The Vermont Association for the Education of Young Children (VTAEYC) is happy to announce that Callie Weller of Calais is the winner of the the seventh annual Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award. The prestigious annual award recognizes exceptional early childhood educators and emphasizes the importance of high-quality early childhood education.
Weller is a preschool teacher at Calais Elementary School, where she has taught for 13 years. During the 2020-2021 school year, Weller taught young children in-person in the morning, then pivoted to offer remote learning to young children in the afternoons.
“Callie Weller had the energy and skill to make Pre-K work for each family in her district, whether the child was at home or in the classroom,” said VTAEYC Executive Director Janet McLaughlin. “Callie’s approach embodies what equity looks like in early childhood education. At the peak of a pandemic, she took it upon herself to support each child and family with the best possible experience. Early childhood educators lift so much weight for their communities, and so often it’s invisible. With this award, we hope to spotlight the heart and strength Callie and many others bring to this essential job.”
This year, the award selection committee took special note of how nominees supported their communities during the 2020-2021 school year. In 2020, the award went to all of Vermont’s early childhood educators for safely providing care to the children during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those who served families of Vermont’s essential workers during the state’s emergency period.
Weller said that during 2020 and 2021, when her district and others offered both in-person and remote learning, educators everywhere had a lot of extra work. “There are so many people like me, loving this job every day and working so hard every day,” she said. “I think the trickiest part is balance. How do we get all families what they need and what they deserve? Because all kids deserve a really good start.”
Weller was honored during Vermont’s annual Early Childhood Education Conference, held virtually this year, on October 20. Thanks to award sponsor Let’s Grow Kids, she received a $2,500 award and all expenses paid to a National Association for the Education of Young Children conference as well as the state conference. Weller, currently pursuing an Educational Leadership degree at St. Michael’s College, said she plans to use the award to help cover the costs of her continuing education.
“Kids deserve really excited teachers who want to be here every day and help them explore their world and learn about it. You have to love what you do,” Weller said.
To be eligible for the Early Childhood Educator of the Year award, nominees must be a center, home, or school-based early childhood educator working in the field for three or more years. Their program also needs a four-star or higher rating in STARS.
The award selection committee is made up of local leaders and advocates for early childhood education in Vermont, including: Honi Barrett of Building Bright Futures; Meri Carpenter-Saladino, 2019 Early Childhood Educator of the Year; Nicole Dubuque from the Department of Children and Families’ Child Development Division; Heather Duhamel of Northern Vermont University; Julie Farr of Hunger Mountain Children’s Center; Kim Freeman of the Windham Regional Career Center; State Senator Ruth Hardy; Christine Johnson of Otter Creek Academy and VTAEYC’s Board of Directors; Aly Richards, CEO of Let’s Grow Kids; Susan Rosato, 2021 Vermont Teacher of the Year; Johanna Vaczy of STARS and VTAEYC’s Board of Directors; Jarrell Watts of the Sara Holbrook Children’s Center; and State Representative Dane Whitman.