Announcing 2023 VTAEYC Exchange Fellows

Fellows study intersections between early childhood and climate change, diversity and community


VTAEYC is proud to announce its 2023 cohort of VTAEYC Exchange Fellows. The VTAEYC Exchange initiative positions young children as a critical intersectional demographic with the issues of climate change, social justice and community-building. Fellowships are awarded to interdisciplinary leaders from Vermont’s early childhood community who find opportunities for connection and action within each intersection.

The 2023 Fellows are:

Young Children x Our Planet

  • April Zajko (she/her) of St. Johnsbury, early childhood educator and Community College of Vermont faculty member

Young Children x Our Diversity

  • Danielle Huston (she/her) of East Montpelier, owner and operator of a family home child care program
  • Michelle Richling (she/her) of Hinesburg, Family Support Programs Director at Prevent Child Abuse Vermont

Young Children x Our Communities

  • Morgan Leichter-Saxby (they/them) of Westminster, independent researcher and co-founder of Pop-Up Adventure Play
  • Cathy Siggins (she/her) of Chester, early childhood special educator at Two Rivers Supervisory Union and faculty member with Vermont State Colleges and the Vermont Higher Education Collaborative.

The VTAEYC Exchange is supported by the Turrell Fund. Over a nine-month fellowship, each Fellow develops a body of research and resources connected to their intersection of focus. Each fellow receives a $1,200 stipend. Keeping with the Exchange’s intersectional approach, Fellows operate as a cohort, engaging with each other as well as the communities in which they practice.

“These are urgent times. We know from research that climate change, social intolerance of all kinds and isolation can have a concentrated impact on our children. We celebrate the work of our Exchange Fellows, who develop creative and collaborative ways for early childhood educators to take action on these matters, create rippling effects, and make a difference,” said VTAEYC Exchange coordinator Ann Moore.

“I believe that in early childhood, we have the opportunity to help young children feel a connection to the planet that will spur them to become lifelong stewards,” said Our Planet x Young Children Fellow April Zajko of St. Johnsbury, who trains fellow early childhood educators on incorporating nature-based practices into their programs.

“A sense of community and belonging is more necessary now than ever. Families are feeling isolated, schools are struggling with behaviors, children are not equipped with the tools to cope with the amount of stress, and parents are needing support. Children and families need communities to wrap around them and find ways to offer support to one another, to know that no one is alone in this,” said Our Diversity x Young Children Fellow Michelle Richling of Hinesburg, who works as the Family Support Programs Director at Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.

For more information about the VTAEYC Exchange, click here.

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