Elizabeth Reed, teaching and learning consultant, White River Junction, VT
Apr 07, 2017

Early childhood educators know that one of the best ways for children to learn is through play. This is why the physical environment—the space in which children play—is often called “the third teacher” (with the parent and classroom teacher as the first and second teachers). A high-quality child care program provides a physical environment aimed to foster learning and development. This is accomplished in a number of ways.

A healthy environment includes plenty of opportunities for choice. One choice children can make is whether to play with others or independently, and there should be room available for both scenarios. Providing young children opportunities to interact with others as well as time and space to learn how to take a break from others when needed encourages the development of strong social and emotional skills, which lay the foundation for success in life.

Michele Campbell, director of education, Saxon Hill School, Jericho, VT
Mar 30, 2017

When Saxon Hill lost its longtime home in Jericho’s Red Mill Park area in 2015, we scrambled to relocate. We wanted to stay in the Jericho area because our roots were here and because there weren’t a lot of early education programs around. The process was challenging and many families were panicked, so when the Chittenden East Supervisory Union came to us and said they might have a solution to our problem, we couldn’t believe our luck. School age populations have decreased and the merger of our school district in 2015 left some buildings with empty classrooms. CESU offered to rent out two of their classrooms to Saxon Hill.

CESU was welcoming and made it clear to us that this was our own space. So we took down white boards, painted, moved our playground and made this our new home. In our first two years here, it’s become clear to us that this is more than just a home. We’re also building a village ...

Kimberlie Buxton, Children’s Integrated Services Specialized Child Care Coordinator, Umbrella Inc., St. Johnsbury, VT
Feb 28, 2017

The notion that “it takes a village to raise a child” rings especially true in today’s society. For the 70% of Vermont children under age 6 who have all of their parents in the labor force, child care is a necessary fixture in their lives. Community agencies and services become a further extension of the child’s village by helping child care providers and families offer safe, supportive and positive environments for all children.

By supporting the whole family and incorporating the community into child care programs, community agencies and services are ensuring high-quality early care and learning opportunities for children at a time in their lives when quality experiences are critical to their healthy development.

Patrick Walters, principal of Orwell Village School
Feb 27, 2017

Orwell, located in the beautiful southern Champlain Valley, has 1,250 residents, and its centerpiece, the Orwell Village School, has roughly 14 students in each of its grades. We are a small school in a small Vermont town. But we have grand aspirations and I am proud of the lengths to which this school, its staff, and this community have gone to ensure that our children are prepared to meet the challenges of today’s world and succeed in life. This includes acknowledging the importance of and the need for quality early care and learning opportunities for our youngest children.

Michelle Fox, Early Education Coordinator for the St. Johnsbury School District
Feb 03, 2017

Like many other places in Vermont, St. Johnsbury is struggling with opiate addiction and poverty. More than thirty-five percent of Caledonia County families live under 200% of the poverty line, and St. Jay’s substance abuse program, BAART, has seen the number of clients for drug addiction treatment programs increase from 75 to 248 in a little over a year. What’s even more alarming is that 111 of those 248 individuals have children under the age of 7.

Quality early experiences are critical to ensure that children have a strong start in life. We wanted to give all of the children in the St. Johnsbury School District an opportunity to succeed regardless of their home life. Because 90% of the brain is developed by age 5, that meant providing the children with quality experiences before they entered kindergarten.

The EEC’s goal is to align curriculum for all early childhood centers; strengthen the transition between early childhood programs and the St. Johnsbury School; develop early intervention programs for children who need them and their parents; and increase parent, family and community support for early care and learning. Here's how we're working to achieve these goals. 

Mariah McGill, policy analyst and adjunct professor, School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, University of Massachusetts, Boston; and Laurie Metcalfe, early care and education director, Sunrise Family Resource Center, Bennington, VT
Jan 05, 2017

Like any new(ish) parent, I often second-guess my parenting decisions and wonder if my child is developing normally. Thanks to the relationships I’ve developed with center staff, I feel comfortable approaching them when issues arise and have relied on their wisdom and perspectives on many occasions.

Strong partnerships that encourage family involvement are an essential part of any high-quality early care and learning program. Family involvement not only reinforces progress and learning, and supports children's growth at a critical time for brain development, it also encourages positive growth for families and helps to support program development. It is truly an important asset for teachers in providing quality learning experiences for the children in their care. Early childhood programs can promote family involvement in a variety of ways.
Dr. Caitlin McLean, Dr. Marcy Whitebook, Dr. Lea J.E. Austin, Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, at the University of California, Berkeley, CA
Dec 19, 2016

Early educators working in schools, child care centers and family child care homes across the nation do the important work of facilitating learning and development of young children, yet they face persistently low wages and work environments which lack the benefits and supports afforded teachers of older children, as our work at the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment has documented. Early educators are currently among the lowest-paid workers in the country, even though the work they do is crucial for children, families and businesses.  As a result of their low pay and status, early educators face economic stress, and the early childhood field suffers from high turnover and difficulty retaining and recruiting the skilled, experienced workforce necessary to help children learn.

Tracy Patnoe, director of Mud City Kids Child Care Center, Morrisville, VT; and Stephanie Tetreault, Morrisville, VT parent of children enrolled at Mud City Kids
Dec 14, 2016

In its report to the Administration and Legislature, Vermont’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care emphasized the fact that high-quality child care is expensive for both parents and providers. In Vermont, too many families are living paycheck-to-paycheck while the average child care provider makes less than a livable wage.

These child care challenges are a problem statewide and, although what follows are just two perspectives—that of Tracy Patnoe, owner and director of Mud City Kids Child Care Center in Morrisville, VT; and Stephanie Tetreault, mother of two boys enrolled in Mud City Kids—they represent the stories of thousands upon thousands of Vermonters who struggle every day to ensure that all Vermont children have a strong start.

Rachel Hunter, registered family child care provider, Springfield, VT
Nov 30, 2016

I opened my very own registered family child care program in February 2001 after discovering that my 2 ½ year old daughter had been receiving substandard care. Though this decision turned my life upside down, I haven't regretted it for one single second. In 15+ years, I have provided a safe and healthy learning environment not only for my own children, but also for nearly 100 of Vermont's children, giving families peace of mind as they head to work each day.

I have truly enjoyed watching the children grow and develop into confident, loving, young people. My biggest joy has been to see the wonder in their eyes as they master a new skill or task-to see everything come together and the pride they feel when they kick a ball, write their name and even tie their shoes. The milestones continually present themselves and their mastery is a gift.

Unfortunately, throughout my time in the child care field I have heard so many heartbreaking stories about the challenges families face every day. Parents are struggling to meet schedules, health needs and also the financial constraints of day-to-day life, including the insurmountable expense of quality child care. And then, regardless of funds, many families are unable to find child care from the limited number of programs available to them. This forces families to make tough decisions - decisions they never thought they would have to make. Sadly, Vermont's early childhood system does not meet or measure up to Vermont's workforce needs - leaving a significant deficit at the expense of our children.

Tanya LaChapelle, executive director/teacher at Robin’s Nest Children’s Center, Burlington, VT
Nov 22, 2016
Child care providers work incredibly hard to provide Vermont's children with nurturing environments while their parents are working. The important work they do helps to ensure that young children build the strong foundation they need for future success in relationships, school and life. Teaching in an early childhood setting is a huge responsibility and it requires specialized skills.