Let's Grow Kids is proud to recognize Vermonters who have gone above and beyond in helping young children reach their full potential. These unsung Superheroes of Early Childhood are making the sort of positive, lasting change for Vermont's children in their own communities that we're working to achieve on a statewide level.  

August 2017 Superheroes

Johanna Page, Paraeducator
Burlington Area Schools  

Superhero power:  Reaching hard to reach kids. Johanna has a unique ability to connect with kids who are struggling in one way or another and help them come around.

Johanna says: “I wish all children and families had equal acess to high-quality early care and learning opportunities, where not only kids, but also parents, could learn and thrive.”

Laurie Metcalfe, Executive Director

Northshire Day School 

Superhero power: The ability to support teachers in their day-to-day work as mentor and guide, and help them to see the impact of their work — which is sometimes hard to see as it happens slowly over time — but can be incredibly powerful.

Laurie says: “It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with so many amazing and dedicated child care providers who spend their days caring for our children and their families!”

Lori Pinsonneault, Community-based Child Care Support Services Coordinator
Sunrise Family Resource Center  

Superhero power:  Kindness, patience, soft-spoken nature, compassion and eagerness to share her love of books and reading with children.

Lori says: “It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with so many amazing and dedicated child care providers who spend their days caring for our children and their families!”  

Mandi Menard, Program Director & Lead Preschool Teacher
KinderStart Preschool  
St. Albans

Superhero power:   A great sense of humor!  Finding humor everywhere helps Mandi, her colleagues and the children in her care get through the hard parts of the day. 

Mandi says: “I love building strong relationships with the children, getting to know their interests and then using that information to plan new activities that they are really excited about.”  

May 2017 Superheroes

Hope Campbell, Director of Child Care Programs
Vermont Community Loan Fund  

Superhero power: Budgeting prowess! Hope helps child care programs make well-planned business decisions so they‘re able to continue the important work they do for children.

Good deed done: Hope has been mentoring child care programs across the state for over 17 years. Her method is considered a proven tool for supporting providers in achieving quality.

Hope says: “I would like for our society to bridge gaps between departments,legislators and communities so we can work together towards a financially viable child care system.”

Kristin Lange, Lead Teacher
Head Start

Superhero power:  Instilling peace. Kristin’s ready smile and penchant for singing help calm those around her.

Good deed done: Kristin is a trustworthy resource for the children she teaches, their families and her coworkers, and provides guidance and compassion during tough times.

Kristin says: “If I had a magic wand, I would take all the trauma away from the children and replace it with joy.” 

Anne Latulippe, Executive Director 
Children's Room

Superhero power: Networking skills! Anne seems to know everyone in her region and the unique value they bring to their community.

Good deed done: Anne finds creative and budget-friendly ways to engage kids and families, like organizing weekly music and movement sessions or arranging monthly playgroups. 

Anne says: “I think parents should be empowered to make their own choices about how to best support their family and children.”

Paula Nadeau, Owner
Tiny Dreamers

Superhero power: Her contagious passion! When Paula gets excited about something, her energy inspires others to take action.

Good deed done: Forging personal connections with families and discovering what they need to be successful advocates for high-quality, affordable child care.
Paula says: “I didn't know that I could accomplish so much, so quickly as an advocate!"

Trisha Scharf, Executive Director 
Children Unlimited

Superhero power: Being ever-ready with a helping hand! Trisha’s kids know she’s always there for them.

Good deed done: Stepping out of her comfort zone to take leadership roles as a child care center director and as an advocate for kids—and creating powerful positive change as a result!

Trisha says: “I’ve found that being an advocate for children and talking to legislators is not as frightening as it might seem at first!”

January 2017 Superheroes

Dayna Mazzola, Special Education Preschool Teacher 
Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union

Superhero power: Working as part of a diverse team to put the best interests of the child first.  
Good deed done: Dayna fosters meaningful relationships with her students and supports the family as a whole. 
Dayna says: “One of my major focuses is to create a caring and respectful community of learners. Building trusting relationships is the foundation of my work.”

Kelley Hackett, Child Care Provider

 Kelley’s DayBreak Child Care
Waterbury Center

Superhero power: Wearing multiple hats successfully as a provider, business owner and parent.  

Good deed done: As an advocate for the children she serves, Kelley has built a strong community centered around early childhood.  

Kelley says: “I love the strong community network and bond with the families I serve. They become an extended piece of my own family.”

Ikey Spear, Children/Youth Services Coordinator 

Steps to End Domestic Violence

Superhero power: The ability to connect with kids on their level.  

Good deed done: She leaves lasting marks of love and respect on hearts she’s helping to transform.  

Ikey says: “Kids are incredibly creative, resourceful and resilient.  At the shelter, it makes me proud to see children learn and grow in new ways when in a safe environment.”

Tammara Laraway, Owner/Director

TT's Tots

Superhero power: Helping each of the kids in her program ages 19 months to 9 years reach their individual goals.  
Good deed done: Helping children realize they can do something that they’ve been working hard on independently.  
Tammara says: “My hope is for all children to have high-quality opportunities to grow and develop—to play and be curious for as long as possible!”

September 2016 Superheroes


Dana Anderson, Regional Coordinator

Addison County Building Bright Futures

Superhero power: Strengthening Vermont’s early childhood system by securing grant funding for new programs, creating collaboration within her community and inspiring holistic thinking among the members of the Addison Building Bright Futures regional council.

Good deed done: Dana helped to create an educational early childhood TV series on Middlebury Community Television called Growing Bright Futures and now produces it every month.               
Dana says: “My hope for the future is to get more families engaged in wellness activities so the focus is on proactive health rather than fixing problems.”

Betsy Bailey, Owner

Little Dippers Doodle Children’s Center, LLC 
St. Johnsbury

Superhero power:  Supporting the health of families via special activities, classes and visits for parents. Betsy believes a child’s classroom starts in the home.

Good deed done:  Considering the needs of all children in her care, whether by ensuring every child gets a present during the holidays, purchasing clothing for kids in need, providing rides to doctors’ appointments or helping with foster care.

Betsy says:  “Making sure all kids have access to quality care starts with livable wages and benefits for providers, so that offering child care is sustainable and children can have consistent adults in their lives.”

Kristy Haapala, Executive Director

Waitsfield Children's Center

Superhero power: Kristy is a warm and caring teacher and director who always keeps the best interests of the children at the forefront of her decision-making. She maintains the Waitsfield Children’s Center at the highest level of quality possible: NAEYC accredited and 5 stars!

Good deed done: When a local mom suddenly got the call that a 10-month-old baby was in need of emergency foster care, her first call was to Kristy for help with child care. Kristy jumped into action to accommodate the infant, allowing the mom to care for him–and ultimately adopt him.

Kristy says: “I believe all children should have access to high-quality environments where they're respected and honored. In child care, that has to include paying early educators what they’re worth.”

Rachel Hunter

Family Care Provider & Vermont Birth to Five Mentor
North Springfield 

Superhero power: Her ability to multitask! Rachel devotes all of her time and then some to supporting early childhood in Vermont through her work as a child care provider and Vermont Birth to Five mentor, and her involvement with STARS, Building Bright Futures, the Starting Points Network and the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality, Affordable Child Care. 

Good deed done:  Providing a safe environment for the children in her care so that their parents can have peace of mind.

Rachel says: “I hope we can get to a point where all children can access quality care, that families can afford it and that they don't have to choose sub-standard care to pay the mortgage.”

May 2016 Superheroes


Dr. Matthew Rushford

Rushford Family Chiropractic Center

Superhero power: Being a big kid himself. Known by his smallest patients as “Dr. Sparkles,” Dr. Rushford excels at connecting with kids—even those who are usually shy or afraid of the doctor.

Good deed done: Day-to-day, the process of helping kids take ownership of their own health and well-being and the fact that the good choices they make are cumulative.

Matthew says: “I wish the health care industry would transform into a truly preventative system with integrated, proactive measures that empower and enable kids to have access to wellness-based care.”

Vicki Rich, R.N., Lactation Consultant, Birth Doula

Private Practice
Hyde Park

Superhero power: Being a great listener, providing non-judgmental advice, and being there for people—anywhere at any time—with a high level of energy and commitment.

Good deed done: Facilitating successful births and helping parents gain confidence by reassuring them that they actually do know what's best for their children. Also, celebrating the little things—like a baby's weight gain!

Vicki says: “I want our children to be able to form strong, stable bonds and feel fully loved and valued. We need flex scheduling, giving parents the choice to stay home, at least for the first three years.”

Sue Barnaby, Early Childhood Interventionist

Windsor-Orange School District

Superhero power: Listening to kids in a meaningful way that allows Sue to understand what interests them.

Good deed done: Weekly visits to school as the "Story Lady/Math Buddy" and deliveries of quality books and toys to classrooms help kids feel excited about reading and learning!

Sue says: “I wish all of our children had all of the resources they need to live happily and that parents wouldn't have to be as stretched as they are—so they could always fully enjoy time with their children!”

Carol Barbierri, Director

Happy Days Playschool

Superhero power: Continually expanding opportunities for both the children in her program and her early childhood staff to learn and grow!

Good deed done: Carol is always working to find the resources to make Happy Days as excellent and accessible as possible. She successfully applied for an Early Education Initiative grant which has provided scholarships for at-risk and low-income preschoolers for more than 20 years, as well as a grant to support ongoing art activities and a grant to expand Happy Days to six classrooms.

Carol says: “I want to help providers become the best they can be with degrees, experience and mentoring—so they can in turn help the leaders of tomorrow grow and develop.”

January 2016 Superheroes


Laurie Flaherty, Founding Director

AB2: Active Body, Active Brain, Creative Movement-based Curriculum

Superhero power: Her passion for teaching. "It never feels like work—it is always just pure joy!"

Good deed done: Laurie has never turned away a child or school program because of the inability to pay for her program, to the benefit of hundreds of children and families in Washington County.
Laurie says: “My hope for the future is that every child is nurtured—body, mind and spirit—so that she or he can thrive.”

Abby Knapp, Co-Founder

Burlington Forest Preschool

Superhero power:  Inspiring curiosity about the world. Life can be so exciting when you don't know all the answers!

Good deed done:  Realizing her dream of opening the Burlington Forest Preschool in collaboration with the Ethan Allen Homestead. Located on 250 acres of wilderness, the school fosters an environmental ethic and love of the natural world while providing early care and learning opportunities for Vermont kids.

Abby says: “The natural world is the perfect learning space. Children can express themselves, take risks and be physical while exploring the wetlands, woods and gardens of our 250-acre outdoor classroom!”

Cheryl Matthews, Children's House Director

Hilltop Montessori School

Superhero power:  Putting herself in the minds of young learners. No matter where she goes, she imagines how a young mind might view the experience!

Good deed done:  Encouraging learning, development and independence in each of her students while helping them feel loved and proud of their accomplishments.

Cheryl says: “I found my calling 30 years ago and have never wanted to leave. Every child is different, so there has never been a dull moment!”

Christina Nelson, Director

Mountain View Child Care
North Troy

Superhero power: Seeing potential in others that they haven't yet seen themselves—and helping them realize it!

Good deed done: Going above and beyond to ensure that children and families have the services they need–whether in health, transportation or other
wrap-around care.

Christina says: “We need to build a culture in our state and communities that recognizes each child as a critical investmentment in our future. Children should be our top priority!”

August 2015 Superheroes


Dr. Jody Brakeley, Developmental Behavioral Pediatrician

VT Department of Health Child Development Clinic and Independent Practice

Superhero power: Empowering Vermonters to support children’s healthy development by helping any audience understand the complex workings of early brain development.

Good deed done: In addition to direct patient care, Dr. Brakeley works with families, educators,schools and the medical community to convey current information and develop a shared language about early brain development.

Dr. Jody says: “Brain science has seemed like rocket science, but it isn’t. We can all understand how young brains develop and use this knowledge to better support healthy development.”

Kathleen Fitzgerald, Autism Interventionist

Children's Integrated Services - Early Intervention, Vermont Family Network

Superhero power: Empowering families to understand and support children with autism to become lifelong, engaged learners. In addition to working with individual children, Kathleen supports communities―including caregivers and child care centers―to understand autism in order to help children achieve their full potential.  

Good deed done: One of Kathleen’s clients reports: “When Kathleen first met my son he was basically nonverbal and in his own world. Now he speaks so much he is generally hoarse, answers to his name and plays well with others. If we didn't have her in our life I don't know where he would be today!”

Kathleen says: “My hope is that people will understand how important it is to invest in children during their earliest years, when it’s much easier to address issues before they become more significant, long-term challenges.”

Matthew LeFluer

Let's Grow Kids Ambassador

Superhero power: Connecting with children on their level. As a trained Let’s Grow Kids ambassador, Matt is highly effective at building awareness about the importance of the first years.

Good deed done: When he’s not spreading the word about early childhood, Matt works with preschool children at his local library as a volunteer.  

Matthew says: “It’s just so exciting that I can help children have chances that I never had growing up in foster care.”

Samantha Maskell, Youth Services Librarian

Rockingham Free Public Library
Bellows Falls

Superhero power: Instilling a love of stories and imagination, while laying key building blocks for early literacy and social-emotional development. Sam can be found at the library and around town reading with children.

Good deed done: Sam partnered with other community organizations to create the Windham County Resource Calendar, an open source web platform that will connect families to local events and resources, debuting this month.

Sam says: “I have the best job in the world! As a librarian, I’m able to help children build literacy skills through books, play and learning opportunities, and contribute to a thriving community.”

Monica Stowell, Registered Home Child Care Provider

Munchkins Day Care

Superhero power: Working with community organizations to provide high-quality (5 stars!), affordable child care for children aged 6 weeks to 12 years. Look for Monica and “her kids” in the Lyndonville town parade, visiting with a police officer or fire fighter, and out birdwatching!

Good deed done: Monica uses resources such as Head Start and Strengthening Families to make sure all families can afford her care and all children have rich, stimulating experiences.

Monica says: "I want the children I work with to achieve all of their goals and remember me as one of the people who supported them to get there.”