Announcing 2022 Early Childhood Educator of the Year and new award winners!

VTAEYC is delighted to announce Ami English of Coventry is the winner of the eighth annual Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award. The prestigious annual award honors exceptional early childhood educators and spotlights the importance of high-quality early childhood education for Vermont’s children, families, and communities.

Ami is being recognized for her work as Teacher/Director of Coventry Village School Preschool, where she emphasized imaginative outdoor play. Ami recently became an Early Childhood Coach for the North Country Supervisory Union, supporting other early childhood educators in her district.

“Ami English understands that building caring and supportive relationships – with children, with families, with colleagues – is key to quality early childhood education” said VTAEYC Executive Director Janet McLaughlin. “But what really stands out is her passion for play-based learning, and her ability to create inviting opportunities for children to lead themselves in discovery. Ami demonstrates this developmentally-appropriate practice at the highest level.”

Ami’s teaching philosophy is that young children need “loose parts” to learn about their world through play: items like scarves and sticks that can be adapted for different uses based on a child’s imagination. “I want to cultivate imagination and wonder,” she said: at Coventry Village School, she created a preschool playground with wood and stones for building, art and music stations, a dramatic play area and a stage for dancing and acting out stories. “To the passersby our playground looks empty, but once set up each day, it’s alive with children doing their best and most important work: playing!” she affirmed.

In her new role as a district-wide coach, Ami helps fellow early childhood educators set goals and implement best teaching practices, while sharing her love of open-ended exploration and of the outdoors. Ami encourages fellow early childhood educators to creatively incorporate nature in their curricula: in rural areas, children can examine natural objects through outdoor exploration; children in city settings can explore natural materials educators bring into their playgrounds or classrooms. Ami said, “I have the best job in the world: I get to go from school to school and play with children!”

Seven inaugural winners of new VTAEYC awards

Also at the Oct. 13 ceremony, VTAEYC introduced five new major awards that recognize excellence and advocacy among individuals at all career stages who are working both within and in support of early childhood education. Seven individuals were honored as the inaugural winners of these awards.

The awards, and their winners, are:

Children’s Champion: Sen. Patrick Leahy

This award recognizes the work of an individual, organization, or Vermont government official for their advocacy or voting record which has had a positive impact on young children in Vermont during the previous legislative session. Patrick Leahy is truly a children’s champion because he represented Vermont and the needs of children and young families over a lifetime of public service. He has long supported programs that promote strong early childhood education, including the Head Start and Early Head Start programs, and helped secure many millions of federal dollars to help fund these programs in Vermont. (Photo courtesy leahy.senate.gov)


Distinguished Service: Jackie Sprague

For over 30 years, Jackie Sprague has been the lone voice in so many rooms that ALWAYS asks, “Is that the best we can do for this child, these children? Let’s look again.” There has never been an instance where she has given up on a child or family and she has spent her entire career bolstering novice early educators into the realm of master teachers. She has been a Kindergarten teacher, Early Childhood Program Director, Early Education Special Educator, Undergraduate Adjunct Professor of Early Education, Graduate Professor of Early Education, Mentor Teacher, Consultant to the Child Development Division for Program Improvements, STARS advisor, VAEYC President, and co-owner of Pyramid 802 of Vermont. For years, early childhood education in Vermont has benefited from her immense knowledge and compilation of resources. (Photo courtesy Jackie Sprague)


Early Childhood Education Student of the Year: Ella Smith McCarthy, University of Vermont

As a student, Ella stands out among her early childhood and University of Vermont peers. She is able to think critically, engage deeply with course content, make connections across coursework and experiences, while also exuding a friendly kindness that makes other students seek her out.

She sets others at ease and creates learning environments that are accessible and engaging, whether it is a small or large group discussion in a college classroom, a professional development session with colleagues, or time on the playground with children. She is passionate about helping children and families and committed to advancing the field of early childhood education through her actions, advocacy, and words. (Photo courtesy Erica Houskeeper /University of Vermont)


Emerging Leader: Tammie Hazlett

Over the past several Tammie has demonstrated continuous growth in her leadership skills. She runs a Family Child Care program in her home and leads her regional VECN Network. She has been in the business for a number of years and continues to show commitment to growth and quality improvement.

She mentors members of her VECN and shares her business and technology skills with others. She participates in the Upper Valley Vital Communities work, Advancing as a Profession, and volunteers at Let’s Grow Kids. As a member of Let’s Grow Kids’ ECE Leadership Circle she has spoken out to advocate for child care for all Vermont children. (Photo VTAEYC)


Outstanding Members: Stephanie Carvey, Alyson Grzyb, Laurie Metcalfe

Stephanie has served on a variety of planning and regional groups. Some of them include the Early Childhood Educator Institute, her  regional Building Bright Futures Council, the Leadership Cooperative, the Rutland Regional Early Childhood Network, and the STARS stakeholder workgroup. In her more recent role as Operations Manager at the Rutland County Parent Child Center, Stephanie has deepened her working knowledge of organization operations and staff support systems. She is a dedicated advocate on behalf of Vermont’s children, families and early childhood educators. (Photo courtesy Stephanie Carvey/Let’s Grow Kids)

Alyson has shown commitment to quality ECE programs. She has been involved in Advancing as a profession, grant reviewing, and is a director of a 5-star program,  She has served as VECN leader and grant coordinator served on the Bennington County Child Care Association Board and BCCCA conference committee. She is a member of BBF Regional Council and the QTF subcommittee. She is an instructor, mentor, and advocate. She frequently volunteers her time and program space and operates a high-quality, respected, early childhood program. (Photo VTAEYC)

Laurie has shown commitment to quality ECE programs. She is deeply committed to best practice, equity, and family-centered practices. She is passionate about the Strengthening Families Framework, Advancing as a Profession, and advocating for VT’s children, families, and early childhood educators. She is active in a VECN, statewide committees including ELD, and BBF. Not only does she mentor and support the professional growth of her staff, she has strengthened the program’s Board of Directors. She is approachable, friendly, and a great community partner and friend to all. (Photo courtesy Laurie Metcalfe)