• 72°

Partnership for Children honors early childhood educators

By Shelia Simpson, for the SNAP

The Stanly County Partnership for Children, with assistance from the Stanly County Economic Development Commission, hosted a dinner to honor early childhood educators Sept. 20 at North Albemarle Baptist Church.

Tammy Albertson, executive director of the Stanly County Partnership for Children, said “it had been a while since the Partnership held a child care appreciation event and since Smart Start is celebrating 25 years this year, we thought it would be a good time to do something.”

Stanly County was one of the first 12 counties selected to participate in the Smart Start program, a public/private partnership which seeks to help prepare all children in North Carolina between the ages of birth and 5 for success in school and life. Now 25 years old, the program has spread across the state and is in all 100 counties.

Albertson welcomed the evening’s attendees, thanking them for their service to Stanly County’s children before introducing Partnership Board Chairman Rev. Michael Scott, who gave the invocation.

He asked each educator to rise, give an introduction and tell everyone how many years of experience each had in early childhood education. The numbers ranged from a few weeks to nearly 40 years.

County Commissioner Matthew Swain, who also serves on the Economic Development Commission, was recognized and asked to say a few words.

He reminded everyone of the “critical role early childhood educators play in the economic development of Stanly County.”

Briefly, he explained companies looking to relocate or expand into Stanly County want to know about the education system in the county, including the availability of quality child care.

Swain thanked everyone for “maintaining the high standard of care, which makes Stanly County attractive to these companies.”

Denise Smith, child care services coordinator at the Partnership, introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Tanya Dennis.

With more than 30 years of experience, Dennis has worked with a number of organizations, including Head Start, Smart Start, North Carolina Public Schools, the Frank Porter Graham Center at UNC-Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Community College System.

She began by urging everyone to speak out, to explain the importance of “investing now in order to reduce the cost on the back end.”

She reminded everyone “the children of today will be the adults who take care of us in the future.”

“We must provide opportunities for these children to grow and develop not only those skills that will help them succeed in school, but in life as well,” she added. “This includes social and emotional skills.”

She then turned her remarks to the importance of teaching social and emotional skills during the early years of a child’s life as it relates to mental health.

“We all know it takes a village to raise a child and I’m telling you right now, the village is sick,” she said.

She reminded everyone to “live in the present,” to take care of themselves so they can “be there for the children in their care. Our wellness drives everything. The truest indicator of high quality early childhood education is you, the provider.”

As she concluded, she encouraged everyone to educate people on the importance of play and the role of early childhood education in preparing children to enter kindergarten engaged and prepared to learn.

At the conclusion of Dennis’ speech, Albertson and Smith returned to the podium to award door prizes donated by Discount School Supplies, Kaplan and LakeShore Learning.

Winners were Kiddie Kare, Stanly County Head Start, Oakboro Kids Club, Lisa Fulcher Home Day Care, Kiddie Kare II, Little Creations Day Care and Little Friends.

Every educator in attendance was allowed to choose a children’s book from their table to take with them.

Shelia Simpson is a freelance contributor for The Stanly News & Press.