by Victoria Wolk, reposted by permission from The Reporter Online
Three local teachers have been honored by the Terri Lynne Lokoff Child Care Foundation, a King of Prussia-based nonprofit “dedicated to making America better by improving early care and education,” according to its website.
Each year, the TLLCCF chooses approximately 50 teachers from across the country for its National Child Care Teacher Awards. The local award recipients this year are Monica Araya, Inga Mountain and Amy Wertz. To apply for the award, each teacher had to submit a proposal for a classroom enhancement project. The winners receive $500 to fund their projects, as well as $500 for personal use.
Monica Araya teaches 2 and 3-year-olds at the Salford Mennonite Child Care Center in Lansdale. About one-third of her toddlers have parents from other countries, Araya explained, so she chose to create a project based on international sports. “It’ll educate my children on the different cultures they have in their classroom,” she said.
The students will learn about sports such as soccer, baseball, cricket and bocce. To go along with each sport, Araya will invite parents to come in and talk about playing those sports when they were young. She also plans on incorporating related books into the project.
Her classroom recently celebrated Diversity Week, during which students were asked to share things from home that reflect their various cultures. “It’s showing them that it doesn’t matter what our friends look like; we can all still be friends,” Araya said. It’s important to teach them that lesson at a young age, she said.
In addition to learning about different cultures, the students will also learn about teamwork and have a chance to work on their developmental skills. It’s good for them to learn the “importance of moving around,” she said.
Inga Mountain, who teaches kids between ages 3 and 6 at the Montessori Children’s House in Horsham, proposed buying a light table for her classroom. Light tables, which are backlit by LED lights, were originally used by artists, she said. A few years ago, the tables started to move into preschool classrooms.
Light tables are perfect for things like tracing, which helps preschoolers with their hand-eye coordination, Mountain said. The tables can also be used for fingerpainting and mixing colors; if you put red on top of yellow, it will look orange.
Only one kid at a time will be allowed to use the table. That gets them to focus on the task at hand, Mountain said, something which has become increasingly difficult since the introduction of modern technology. “A lot of technology that we have is actually doing the opposite” of helping kids focus, she said. Mountain plans on buying the table in the coming months.
The third local winner is Amy Wertz, who is a teacher in an infant classroom at Upper Gwynedd Child Learning Center. Her idea was to create an infant sensory garden on one of the center’s playgrounds. “We want babies to experience things through their senses,” she said. “That’s how they learn.”
The garden will consist of two planters surrounding a four-foot-arch, which will be the focal point of the garden. The planters will hold brightly colored flowers, carrots, elephant ear plants and more, Wertz said. There will also be mint for the babies to smell, and shorter planters around the garden will contain rocks and sand for them to touch.
“The garden takes a lot of upkeep, but I’m very passionate about it,” Wertz said. The project costs a little more than the $500 awarded by the TLLCCF, she said, but the child care center has offered to fund the rest.
In April, Araya, Mountain and Wertz will join winning teachers from around the country at Philadelphia’s Please Touch Museum for a special ceremony.