – Tracy Marie Herriott

Tracy Marie Herriott

Tracy Marie Herriott

Resides in Region 1- Chicago Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a thirty-one year-old Preschool Teacher. I work in the three-year-old classroom. I teach basics and teach them how to take care of themselves.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I want to be a part of the big organization that supports the teachers and care for children.

How long have you been a member?
I joined Illinois AEYC in July 2020.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I graduated with an Associate Degree in Child Development in 2013. I have two Gateways to Opportunity credentials: ECE and Infant and Toddler Level 4.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I completed NAEYC webinars during the stay-at-home orders. I focused on how to contact the families about remote learning during COVID-19.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value the internet resources for professional development benefits to educators. I value the access for families, too.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
“Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown is my favorite children’s book. It is a good bedtime story for children to listen and to go to sleep. The bunny will see objects in the room then say goodnight to every single one of them. I like it!

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My hobbies are baking, video games, walking, and book collecting.

September 2020 Member Spotlight – David Banzer

David Banzer

David Banzer

Favorite Quote:
“In play a child is always above his average age, above his daily behavior; in play it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” – Lev Vygotsky

Who are you and what do you do?
I am finishing up a doctoral program at the University of Illinois at Chicago, focusing on early math teaching and learning. I am a university instructor, supporting early childhood teacher candidates in licensure programs and teach early childhood courses. I’m a member of the research team for Early Math Counts professional development series (earlymathcounts.org) and am developing professional development courses for Early Science Matters (earlysciencematters.org/).

How long have you been in the field?
I’ve been in the early childhood education field for thirteen years. I started in the field as a teacher assistant. I became a lead teacher while attending an alternative certification program at the University of Illinois at Chicago. After teaching preschool for eight years, I became an education coordinator and developed professional learning communities at a Head Start center before beginning to teach in higher education.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to explore the field of early childhood education on the state level and to find opportunities for connections and professional development within the state.

How long have you been a member?
I’ve been a member of Illinois AEYC for about four years and have been a NAEYC member for about eleven years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Some of my professional accomplishments that I’m proud of include presenting at the NAEYC Annual Conference in 2018, having a book chapter and research article published, and representing Illinois AEYC as a NAEYC Lasting Legacy Scholar at the 2019 NAEYC Annual Conference.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is attending an Illinois AEYC conference in Peoria. At the time my conference experiences had been only in Chicago, so it was wonderful to meet early childhood professionals from around the state.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
NAEYC journal publications are a great benefit to me. I look forward to reading Young Children when it arrives, and I think it represents current and timely articles and ideas.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
“Caps for Sale” is my favorite children’s book! It’s a wonderfully told story that is rich with opportunities to discuss math concepts such as number sense and patterns. It’s one of my favorites to read aloud with children and it always seems to captivate them as they ponder how the caps will be returned as the plot resolved.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My wife and I have two young sons, ages three and five. I enjoy bicycling, sewing, and leatherwork.

August 2020 Member Spotlight – Tracy McCowan-Marve

Tracy McCowan-Marve

Tracy McCowan-Marve

Resides in Region 7- Joliet Area Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a SAMentor for Illinois AEYC. I train and coach NAEYC accredited programs and those in pursuit of accreditation.

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

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

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of the following accomplishments:
– “Exemplary Coach of the Year” for Knowledge Universe.
– New Director’s trainer for Knowledge University.
– Developed “Celebration of Nations”, a culturally diverse program to support teachers in incorporating diversity in their classrooms.
– Author of “You See My Glory Not My Story”.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory was attending NAEYC trainings at Chicago State University for field leadership and program managers. What a wonderful opportunity to impact the leaders that impact program!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The NAEYC benefit I most value is working with the AFP (Accreditation Facilitation Project) to help improve the quality of programs and to be a part of helping every child succeed.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
“I Love you Forever” by Robert Munsch was my favorite story to read to my son. It’s a beautiful expression of a mother’s love for her son and what we pour into children will be reciprocated. Love conquers all.

Family, hobbies, etc?
I love reading, liturgical dancing and serving in multiple church ministries.

August 2020 Member Spotlight – Toni Galassini

Toni Galassini

Toni Galassini

Resides in Region 1- Chicago Chapter

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.” – Fred Rogers

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a Curriculum and Instruction Specialist with the Office of Early Childhood Education with Chicago Public Schools. In this role, I support teachers and administrators by developing district guidance and providing resources and training around instructional best practices, curriculum implementation, and understanding of assessment.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in education for twenty-seven years (almost twenty years in the classroom, two years as the PK-2nd Grade District Math Specialist, and five years in my current role).

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC when I first joined NAEYC to be a part of a professional organization and network with other professionals in the field.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since 2015 so five years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
One professional accomplishment has been the opportunity to present at the national level at NAEYC Annual 2019 – Providing Opportunities for Student Ownership: Tasks and Strategies to Develop Critical Thinking for Early Mathematicians and NAEYC Virtual 2020 – Equity Across Content Areas: How to Build a Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Classroom. I was also recently elected to the Board of Directors for the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ITCM) for Early Childhood through 6th Grade.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
It was exciting to meet other EC professionals from Illinois at the NAEYC PLI Conference last year. I also loved having the opportunity to be featured in a video as part of this year’s Illinois AEYC’s Week of the Young Child – Work Together Wednesday.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I enjoy reading NAEYC books and journals. I also watched many sessions that were part of the Virtual Institute. These are the NAEYC benefits I value the most.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is Ferdinand and the message about being yourself. We should all grab onto moments where we can “sit and smell the flowers”.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I have a two children – Marco, 24 and Gabriella, 22. I like to go on long walks, read and do jigsaw puzzles.

August 2020 Member Spotlight-Elizabeth Tsoukalas

Elizabeth Tsoukalas

Elizabeth Tsoukalas

Resides in Region 2 - South Suburban Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“It takes a BIG heart to shape little minds.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a single mother of a nine year old boy, a preschool teacher in a four-year old classroom and a college student.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because I wanted to connect with other educators in my area.

How long have you been a member?
I joined in May of this year.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
At my previous center, I was tasked with preparing our school to be QRS certified. We earned a level three certification! I am also currently taking classes towards my bachelors degree which has always been a goal of mine.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
Since I haven’t been a member long I don’t have a favorite Illinois AEYC memory yet but I’m looking forward to making many memories.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
Since I am currently in school finishing my bachelor’s degree, I appreciate having access to all of the NAEYC journals and articles on the website. This resource has been very beneficial for my homework.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I just found this book a few weeks ago called Dinosaur Yoga. It’s a great book that discusses feelings while teaching yoga.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am currently enrolled at Ashford University to earn my bachelors’ degree in Early Childhood. When I am not at work or doing homework, you can find me running around with my son. We like to workout together, we volunteer at the Salvation Army to feed those who need our help, and we like to go to the movies together. We like to stay busy so he is also in Soccer and Taekwondo.

July 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Alicia M. Gomez

Full Name:  Alicia M. Gomez

Full Name: Alicia M. Gomez

Resides in Region 1 - Chicago Chapter

Favorite Quote: 
“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, and vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as crazy, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a Bilingual Pre-kindergarten teacher for Chicago Public Schools. I teach children ages 4 & 5 in a school on the southwest side of Chicago. I love finding new and innovative ways to implement technology in my classroom. I also create a learning environment that is fun and engaging so that my students develop a love for learning. I am always looking for creative ways to spark their curiosity and trigger inquiry in my lessons.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined so that I can continue my learning in Early Childhood education. With the way the world is evolving, I want to keep up to date with changes that are taking place in early childhood. Reading the articles helps me better my practice by providing me with new strategies to use in my instruction.

How long have you been a member?
I started my membership two years ago.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud to have recently received my Master of Science Degree and an endorsement for Learning Behavioral Specialist 1 (LBS1). I am proud to have just completed the National Board Certification process. Utilizing the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has helped me analyze and reflect on my teaching so that I can be an accomplished teacher and provide my students with the instruction they need to succeed.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite memory is finding out that I had won the Member Scholarship Award! Also, when I came across the Week of the Young Child activities on Illinois AEYC website. There are so many great ideas that can be used in the classroom and as home connections to promote family engagement.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value the NAEYC educational articles because they are full of valuable information that I can use as a resource for myself and also for the families of my students.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
“The Very Hungry Caterpillar” is my favorite children’s book because I love butterflies! I read this book when introducing the life cycle of the butterfly as well as to teach quantity and sequence.

Family, hobbies, etc?
I am the oldest and have six younger brothers. I am married with four children. I enjoy traveling, reading, learning about new technology, cake decorating, and dancing.

July 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Kelly Dawn McGee

Full Name:  Kelly Dawn McGee

Full Name: Kelly Dawn McGee

Resides in Region 15 - Southern Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote: 
“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Til your good is better and your better is best.” – St. Jerome.  This became very dear to me as a mentor who owned a children’s home where I did mission work, would remind the children that while their good and better were noticed, appreciated and loved, they still believed that the children would be able to achieve even greater in life as they grew into their best. This has pushed me throughout my life.

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a teacher for preschool aged kiddos at an early learning center.

How long have you been in the field?
I have taught at this center for fourteen years, but have worked with children at church, other centers, and in orphanages since I was a teenager.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because I wanted to be a part of an organization that values the importance of children and those that provide the crucial early education of young children.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since 2018.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of the following accomplishments:

  • I initiated and implemented a program at the center where I teach, called the Kindergarten Readiness Program that focuses on the kindergarten readiness skills that children need to know prior to entering school, while ensuring that it is fun, hands-on and a thriving learning environment.
  • I applied for and was accepted to be a part of Teach Plus Kindergarten Readiness Initiative Grant this year.
  • I mentor coworkers and help train the newer staff.
  • I have been able to take a load off my employers by becoming knowledgeable of the standards and expectations that ECERS and DCFS have for room arrangement and materials accessible. I now get to set up and arrange classrooms while mentoring my coworkers.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AYEC memory was at the Southern Illinois Chapter Spring Conference in 2019. The theme was celebrating Dr. Seuss’s Birthday.  It was a ton of fun and laughs as we posed for goofy pictures and were able to take back so many of the ideas given back into the classroom.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
Of all the NAEYC benefits, I value the digital resources that are easily accessible when I am looking for something quick. I can often find a wide variety of high-quality materials that I am able to use.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
Being an avid reader that has a passion for building a love for children, I had a difficult time selecting a “favorite” book. I narrowed it down to a book that was first read to me in high school by a a youth leader at church. Love You Forever by Robert Munsch is a book that I love to read to the children as they prepare to lay down for nap. So many of the kiddos that have been a part of my class come from homes where they are lacking the love and affection that is crucial to young children. This book helps the children to calm down and relax while we sing the chorus and quietly read the rest. This book has helped to form a bond between myself and the kiddos.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am a mom of three daughters (ages 18, 17, and 14) and one son (age 13). I have four pet rabbits, and a bearded dragon.

In my free time I enjoy baking, grilling out with my friends and family, reading, watching movies, vacationing to the beach, and spending time with my kids.

July 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Debra Honegger

Full Name: Debra Honegger

Full Name: Debra Honegger

Resides in Region 8 - McLean Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity.”
– Kay Redfield Jamison

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an educator, wife, mom and friend. I am passionate about educating the whole child. Currently, I serve as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction and the Coordinator of Early Learning for Pontiac School District 429.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field of education for thirty-one years. I have served as a general education teacher, special education teacher, building administrator, teacher consultant, national speaker, instructional coach, special education director, early learning coordinator and director of curriculum and instruction.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
Illinois AEYC supports the educators through on-going professional development as well as through the advocating for young children.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member of NAEYC since I started my teaching career. I have moved to five different states and joined the state affiliation for additional support and information.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I love my time speaking with teachers across the state and nation about early learning. It is a joy to observe the commitment and the passion teachers hold for the development of our youngest learners as well as to continue to learn from these educators.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I appreciate the professional development the Illinois AEYC provides to support the early childhood efforts in the state of Illinois.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I deeply value the information NAEYC continues to provide on developmentally appropriate practices as well as their on-going commitment and leadership to serving our young children with well-designed instruction as well as the importance of building relationships with students and families.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. It shows the power of a young child and how relationships can be strong and meaningful across people of all generations.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I love to read, repurpose items and make greeting cards. I have two children and a loving husband.

June 2020 Member Spotlight – Mary L Slezak – aka Micki

Full Name: Mary L Slezak - aka Mick

Full Name: Mary L Slezak - aka Mick

Resides in Region 3- DuPage Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“What if the Hokey Pokey IS what it’s all
about?” – Unknown

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a retired educator and busy caregiver for my two year old grandson while his parents work.

How long have you been in the field?
I began teaching as a special educator in 1975. This led to a Master’s in Early Childhood Special Education and eventually to a professional commitment to a community preschool. While searching for a preschool that was “developmentally appropriate “ for my own children, I found a NAEYC accredited one! I became involved with the school as a parent and then as a teacher. I ended up teaching and learning at this stimulating place for twenty-four years!

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
Membership to Illinois AEYC was through NAEYC and was initially encouraged by (and membership dues paid by) the early childhood center where I worked. I joined to keep abreast of current research in education. It was the basic structure to build professional development upon.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member approximately twenty-six years!

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I have been an active board member of the DuPage Chapter of Illinois AEYC for ages—more than twenty years—and believe that the commitment and service of volunteers on AEYC affiliate and chapter boards everywhere is inspiring. Much thought and many hours go into planning professional development opportunities for those who serve young children and their families. Professional development is only part of the support and service affiliates and chapters give to better early childhood education.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I remember being excited and enthralled by my first NAEYC conference in Chicago. I could hardly wait to try out some of the new things I learned in the classroom!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I have always learned from the journal, Young Children. I especially like being able to access it online.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?
I like different books for different ages and stages, just as most teachers do. One particular favorite (especially for 3 & 4 year olds) is The Seven Chinese Sisters by Kathy Tucker. Each sister has a special talent and the girls are powerful figures in this tale. How wonderful to have strong girls the heroes in an adventure!

Family, hobbies, etc?
My husband and I have three adult children and three grandchildren with one more expected to arrive this summer! My hobbies used to involve travel, but due to current coronavirus situation, I have been reading, exercising, and trying to freshen up old skills at crocheting and needle point.

June 2020 Member Spotlight – Andrea Dawn Bierman

Full Name: Andrea Dawn Bierman

Full Name: Andrea Dawn Bierman

Resides in Region 10 - Spirit of Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote:
We use “Children First” at the center I co-direct, Cornerstone Christian Academy. This means exactly as stated, at Cornerstone children come first. Another favorite quote of mine is “The best teachers are those who show you where to look but don’t tell you what to see”. I love how this quote represents exactly how we want children to learn. We give them the tools they need and sit back and watch how they creatively use them.

Who are you and what do you do?
I am thirty-five years old and have three young children of my own. I have also been married for thirteen years and reside in Charleston, Illinois. I have my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Millikin University. I began my ECE journey as an after-school teacher at Cornerstone while attending college. Then I progressed to become the lead infant teacher at the same facility, while also finishing my degree. After graduating with my 4-year degree I became the Infant Toddler Child Care Specialist at Child Care Resource and Referral. After having my second child I decided to accept the Co-Director position at Cornerstone Christian Academy so I could be closer to my children and not have to work so many evenings. I have been the Co-Director for six years now.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I became an Illinois AEYC member while at CCR&R and have continued so I can stay current on ECE information and be surrounded by many ECE professionals.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member six years, I joined in July 2014.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of the following professional accomplishments:
-Along with the other director, we have completed a thematic curriculum that includes two large groups and one small group each day of the week with hands on activities for the preschool classrooms and pre-kindergarten classrooms at Cornerstone.
-I encouraged many teachers to get their ECE degrees while continuing being hands-on in the field.
-I helped coordinate grant writing for the ExceleRate grant each year. This involves hours of putting together classroom self-assessments and prioritizing grant items.
-We went from having a center licensed for thirty-seven children to now being licensed for one hundred-seventy-three children! We also added an entire school-age building that houses a large gym for all children to use.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
The Spirit of Illinois AEYC puts on an event at our local mall called Festival of the Young Child. We organize booths of community organizations and other child care centers in the area to provide hands-on activities for children. So many children benefit and look forward to this event each year.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value the professional communication between other ECE professionals as well as organizing events for children in our community. Without AEYC these events may have not been possible.

What if your favorite children’s book and why?
Honestly, there are too many favorite children’s books to list. When developing the curriculum for the preschool and prekindergarten classrooms I would typically work from children’s books. I would take children’s books about each theme and develop hands-on learning opportunities around the book. A few favorite books that I have used to develop hands-on activities for children are: “It Looks Like Spilt Milk”, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”, “The Rainbow Fish”, “The Kissing Hand”, and the list could go on forever. I love children’s books and love to cultivate an activity so that it can be even more than reading the book, but also allow for hands-on activity.

Family, hobbies, etc.? 
When I am not at work I like to run, play volleyball in a recreational league and watch my children play sports.

June 2020 Member Spotlight – Cristin Miller

Full Name:  Cristin Miller

Full Name: Cristin Miller

Resides in Region 4 - Northern Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote:  
“Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.”
 – Tom Peters

Who are you and what do you do?

I am a wife, stay-at-home mother of two, and online ESL teacher.  

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to be connected to like-minded individuals in my community.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since March of 2020.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? 
Since becoming an ESL educator, I am proud to have also received my TESOL and TEFL Certifications.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
Because I have not been a member for long, I have yet to create a memory, but I am looking forward to making great memories with other members of this great community.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I most enjoy the ability to get certain NAEYC subscriptions at a discounted price so I can stay up to date on current information.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “Charlotte’s Web” because it teaches about friendship, love, and unexpected connections. It teaches us to look beyond appearances and the appreciate individuality.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am a stay-at-home mother of two, wife, online ESL teacher, and am also currently pursuing my Ed.D.  If all that didn’t keep me busy enough, I also have two dogs, a cat and enjoy gardening.

May 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Kelly Ricketts-Zimmerman

Full Name:  Kelly Ricketts-Zimmerman

Full Name: Kelly Ricketts-Zimmerman

Resides in Region 2 - South Suburban Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“The path of least resistance rarely leads to the remarkable.” – Author Unknown

Who are you and what do you do? 
I am an advocate for children and someone who strongly believes that my role is to help be the voice for those who need us to be. I am currently a principal in an Early Childhood through 2nd-grade building and on July 1st will be moving into the role of Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in Berkeley SD87.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field of elementary education for twenty-six years. The majority of my educational career has been focused on early childhood education from Head Start to the public school system.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to connect with colleagues that are focused on advocating for young children and improving equity and access for all students.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member of Illinois AEYC since January 2020 but a member of NAEYC throughout my entire career.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of the following accomplishments:
*Being a Bilingual/Multicultural Consultant for the Iowa City Children’s Museum.
*Presenting at NAEYC National Conference in 2001 & 2002.
*Taking my first school from an under performing one into one of the top performing schools within the district.
*Developing the Response to Intervention and Data Review System within the District.
*Becoming an Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
I value the NAEYC Young Children Magazine as well as the Professional Development opportunities offered.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
One of my favorite children’s books is “A Girl with A Cape” by Amy Logan. It shows how one small kind act can have a positive ripple effect on the world and that we can be a superhero to change the world in our own small way.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter. I love to spend time at the beach or just be by the water. I like to shop and love knick-knacks with inspirational poems.

May 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Inna Nickole Dolzhenko

Full Name:  Inna Nickole Dolzhenko

Full Name: Inna Nickole Dolzhenko

Resides in Region 2 - South Suburban Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Chicago State University. I teach a variety of Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education courses to teacher candidates at undergraduate and graduate levels.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field since 1999.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I have been a member of the Southern Early Childhood Association (SECA) in Little Rock, Arkansas and a local chapter in North Dallas area in the past.

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

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am a certified early childhood educator in the state of Texas as well as licensed EC/K-9 early childhood educator in the state of Illinois. Along with holding a Social-Emotional Learning certificate, I received training in mindfulness. I am an author of a book chapter and multiple publications in academic journals. I am a Fulbright Fellow and Illinois Gateways to Opportunity Faculty Fellow.   What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I have recently joined Illinois AEYC. I look forward to getting exciting experiences and good memories.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value availability of high-quality resources, strong leadership, and networking opportunities.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
One of my favorite children’s books is The Rainbow Fish written by Marcus Pfister. This book teaches children how to be a good friend and how to share. These are important social skills that are essential for young children to acquire.

Family, hobbies, etc.?I enjoy reading, writing, traveling, photography, designing clothes, sewing, gardening, and spending time with my family and friends. My son, Kirill is a college student. I have two dogs and three cats.

May 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Paula Schnicker-Johnson

Full Name:  Paula Schnicker-Johnson

Full Name: Paula Schnicker-Johnson

Resides in Region 14

Favorite Quote: 
“It’s a journey…No one is ahead of you or behind you. You are not more “advanced” or less enlightened.  You are exactly where you need to be.  It’s not a contest……It’s LIFE.  We are ALL teachers and we are ALL students.”  ~ Dr. Lillian Katz

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Provider Services Coordinator and Quality Specialist at Project CHILD: Child Care Resource and Referral.  I work with child care program staff on professional development and training, as well as the quality of their program, as it is related to ExceleRate Illinois.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the early childhood field for twenty-five years; at the CCR&R for twenty-two years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I believe that it is important for every professional in the field of early childhood education to be a part of the state’s professional organization.  It is a great way to stay informed in the field, as well as network with other professionals.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for at least twenty years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? 
I am proud of much that I have accomplished in my years at Project CHILD.  I would say that I am most proud of the work I have done with child care programs that have helped them to improve the quality of care they provide for families and children.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I have many memories with Illinois AEYC over the span of the last twenty years; it is hard to narrow it down to one. Illinois AEYC is a tremendous organization and it is an excellent professional development opportunity for anyone in the field.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I love the NAEYC conference.  I don’t get the opportunity to attend all that often, but when it is close enough to me, I get the chance to go and I always gain so much professionally from attending.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I absolutely love The Art Lesson by Tomie dePaola.  I love the story, the child’s enthusiasm for art and the lesson we, as educators, should take away from the book about children’s art.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My husband and I raised our two girls, my only daughter and his youngest daughter, both from previous relationships.  My daughter is a research technician at Washington University in St. Louis, with plans to begin her PhD in the fall of 2021.  My stepdaughter is graduating with a degree in Management/Sports Marketing and will be moving to New Jersey to begin her exciting new career.  Now that our girls are out of the house, my husband and I are heavily into antiques. We own and run two booths inside two different antique stores.  Keeping the booths well-stocked and looking nice is a great hobby.

April 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Marlena Louise Constant

Full Name:  Marlena Louise Constant

Full Name: Marlena Louise Constant

Resides in Region 11 - Capitol Area Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Who are you and what do you do? 
Currently, I am an Infant/Toddler Transition teacher at Memorial Child Care for almost two years and also taught preschool for the majority of my career.

How long have you been in the field?
I have in employed as an Early Childhood Professional for over twenty years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because I wanted to learn more about the early childhood profession, have the opportunity to work with seasoned professionals, and collaborate with colleagues from across the state. Serving on the board has given me multiple learning opportunities that have helped me flourish professionally as well as strengthen my advocacy skills.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for six years and have served in several board positions at the local and state level.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Next month, I will receive my Master’s in Early Childhood Education with a Concentration in Public Policy and Advocacy. I have been blessed by this organization to have opportunities to grow professionally as a mentor, advocate, and soon-to-be Adjunct Faculty member at Lincoln Land Community College in addition to serving on a committee to help design an Early Childhood Bachelor’s program which has the potential to design advocacy courses for early childhood advocacy.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
My favorite Illinois AEYC member is when I won the Legacy Scholarship along with Jessica Frederick to attend a national NAEYC Conference in Los Angeles. I learned many concepts and was proud to navigate through my first Airbnb experience!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
Aside from the NAEYC publications, I use their Advocacy Toolkit and Power to the Profession resources religiously.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Just one!?!? I enjoy reading and sharing literacy opportunities with children so it is tough to pick one favorite children’s book, so I choose the Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary. This series is true to children’s developmental patterns from social emotional learning opportunities to cognitive development. Ramona is a character children can relate to and she shares many light-hearted messages about friendships and family dynamics.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I have several nieces and nephews I enjoy spending time with along with my family and my rescue dog, Buttercup. I enjoy gardening, karaoke, finding opportunities to laugh, and motivating others to become more confident in their advocacy abilities.

April 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Cindy Rice

Full Name:  Cindy Rice

Full Name: Cindy Rice

Resides in Region 15 - Southern Illinois Chapter

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Parent Coordinator at Mounds Early Learning Center & Head Start in Mounds, IL. That’s the official job title but I can also be a teacher in the Early Head Start and traditional classrooms, as well as the cook.

How long have you been in the field?
I started in the field of early childhood education in 1996 as a teacher at a child care center and I started working for Head Start in 2002, so that’s a total of twenty-four years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to network and find resources about early childhood that helps me give resources to the families in our programs as well as staying updated on trends in early childhood.

 

How long have you been a member?
I am a new member.  

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am currently a 2019-2020 Teach Plus Fellow. As a teach plus fellow I have established connections with several organizations such as The Ounce, ISBE and Gateways. I was able to meet and talk with Tracey Kreipe, Policy Consultant for ISHA.  In addition, I met with Patrick Windhorst, State Representative to discuss the teacher shortage and give him a tour of our building. Through the Teach Plus fellowship, I have learned about policy, met several people and, in my working group, we are currently working on the topic of teacher shortage.  My proudest accomplishment is seeing the families and children grow and strive while reaching their goals they set or even taking the steps to reaching their goals.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I don’t have a favorite memory yet, but I hope to be able to attend a conference or a meeting.  I also hope that maybe some of the people who are in charge of NAEYC will visit my Head Start building.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value all NAEYC benefits.  Each one is important in the field of early childhood education.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
There are so many books that I like, this is a hard question!  I guess I like the book “Where the Wild Things Are” the best. It shows that one child can have an amazing imagination and use their creativity. This is something children need and needs to be encouraged.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I tell everybody I have at total of thirty-six children; I have one biological child, a son who is twenty years old and thirty-five other children who range from nine months to five years old at Head Start.  Each child holds a place in my heart.  I also maintain relationships with the two children who are now twenty-two that I provided care for when they were just two days old! In my spare time, I help coach upward basketball. This year I coached three teams. I love spending time with my family and discovering new things.

April 2020 – Member Spotlight Sinthu Ramalingam

Full Name:  Sinthu Ramalingam

Full Name: Sinthu Ramalingam

Resides in Region 1 - Chicago Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“The time is always right to do what is right.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Who are you and what do you do?
I am Teach Plus Illinois’ Early Childhood Education Policy Manager. I help bring Early Childhood Educators’ voices to the forefront of policy conversations in Illinois.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC in order to be a part of a community that works together around the importance of early childhood education.

How long have you been a member?
I am a new member. I just joined this year.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? 
The professional accomplishment I am most proud of is passing the Accelerated Placement Act in Illinois. From the moment I read the research and saw the data behind that piece of legislation, I saw how the lack of that law having had affected the students in my classroom.  Working with a skeletal team to pass that law after opposing groups told us we had no chance and knowing the difference it would make for Illinois’ students made all of the work we put into it very worth it.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is attending the Public Policy Forum with the Illinois AEYC team!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The NAEYC benefit I most value is getting to know early childhood professionals who are all working hard on behalf of Illinois’ children.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
The entire “How Do Dinosaurs” series is my most favorite children’s book series. I loved how wonderful and easy of a tool the series was to teach students rules and behaviors.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I love reading and am a giant Harry Potter fan.

March 2020 Member Spotlight – Carrie Ann Holliday

Full Name:  Carrie Ann Holliday

Full Name: Carrie Ann Holliday

Resides in Region 11 - Capitol Area Chapter

Favorite Quotes:
“Do or do not, there is no try.” – Yoda

“A person is a person, no matter how small.” – Horton Hears a Who

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” – Taylor Hanson

Who are you and what do you do? 
I am an Early Childhood Teacher of toddlers at our local Springfield hospital childcare center. I have been the social media administer for the Capital Area Chapter for several months and just recently became co-chair for the Illinois AEYC Membership and Public Relations Committee.

How long have you been in the field?
I knew early childhood was my area of passion when I took an Early Childhood Care and Education program at an area career center during my junior year of high school. I discovered my love for teaching and wanted to make an impact in the lives of children.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
My co-teacher and friend encouraged me to attend an Illinois AEYC meeting. I realized how important it is to become more involved in the field and gain connections with other professionals in the field. I also wanted to learn and grow as an educator.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since August of 2019.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I incorporate music throughout the day to keep the children engaged, excited, and learning.  I was featured to speak about my position at the childcare center for our hospital recruitment campaign.  I strive to ensure the children have developmentally appropriate activities that are fun and engaging.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
I would have to say during the Conscious Discipline training the Capitol Area Chapter hosted, I became instrumental in posting videos and information to our Facebook page. This led to me becoming the Social Media contact for the chapter.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
I appreciate the NAEYC resources and how you are free to seek information and wisdom from others in the field.  Aditionally, Illinois AEYC posts many interesting and beneficial resources on their Facebook page.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I have two favorite children’s books.  “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” works on colors and you can do more than just read the book–you can sing it!  “Wonkey Donkey” is a cute book that repeats and rhymes which helps develop language skills.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My husband and I have been married for five years; no children, yet–hopefully soon! I love to be outside, go on walks with my family and two dogs. I love to sing and play the piano. I am a part of my church choir.

March 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Heather Betcher

Full Name:  Heather Betcher

Full Name: Heather Betcher

Resides in Region 5

Favorite Quote:
“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”  -C.S. Lewis

Who are you and what do you do?
I am Co-Director and Head Teacher at Little Green Apple Preschool in Geneseo, IL.

How long have you been in the field?
I graduated from Indiana University in 2001 with a B.S. in Education and have been in the field ever since.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to stay up to date and informed on current research and developments in the field of early childhood education.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for seventeen years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
The professional accomplishment I am most proud of is working alongside my mom and a team of caring teachers, we’ve developed an outstanding preschool.  Over the past seventeen years, Little Green Apple has promoted the development of the whole child and lifelong learning through a variety of play, art, building, hands-on activities and group sharing.  We give the children the opportunity to take risks and build confidence. We do it all with a with a Christian foundation.   

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is attending my first National Conference in Chicago in 2003 and being able to attend presentations by Bev Bos, Hap Palmer, and Lisa Murphy. What a legendary line-up of educators!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The NAEYC benefit that I value most is the literature that comes with the membership, as well as the NAEYC annual conference.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I love so many children’s books! The Rainbow Fish is a beautiful way to encourage sharing. Stellaluna is the best story about being friends, even if we are different. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom  taught my own kids their letters.

Family, hobbies, etc.?My husband and I have five kids.  I love to travel to experience nature and learn about history. I also love supporting my kids in their activities, as well as spending time with horses.

March 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Danyle Watkins

Full Name:  Danyle Watkins

Full Name: Danyle Watkins

Resides in Region 6 - Heart of Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote: 
“If we don’t take care of our children, then who is going to take care of our future?” – me

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at Lincoln Land Community College.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined to be part of a professional organization.  It was important for me to continue being connected to the ECE field when I moved from Michigan.  Joining Illinois AEYC was a way to network with other professionals and get involved.

How long have you been a member?
I am pretty sure I have been a member for ten years, or around there.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of? 
I am proud to have received Children’s Champion a few years ago. I am also lucky enough to have proud moments every year when my students graduate and enter into the ECE field. 

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I used to be a Vice President for our region and going to Saturday meetings, although they may be long, was something I looked forward to.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I enjoy receiving books and the journals from NAEYC.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak is one of my favorites.  I always enjoyed the pictures and it is a fun book to read to children.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am married and have three dogs and three cats.  Recently, I have come back to AEYC and am now on the Heart of Illinois AEYC Board.  I am also currently working towards my Ph.D. in early childhood leadership and advocacy. 

February 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Alexandra Tudor

Full Name:  Alexandra Tudor

Full Name: Alexandra Tudor

Resides in Region 4 - Northern Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“In a world where you can be anything…be kind.”
Just a good reminder to always be kind.  🙂

Who are you and what do you do? 
I am currently a toddler teacher at the Child Development and Family Center on the campus of Northern Illinois University.

How long have you been in the field?
This is my third year working in the field.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I was in the student satellite at NIU and I enjoyed learning and helping in the community. I joined Illinois AEYC when I heard about NAEYC.  I felt it would be a good way to continue my professional development as well as connect with my peers in the community.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for about three years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Some goals of mine have been to gain more professional development. While in the field, I was able to attend the NAEYC Conference that was held in Washington DC. I am also attending a conference locally. These have helped me learn and grow professionally.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory was helping host a Jim Gill concert. It was amazing to see the community come together to participate in the concert and to see all the children dancing, singing and having a good time.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
I often read through the NAEYC journals.  They help me stay informed about what is going on with NAEYC.  I value this benefit the most.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
One of my favorite children’s books is “Brown Bear Brown Bear.”  I really enjoy this book, especially with the toddler age.  They are starting to point out and recall the animals, so just seeing them be able to do this is great!

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I recently got married in September, so I enjoy spending time with my husband and my dog Remington. We love to take walks, go fishing, and basically anything outdoors. 

February 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Helja Antola Crowe

Full Name:  Helja Antola Crowe

Full Name: Helja Antola Crowe

Resides in Region 8 - McClean County Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“At the core of all education that makes a difference in children’s lives – beneath all the methods, materials, and curricula – is a teacher who cares about each child, who teaches from the heart.” ~ Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a Professor of Early Childhood Education at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. I also facilitate the professional development of Bradley faculty and staff.  My biggest joy is being Mummi, a grandmother of five grandchildren on both sides of the Atlantic.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field in Illinois for twenty-seven years, in Mississippi for four years, Washington two years and five years in Finland.
 

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because I believe it is important to be connected to the professionals in the field and to see the how the grassroots interactions affect the everyday lives of children and families. Illinois AEYC supports the wellbeing of children, families and professionals. To me, care, education and focus on the whole child and the whole ECE professional are crucial, which is a big part of the advocacy Illinois AEYC does.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since my arrival in Illinois in 1993.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I have many professional accomplishments, beginning with working on Early Math Curriculum research through Math, Right from the start efforts in Central Illinois. I am also proud of the collaboration that resulted in book chapters about the capacity of ECE professional working together:

Nugent, P., Antola Crowe, H., Wolffe, R., & Hinnen, N. (2017). How a community project has brought us hope, courage, and strength in our roles as teacher educators. In N. P. Gallavan & L. G. Putney (Eds.), Teacher education yearbook XXV, Building upon inspirations and aspirations with hope, courage, and strength through teacher educators’ commitment to today’s teacher candidates and educator preparation (pp. 49 – 63). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Smyrniotis, A., Nugent, P., Lee, H., Arquette, C.M., Wolffe, R., Bussan, B., Antola Crowe, H.  (2016). Collaborative Power: An inter-institutional community partnership. In S.A. Bernoteit, J.C. Darragh Ernst & N.I Latham (Eds.), Voices from the field: Collaborative innovations in early childhood preparation (pp. 123 – 143). Springfield, IL Illinois Research Council and Illinois Board of Education.

As a bicultural and multilingual person, I love bringing in cultural knowledge and experience to people. One such moment was presenting at the NAEYC conference in Orlando, Florida on Supporting English Language Learners through playful learning environments: Building cross-culturally perceptive early childhood professionals.  Introducing and immersing people in cultural experiences is important for my professional identity. Connecting people between countries and cultures builds peace which is important in my work both with young children, families, colleagues and professionals from early childhood to higher education.  

Antola Crowe, H. (2018). Living and learning in a diverse world: Invitation to community. In Huttunen, H-P., Ollikainen, T., & Robinson-Moncada, S., (Eds.) Yhdessä enemmän. Keski-Suomen Yhteisöjen Tuki ry 2018.
 https://www.kyt.fi/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/Yhdess%C3%A4_enemm%C3%A4n_julkaisu_pieni.pdf

I love being connected to Valeska Hinton and other ECE settings in the Central Illinois region, participating in the World Wide Day of Play in our community and including future teachers in those interactions with children and families. I have been the Faculty Advisor for the Bradley Association for the Education for Young Children since 1996.   What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is facilitating creative movement and music workshops to early childhood professionals who are always the most joyous and energetic audience.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The NAEYC benefit I most value and appreciate is receiving the journals, Young Child specifically which I use in my teaching consistently. Networking with people in the field is also very valuable.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is by Robert Munsch: Love you Forever by Firefly Books. This book reminds us that in every one of us there is a small child who needs care and nurturance. It reminds us of social-emotional development that so often gets overlooked but is the bases for everything. Love is the most powerful force in the world, and we model it in our work and our interactions daily.

Family, hobbies, etc.?My family includes my husband Doug, my three daughters and grandchildren. My large childhood family is also important to me and connections with them. My family also includes exchange sons and daughters in eight countries. My hobbies include singing, reading, traveling, and promoting and cherishing cross-cultural connections. I am the current President of the Peoria Area Friends of International Students.

February 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Sallee Beneke

Full Name: Sallee Jean Beneke

Full Name: Sallee Jean Beneke

Resides in Region 6 - Heart of Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Remember that adults know more about almost everything than a small child does—except what it feels like to be that child, and how the world makes sense to him or her. Those things are the children’s expertise from which a teacher must learn—to be able to reach and teach them.” – Lilian Katz, Last Class Notes

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a professor of early childhood education and Director of the online Master’s in Early Childhood Education at St. Ambrose University. I also am an author, and I love sharing what I know through professional development.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field since 1976.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to keep in touch with colleagues and important issues that might impact young children at the local, state, and national levels.

How long have you been a member?
I became a NAEYC member around 1977.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
That’s a tough question. In general, I am proud of my contributions to the understanding and ability of early educators to include diverse learners in their classrooms. Specifically, I am proud of The Project Approach for All Learners: A Hands-on Guide for Inclusive Early Childhood Classrooms, a book I wrote with my mentors, Lilian Katz and Michaelene Ostrosky from University of Illinois. It was reviewed by several educators who I greatly respect, and that was very meaningful to me. I am also very proud of the students that have come through the ECE undergrad and master’s programs at St. Ambrose and have gone on to be great teachers and leaders in their own right.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is chatting and laughing with Carol Weisheit as I sat on the floor of the convention center stuffing conference bags the night before an Illinois AEYC conference.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The NAEYC benefit that I most value is the Young Children magazine.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Currently, I love reading Pajama Time by Sandra Boynton to my grandchildren, Oscar and Ramona.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I love gardening, cooking, and travel.

January 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Amber Knight

Full Name: Meet Amber Knight

Full Name: Meet Amber Knight

Resides in Region 9 - East Central Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing” – Alfred Wainwright
Illinois’ weather is wonderful, my little learners get to experience all 4 seasons! I try my best to help children develop a love for nature by always having the opportunity to go outside everyday, rain or shine! We focus on proper clothing for each season and explore every aspect of nature- from bugs and creatures, the seasonal change in vegetation, and the different aspects of weather through explorative play, imagination, cooperation, prediction, and discovery!

Who are you and what do you do? 
I am an early childhood educator! I have owned Growing Sprout Schoolhouse, an in-home preschool in Tuscola, since 2016. I focus on giving children the opportunity to explore the world around them by providing hands-on learning experiences

How long have you been in the field?
After graduating high school, I attended Parkland Community College for Child Development before going to Eastern Illinois University for FCS-Family Services. I have had the opportunity to be apart of this wonderful field in some way, shape, or form since 2005!

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I love to connect with and learn from other like minded individuals! Illinois AEYC gave me the opportunity to expand my early childhood education community.

How long have you been a member?
Oh gosh, the exact year is fuzzy but I joined as a college student!

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I love to create community outreach experiences with my preschoolers! The best way to foster kindness is to provide a connection or experience that the children talk about weeks later! The children love collecting food and visiting the animal shelter, donating to the Sam Food Pantry, and making valentines for the senior living center. I am working with one senior living center in town to develop an ongoing program with the two generations! We have added more experiences this year and they have been a huge hit all around! I cannot wait to see how this program blossoms!

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory comes from the Illinois AEYC conference in 2018. It was the first conference I had attended and I absolutely loved the wonderful information, books, educational toys, and new contacts I left with! I was hooked! That conference re-lit my desire to never stop learning about early childhood education!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
I value the resources that I have access to through NAEYC!

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
There are so many that I cherish and love! Someday I will have a children’s book for every spark of curiosity and love a child has! My favorite book for this season is “Night Tree” by Eve Bunting. I am always looking for engaging books that incorporate nature into story time. We have a wonderful discussion on forest animals and the animals that live near us. Then we work together to create edible Christmas decorations for our friendly creatures. I love expanding books with activities, puppets, and art!

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My husband, Jordan, and I have two children, Hartley – 6 years old and Jordy – 5 years old. Being a military family, we’ve had the opportunity to travel and provide new experiences for our children! If you haven’t noticed, I love to be outside! My hobbies include taking walks with the family, hiking, and sitting outside with a book and a nice hot cup of tea.

January 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Constance “Connie” Graska

Full Name:  Constance "Connie" Graska

Full Name: Constance "Connie" Graska

Resides in Region 7 - Joliet Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“Help others help themselves.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a Home Base Supervisor for Metropolitan Family Services. I supervise thirteen Parent Child Educators and four Family Service Workers. I oversee two grant programs, Early Head Start Home Base and Prevention Initiative Home base.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
Christine Adamson, a long time friend, mentioned a need and I was willing to assist.

How long have you been a member?
To be honest, I do not remember how long I have been a member but it has been awhile.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of the following accomplishments:  Director III Credential; ECE Level 5 Credential; Infant Toddler Level 2 Credential; Certified ASQ/ASQSE Instructor; First Aid/CPR/AED Adult and Child Instructor; and Masters in ECE Administration.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is meeting colleagues and making some long-term friendships.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The NAEYC benefit I most value are the NAEYC journals.  Learning about the latest and greatest in ECE is always fascinating to me.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
“The Little Red Hen” is my favorite children’s book.  It is a morale and ethics lesson I took to heart at a very young age and feel it is applicable in today’s world, too.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My family includes my loving husband, Ronnie and five children (blended family): Todd, 21; Kyle, 21; Alyssa, 8; Maxen, 16; and, Joshua 15.  I am a total dog mom: I have a 120 lb. Akita named Brady – newly adopted from a rescue called Midwest Akita Rescue Society (MARS).  I love to travel.  This past year I was fortunate to travel quite a bit thanks to work.  Metropolitan sent me to Springfield and Champaign in Illinois; St. Louis, MO; and, New Orleans, LA.  Personal travel included two trips to Fayetteville, GA for my youngest sister’s wedding shenanigans, and a trip to Oregon, WI to pick up Brady.

January 2020 Member Spotlight ~ Christine Adamson

Full Name:  Christine Adamson

Full Name: Christine Adamson

Resides in Region 7 - Joliet Area Chapter

Favorite Quote: 
“Our Progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education.  The human mind is our fundamental resource.” by John F Kennedy.

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the President of Region 7, Illinois AEYC, Joliet Area Chapter.  I am a teacher at Catholic Charities Head Start, Alexandria Center.

How long have you been in the field? 
I have been in the field twenty years!

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? 
I joined Illinois AEYC because it is a professional organization that fuels my desire to learn more about the Early Childhood Education field.  The resources are exactly what I need to fuel my desire to learn.

How long have you been a member? 
I have been a member for four years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?  
I am proud to say that I am the President of Illinois AEYC, Joliet Area Chapter.  Also, I received a Certificate of Appreciation from Catholic Charities; and obtained my Infant Toddler Credential and Early Childhood Education Credential at Level 5.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
My favorite memory is the Joliet Area Chapter conference at Joliet Junior College and meeting Tonya Frehner, Executive Director of Illinois AEYC.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value the friendship and guidance of the Illinois AEYC Board and President.  The reciprocal relationship is amazing and they are always there for me when I need resources or help.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.  I am an Infant teacher and it does not matter how many times I read this board book in my classroom, the children are always interested in this book. It is amazing to see a non-mobile infant listen to me read this book to them and seeing mobile infant holding the book to look at the pictures.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
My husband John and I have been married for twenty-three years. We have three wonderful daughters, Erin, Erica (twins) and Stephanie. I love to go camping at National Parks in my RV.

December 2019 Member Spotlight ~ June Davis

Full Name: June Davis

Full Name: June Davis

Resides in Region 8 - McClean County Chapter

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 Director of Bloomington Day Care Center.  I have been in this position for thirty-one years.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the Early Childhood field for approximately forty years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC right out of college.  I wanted to connect with others in the field.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since 1976.  Long enough to remember the black and white Young Children magazine!  As a matter of fact, I still have some of those issues.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
My biggest accomplishment was to take Bloomington Day Care Center through the NAEYC Accreditation process.  We were first accredited around 1994.  We have remained accredited ever since.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is going to the state conferences and hanging out with Carol Weisheit.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
The benefit I most value is the professionalism of belonging to a group that values children.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
This question is tough as there are so many books I like.  My favorite book is Star Girl.  It is a book about a little girl who fell out of a spaceship and spent the day with some children here on earth.  The book is out of print and it took me several years to find a copy. 

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am married and have two grown boys.  I am the grandmother to two grandsons and one granddaughter.  My favorite hobby is reading.

December 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Mary Tillery

Full Name: Mary Tillery
Active in Region 2- South Suburban Chapter

Favorite Quote:
“My loyalty and service is not based on who or what you are, it’s who I AM!” – Mary Tillery

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a former Chicago Police Officer (Purple Heart Recipient) and I am now an Early Childhood Educator/Administrator.

How long have you been in the field?
I was introduced to the Early Childhood field in 2017 and I fell in love!

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined because it was a part of the curriculum for obtaining my Infant/toddler credentials and I have no regrets!!!

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since 2018.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
My accomplishments include earning my CDA in Infant/toddler and my certification for professional food manager (CFPM). I am in the process of completing training for credentials and will soon earn my Level 3 Director Credential and Level 5 ECE Credential through Gateways.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I am looking forward to making some lasting memories and building relationships with other members.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The benefits that I most value include the webinars, trainings, and resources available to members to enhance their career in the field. I am looking forward to attending the NAEYC conference next year.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “What If We Were All The Same!” by C.M. Harris. I chose this book because it’s about ethnic diversity and inclusion.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am a wife, mother of six children and grandmother! Between family and my new-found love for the ECE world I don’t have much downtime. However, I do make time to pray and read daily as that’s my antidote for my successes.

December 2019 Spotlight ~ Dr. Angela Searcy

Full Name: Dr. Angela Searcy
Resides in Region 7-Joliet Chapter
A top “Facebook Fan”

Favorite Quote:
John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the owner and founder of Simple Solutions Educational Services, a professional development company; a seminar leader at Erikson Institute, a professional development provider for Teaching Strategies, LLC, The Institute For Educational Development; and an affiliate trainer for Teachstone.

How long have you been in the field?
I began as a “nap time teacher” in 1990.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I LOVE Illinois AEYC and the learning opportunities they offer. It is a community I am proud of!

How long have you been a member?
To be honest I am not sure how long I have been a member. I remember going to my first AEYC workshops in the 1990’s.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I have experience as a teacher and taught at all age levels. I also have experience at a therapist and specialized training in neuroscience. My dissertation examined the correlation between brain-based learning ( assessed by CLASS) and aggressive behaviors. I feel all of these accomplishments came together in my book “Push Past-It! A Positive Approach to Challenging Classroom Behaviors”.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I recently presented a webinar featuring my book and we had tons of fun. This is now my favorite memory.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I love the learning and networking opportunities!

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Naming my favorite children’s book is a hard one! I love so many! I actually have a new favorite, “Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o (Author), and Vashti Harrison (Illustrator). As a child there weren’t many books that featured a black girl and a lead character in a picture book. I can’t think of any that were around when I was a small child., so this book is very important to me.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am a mom of four, so that is my main hobby! But I also love to draw and hope to have more time to draw as my children grow older.

November 2019 Spotlight ~ Kerri Lynn Nolan

Full Name: Kerri Lynn Nolan
Resides in Region 1 – Chicago Chapter

Favorite Quote:
Success is NOT wishbone; it is BACKBONE.

Who are you and what do you do?
Personally, I am the loving wife of Gerry for over forty-one years, We have raised five amazing children and I’m the doting grandmother to “soon to be” four grandchildren. Professionally, I am a Chicago Public School Pre-K 04 Teacher. I also teach college students at Joliet Junior College. I am also an INT Appraiser for Illinois Gateways.

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

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC because I wanted to network and learn from early childhood professionals around the state and attend conferences to help me grow professionally.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for over thirty years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of many professional accomplishments beginning with owning and operating Kerri Lynn’s Pre-School for over twenty years; having the opportunity to help build a million dollar Child Care Center for Godley Park District 2000; and receiving “The Limit is the Sky” Award from the Joliet Early Childhood.Association. I am also proud to have had the opportunity to present on a variety of ECE topics around the state and I was even was a Keynote Presenter doing “Music Keynotes”. Additionally, I was in the pilot program for the first Illinois Directors Credential and Professional Development Advisers programs; received the 2009 Illinois “Children’s Champion” Award; held numerous roles with Illinois AEYC for over twenty years; and earned my MA. ED in Early Childhood from Roosevelt University in 2009.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite memories with Illinois AEYC include working on committees; wearing a variety of hats in numerous capacities to help provide SUCCESSFUL conferences for Early Childhood Professionals; and meeting and networking with a plethora of people all around the state.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I really enjoy the monthly magazines and professional books offered through our membership.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is “Christina Katerina and the Box” by Patricia Lee Gauch. It’s a wonderful story about how a child can be creative and use their imagination with a simple box.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I love to sing, dance, read, crochet, hang with friends and spend as much time doing fun things with my husband and family.

November 2019 Spotlight ~ Kristen Schulz

Full Name: Kristin Schulz

Full Name: Kristin Schulz

Resides in Region 4 - Northern Illinois Chapter

Favorite Quote:  
“Work smarter, not harder!” – Carl Barks
I use this as a reminder to myself that there is more than one way to get a task done.

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the deputy director of the Child Development and Family Center, located on the campus of Northern Illinois University. It’s a fancy title for operations director.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been working professionally since 2002! Classroom teacher for nine years and some form of administrator for eight years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC to continue my professional membership with my local ECE professionals. I feel being a member activates my professionalism in this field.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since 2000 when I was introduced to the organization through a professor while I was an undergraduate student.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I’m proud that I have completed my master’s degree and have been able to attain my ECE Level 5, Infant Toddler Level 4 and Director Level 2 Credentials through Gateways. I’m proud that my center has remained NAEYC accredited for many years.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value the voting rights for new leaders and the discount to the national conference. The journals are a huge bonus as well that kept me up to date and informed of best practice.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I enjoy so many but for its message of encouragement and creativity I choose, The Dot, by Peter Reynolds. To read with a group of children I choose Pete’s a Pizza by William Steig as its interactive component is amazingly fun. And last for my daughter and young girls everywhere I choose, The Paper Bag Princess, by Robert Munsch.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am a mother of two children, thirteen and nine years old! They keep me busy with a wide range of activities from band to tumbling. As a family we enjoy single track mountain biking and being out in nature!

November 2019 Spotlight ~ Hannah Rivera

Full Name:  Hannah Rivera

Full Name: Hannah Rivera

Resides in Region 3 - DuPage Chapter

Favorite Quote: 
“When it is obvious the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”  –  Confucius

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an early care and education advocate and professional dedicated to making a remarkable, life-term difference in the lives of young children and their families as well as the educators of the field.  Currently, I am an Assistant Site Manager and Education Coordinator for Children’s Home & Aid at the Jerri Hoffmann Child + Family Center in Carpentersville, Illinois.

How long have you been in the field? 
I have been in the field ten years professionally; five years as an Educator; and five years in Program Administration.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? 
I joined Illinois AEYC because I attended one meeting in Chicago and realized that I have an important part to play in the big picture with advocacy in the early care and education field and in the Illinois AEYC organization.  I have observed and internalized a great understanding that we need more leaders and educators to be the voice of this generation of educators, children, and families for our communities, state, and government and to move forward with improved and child-first, teacher-first policies in funding and quality.  I am currently working on building upon my advocacy in education toolbox and I believe Illinois AEYC is the right place with the right representatives and leaders to start.

How long have you been a member? 
I have been an Illinois AEYC member three months.  I’m off to a great start and looking forward to being a member the rest of my career.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?  
The first professional accomplishment that comes to mind is from a mother who was taking English classes so she could better herself professionally.  With tears in her eyes she told me, “I don’t know what my family would have done without your help, thank you”.  It’s always the genuine gratitude received from serving families that I am most proud of.  That’s why we do what we do!  Most recently, I am proud of myself and my team at the Jerri Hoffmann Child + Family Center for accomplishing a successful first year of our Birth-3 Prevention Initiative grant under Illinois State Board of Education.  Implementing and supervising the grant has transformed my leadership.  I am proud of what it has done for me professionally and personally.  We are currently pursuing another great and second year with the grant in our center.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
I currently only have one Illinois AEYC memory but it will definitely be added to my keepsake of favorites which is myself attending the Policy and Advocacy in Education workshop hosted by Illinois AEYC at the Chicago China Town Public Library that was conducted this past August.  I am grateful for the leaders in the field I met there and the seeds that were planted for policy and advocacy in ECE that day.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
The discounted and free trainings and events, hands-down.  I have gained so much from attending Illinois AEYC trainings, symposiums, and member night, and have been able to strengthen myself as a professional.  I also enjoy learning and working with other professionals.

What is your favorite Children’s book and why?
“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Eric Carle is my favorite children’s book.  I always loved singing it to the children throughout the years, and I still do!  When I was a teacher, I also printed out all of the animals, children, and teacher and laminated them with magnets so I could sing them on my “picture board” as a group-time activity, and the children would sit for at least half an hour each time!

Family, Hobbies, etc.?
God and family are what come first in my life, and I enjoy spending my time with both.  I also appreciate meditation, nature, exercising, singing, researching, spreading love and serving others.

October 2019 Spotlight ~ Lisa White

Full Name: Lisa Marie White

Full Name: Lisa Marie White

Capitol Area Chapter - Region 11

Favorite Quotes:
“The Child who knows unconditional love has the greatest gift the world can offer.”

“Moms hold their children’s hands for a while, but their hearts forever.”

“The most precious jewels you’ll have around your neck are the arms of your children”.

“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”.

“Anyone who does anything to help a child in his life is a hero”.

“Who you are inside is what helps you make and do everything in life.”

Who are you and what do you do? 
My name is Lisa White and I am one of the Lead Teachers at Memorial Child Care. I am also a teacher in one of our baby rooms. I provide a loving and caring environment for the babies in my classroom. I want the families to feel comfortable leaving their babies in my care.

 How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the Early Childhood field for twenty-nine years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I wanted to be around other Early Childhood Teachers to interact and share ideas on what we can do in our classrooms. I wanted to work together with other teachers and encourage those that are having a rough time. By talking about different things that happen in our classrooms, we could then work together. This is what we are supposed to do! Help each other!!!!

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member off and on for fifteen years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I received my Early Childhood and Infant Toddler Credential. I have gone back to take classes at Lincoln Land which is a big deal to me because I am older. I worried about going back to school and if I could do it or not. I received the Children’s Champion award in October 2018 and in April 2019 I received Employee of the Month. Both were a big surprise! I am truly blessed! I serve as Secretary on the Capitol Area Chapter Board! I love serving on the board with the ladies. We all care for the teachers and children.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is when I attended my first Illinois AEYC board meeting with Carol Weisheit as President. I really like Carol and think very highly of her! She is very knowledgeable!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
I love getting the Young Children magazine.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I love “Brown Bear, Brown Bear” because you can do so much with this book.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am married to Harold. We have two children, Matthew and Molly, and we have three dogs. I love spending time with my family and the dogs. I like to read, scrapbook, and go to any training or conference that has to deal with early childhood. 

October 2019 Spotlight ~ Pam Scranton

Full Name:  Pam Scranton

Full Name: Pam Scranton

Heart of Illinois Chapter - Region 6

Favorite Quote: 
“What you are is God’s gift to you, but what you become is your gift to God.”

Who are you and what do you do?
I am the retired Executive Director and Founder of UPC Discovery Preschool in Peoria, IL. I currently serve as the chair of UPC Discovery Preschool committee, the governing body for the preschool and also chair the Christian Education committee of United Presbyterian Church. I am also adjunct faculty at Bradley University, teaching undergraduate courses in teacher education. I consult with schools around the United States on implementing project work in the classroom and documenting children’s learning. I am co-author of Teaching Your Child to Love Learning and contributing author of Creating Child Intellect: A Manifesto for Engaged Learning, edited by Judy Harris Helm & Karrie Snider.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been working in the field of Early Childhood Education for over thirty years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined NAEYC and the affiliate organization to be a part of a community of best practices, network with colleagues, and have access to current research in the field.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for over thirty years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of my most recent body of work – creating and directing the programs of UPC Discovery. I love hosting and leading our Becoming Young Thinkers Summer Institute every June at UPC – we meet many educators from all over the world and share our journey in implementing project work. But I am most proud of the daily opportunities I have to interact and impact children and their families. It is truly one of my biggest joys and certainly a daily privilege.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is going to the Ella Jenkins concert at the Peoria Civic Center.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I value access to current publications and research in the field.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – it always reminds me of our youngest son.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
We love traveling and learning about new places, we are big marching band supporters, and love spending time with our kids and friends outside in nature.

October 2019 Spotlight ~ Pam Scranton

Full Name:  Carol Weisheit

Full Name: Carol Weisheit

McLean Chapter - Region 8

Favorite Quote: 
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”  from Henry Ford really hits home for me.  It really focuses on how your attitude determines your success or failure.

Who are you and what do you do?
I am currently wearing two hats. One job is an Adjunct Instructor at Illinois Central College in Peoria where I teach a variety of courses including child development, intro to early childhood, and guidance of young children. I am also a Preschool Support Specialist for three Preschool for All Expansion programs providing technical support to administrators as they implement this Illinois State Board of Education program. Previously, I’ve been a resource specialist for STARnet, a center director, and classroom teacher.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the field since I was a college student at Washington State University (WSU) which puts the years at about forty-two!

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC when I was directing my first program in 
Champaign back in 1982 after we moved here from Pullman, WA. It was a great opportunity to get to know others in the field and make professional connections.

How long have you been a member?
I was a student member of NAEYC when I was in WSU. While I had a couple of years where I wasn’t active, I’ve been a member every since.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I am proud of the impact I have had on children and families during my career. Those lasting connections (I had a reunion of my school-age program participants from 1988-1990 over Labor Day weekend) mean the world to me. In addition, I’m proud to be giving back to the profession by being on the Illinois AEYC Board of Directors and as I look back, I’m proud of ushering Illinois AEYC through this last national restructuring. There were lots of late nights, long conversations and hard discussions but we are stronger than ever because of the team work everyone exhibited! Participating in YEARS of conference presenting and consulting at the local, state and national levels and teaching the next generation of teachers are also proud professional accomplishments to me.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
It’s hard to choose!! I think my favorite memories are of traveling to conferences in the 80’s, cramming six people into a hotel room and then figuring out how we were all going to take showers!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I really value the professional connections I make at the national conferences (Professional Learning Institute, Annual Conference and Policy Forum) as well as the wonderful publications NAEYC provides our profession. I use them often in my courses so young teachers (and seasoned teachers!) can see the latest information in our field.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
I am drawn to children’s books focusing on social-emotional learning. Two of my favorites are: Ruby Sings the Blues by Niki Daly highlights a young girl’s loudness and how it is channeled into singing through mentoring from a singer and a saxophone player; The Rough Patch by Brian Lies deals with the death of a beloved pet and how tough times in our lives are hard but we can heal through love and friendship.

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am married to Ralph, a distinguished professor of criminal justice at Illinois State University. We have been married for forty-three years and have a son, Ryan, who is a professional jazz musician in NYC. I love spending time gardening in my natural woodlands yard, reading on my front porch, traveling with my husband (especially to visit our son!), taking bike vacations, organizing our neighborhood historic district functions or nurturing my two cats, Sammy and Alice.

September 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Ann Oswalt

Full Name:  Ann Oswalt

Full Name: Ann Oswalt

Region 14

Favorite Quote:  
“Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.”  – Greg Anderson

Who are you and what do you do? 
I am the Early Childhood Director for Regional Office of Education #12. I oversee a Preschool for All Program with classrooms in four counties. We serve one hundred forty children in half day classes and forty children in full day classes. I am also a graduate school student, working on a Masters in Early Childhood Administration.

How long have you been in the field? 
I have been working with children and families for twenty-five years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC? 
I recently became Director in July, and am looking forward to building relationships with fellow Early Childhood professionals in the area to help me make our program the best it can be.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a NAEYC member off and on for many years, but only renewed my membership recently after a long absence.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
Most recently, I am proud of jumping into this new role as Director. It has had some speed bumps along the way, but I feel as if I have built a strong team who will make a difference in the lives of the children and families we serve.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
I am looking forward to making many memories with AEYC!

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
I greatly appreciate the research based information available through NAEYC. The magazines, books, and online articles are often my go-to resource for sharing information with staff and families, and for use in my schoolwork.

What is your favorite children’s book and why? 
My favorite children’s book are the Froggy books by Jonathan London. They were my son’s favorites when he was little and we had so much fun reading them together.

Family, hobbies, etc.? 
I have been married for twenty-three years and have an awesome thirteen year old son. We enjoy camping, traveling, and finding new adventures.

September 2019 Member Spotlight ~ Christy Allen

Full Name:  Christy Allen 
Capitol Area Chapter – Region 11

Favorite Quote: 
Life isn’t a race. Find joy in the journey.

Who are you and what do you do? 
I am a quality specialist and professional development for Community Connection Point, the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency for nine counties in Central Illinois. I help child care providers on their professional development journeys and help programs improve their quality.

How long have you been in the field? 
I’ve been in the Early Childhood field for twenty-five years and I was in the afterschool field for thirteen years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined AEYC to keep up on policy and trends in the field.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member for nineteen years.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
I was co-chair of the School-age and Youth Credential Committee for PDAC.  The committee developed, piloted and successfully launched the Gateways School-age and Youth Credential.  I am currently president of the Illinois Afterschool Network.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory?
I think that would have to be the conferences and learning that went on.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value?
I really like the books that I receive by being a comprehensive member.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
Pete the Cat because my grandchildren love it.

Family, hobbies, etc.? 
I have been married to my husband Dale for forty-two years. We live on our farm in rural Atlanta, IL with our dog Hunter and three cats, Kramer, Hershey and Snickers.  We have two sons, Justin and Nick. We have three beautiful grandchildren, Nate-seven years old, Evan-four years old, and Audrey sixteen months old.  I love to garden, travel, and enjoy family time.

November 2019 Spotlight ~ Jennifer Patton

Full Name: 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

 Robin Haynes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Name: Michelle Wood

Resides in Region 8 - McClean County Chapter

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

Full Name: Robin Dermody

 
“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

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

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

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 Harling

Full Name: Jordan 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 Costa

Full Name: Rhonda 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

Full Name: Fouzia Khan

Full Name: 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 2019 Spotlight ~ Denise Henry

Full Name: 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

Full Name: Erin Cetera

Full Name: 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

Full Name: Blakely Bundy

Full Name: 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

Full Name: Nasser Nabhan

Full Name: Nasser Nabhan

 “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

Full Name:  Aminah Weaver

Full Name: 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

Full Name: Patricia Steinhaus

Full Name: 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

Full Name: Vita Bates

Full Name: Vita Bates

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 Director of Bloomington Day Care Center.  I have been in this position for thirty-one years.

How long have you been in the field?
I have been in the Early Childhood field for approximately forty years.

Why did you join Illinois AEYC?
I joined Illinois AEYC right out of college.  I wanted to connect with others in the field.

How long have you been a member?
I have been a member since 1976.  Long enough to remember the black and white Young Children magazine!  As a matter of fact, I still have some of those issues.

What are some professional accomplishments that you are proud of?
My biggest accomplishment was to take Bloomington Day Care Center through the NAEYC Accreditation process.  We were first accredited around 1994.  We have remained accredited ever since.

What is your favorite Illinois AEYC memory? 
My favorite Illinois AEYC memory is going to the state conferences and hanging out with Carol Weisheit.

What NAEYC benefit do you most value? 
The benefit I most value is the professionalism of belonging to a group that values children.

What is your favorite children’s book and why?
This question is tough as there are so many books I like.  My favorite book is Star Girl.  It is a book about a little girl who fell out of a spaceship and spent the day with some children here on earth.  The book is out of print and it took me several years to find a copy. 

Family, hobbies, etc.?
I am married and have two grown boys.  I am the grandmother to two grandsons and one granddaughter.  My favorite hobby is reading.

June 2018 Member Spotlight – Jessica Frederick

Full Name:Jessica Frederick

Full Name: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

Full Name: Meet Neysa Riverea

Full Name: Meet Neysa Riverea

 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

Full Name:  Janice Deissler

Full Name: 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

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

Full Name: Moushumi Kundu

Full Name: 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.