Provider Spotlight: Pamela Funderburk

Pamela Funderburk doesn’t make a distinction between caring for children and running her child care business–the children are the reason she’s in business.

Funderburk, who has been a family child care provider for more than 30 years, considers the eight children in her Ms. P’s Sprouts Family Childcare program in Woodlawn part of her family.

Maryland EXCELS provider Pamela Funderburk sits holding an infant and her arm around a little boy.In fact, her 3-year-old grandson and 7-month-old granddaughter are among the children she cares for and teaches every day.

“A lot of times friends and parents have told me I care too much and I need to be focused on the business side of child care. My thought on that is if you’re having somebody’s children in your home, it’s personal,” Funderburk said.

“Most of my kids have been with me since they were infants, and I just can’t look at them as just a business, even though I know it’s a business,” she said. “My heart takes over.”

But Funderburk has learned over the years that having a solid structure for the business side of her child care allows her to focus on what she loves most, which is caring for children and giving parents peace of mind while their children are with her.

“The best part of my job is when I’m looking into a parent’s eyes and I realize that they trust me with their children,” she said.

Funderburk, a Quality Rated Level 5 Maryland EXCELS provider, is accredited by the National Family Child Care Association and holds a Maryland Child Care Credential. She credits Maryland EXCELS’ staff and resources with helping her achieve her goals to grow as a provider and business owner.

“It helps me to check myself. As a family provider, we’re on our own. We do our own business,” she said. “I found that I had to sit there and make myself make sure that I was implementing everything I needed to do in family child care. I’m my own director and assistant director but [Maryland] EXCELS helps me to know what I need to be doing.”

She has also been able to share the importance of Maryland EXCELS with families. When Maryland EXCELS held a Family Fun Day at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on a weekend in September, Funderburk brought some of the children from her child care.

“I thought, if I win, I’m going to take all of these kids whose parents have trouble finding care on the weekends,” she said. “I explained [to parents] that [the event is] … through Maryland EXCELS. They promote high-quality family child care, and they want to make sure we’re providing a safe environment for the kids and also make sure the kids could have a fun day. It was really, really nice.”
Funderburk also goes out of her way to let other programs and providers know about the benefits and mission of Maryland EXCELS.

As an observer for programs and providers who are seeking accreditation through the National Association for Family Child Care, Funderburk has the opportunity to encourage other family child care providers to take advantage of Maryland EXCELS and the extensive training available. She emphasizes the importance of building a foundation for their businesses as well as growing as child care and early education providers.

“It’s a win-win situation for all. If people don’t participate in credentialing or Maryland EXCELS or accreditation, you’re shorting yourself and your career goals,” she said.
A common concern she hears from providers is that they’ll be on their own once they participate in Maryland EXCELS.
“They don’t realize that once you participate in EXCELS that a specialist will help you if you have any concerns, if you have any questions, or you’re stuck somewhere,” Funderburk said. “Even with the level that I am, I can get stuck and I can call [my QAS], and she’ll just walk me through it. …The help is there.”

Whether it’s nurturing the children and families in her child care or encouraging other family child care providers, Funderburk’s motivation is to ensure children are receiving the best possible care.

“I’ve been doing family child care for 31 years. And I always say, when I get to the end, I want to be a mentor just to encourage people to stay in family child care,” she said. “It is family.”

Learn more about the Maryland Accreditation Support Fund here.

Would you like to tell your story about your journey as a provider with Maryland EXCELS? We’d love to hear from you and consider featuring your program as a Provider Spotlight! Send an email to telling us a little about yourself, and we’ll be in touch.

Provider Spotlight: Provider’s Bucket List Includes Improving Quality of Child Care

Years ago, Jacqueline Jones started a bucket list. Considering her love of children and belief she could make a difference in children’s lives, Jones added “Open Child Care Program” to her list.

It’s now been almost 10 years since Jones opened a family child care program. She continues to believe that early education gives every child the foundation they need to thrive.

“It’s like building a house,” she said. “If you don’t have a solid foundation, the house won’t be a strong structure.”

Participating in Maryland EXCELS has helped Jones ensure she is providing a quality program to children and their families. She has included policies and procedures that might not have been added if it weren’t for Maryland EXCELS.

For example, before participating in Maryland EXCELS, she shared all communication with families verbally. Now, Jones has a bulletin board in her home where she posts flyers and sign-up forms for upcoming conferences.

“Since Maryland EXCELS, I just don’t have a day care, I run a business,” Jones said.

Jones feels it’s important to devote time each month to improve her program and work on increasing her Quality Rating. She attends a work group sponsored by Maryland EXCELS every month with the goal of uploading at least one or two documents to her online account during each session.

“It’s all about the quality of care,” Jones said. “Program improvement doesn’t just change your environment . . . it makes you a better person.”

Jones feels the children in her program are like her own. And as a mother of two, she wants to give her families the same level of quality that she would have wanted for her own children, who are now 16 and 21. Jones’ older daughter will be graduating as an officer at the Coast Guard Academy next year, and her younger daughter will finish high school while simultaneously earning an associate degree in health care.

Recently, Jones has added another item to her bucket list- following her daughters’ examples and pursuing a degree.

She feels it’s never too late to follow your dreams.

The idea started at one of the Maryland EXCELS work group sessions. Jones asked how she could achieve a higher credential level. Her Quality Assurance Specialist shared that a degree in early childhood education would be helpful. Jones left that session with a brochure for the Child Care Career and Professional Development Fund. Six weeks later, she returned with an acceptance letter from Notre Dame of Maryland University. She will start Notre Dame’s early childhood education degree program this fall.

Provider Spotlight: Maryland EXCELS Provider Succeeds with Toolkit

Nancy Rife in the center of a photo, surrounded by eight children under her care.

Nancy Rife considers the children she cares for in her family child care home exactly that—family.

When Rife was ready to improve the quality of care she offered her families, as well as expand her own knowledge, she took advantage of the wealth of resources found in the Maryland EXCELS Toolkit.

In a few short months, Rife, who cares for eight children under age 4 in her Hagerstown home, quickly worked her way from a quality rating 1 to a quality rating 3 using the Build-A-Policy feature of the Toolkit.

Rife said she “stalled” at a quality rating 1 for a long time, and then explained how she learned about the new Toolkit from Quality Assurance Specialist Petrea Fletcher. Rife found the format and resources convenient and easy to use.

“I just threw myself into it,” Rife said. “It was an opportunity for me to learn—new tools, different things to do with the kids, different resources. It was also to show my kids—I have two kids of my own—that you can do whatever you want in life when you apply yourself.”

Rife set a goal for herself to achieve a quality rating 3 before she had to renew her quality rating a few months ago. Fletcher happily called to tell Rife she accomplished her goal with a few days to spare.

“With the Toolkit out there, and it having the examples and the explanations or other links that can give you direction, that makes it a lot easier and a lot faster” to reach goals as a provider, Rife said. “It’s definitely given me a better perspective, and it’s given me more tools to work with, more information, more ideas, more references that I can look at and read.”

The Maryland EXCELS Toolkit launched on July 26, 2017 as a new collection of resources to help child care professionals enhance the quality of their programs. The Toolkit also helps programs and providers navigate the Maryland EXCELS Standards and offers new ideas and activities for the children in their care.

Among the most helpful Toolkit features for programs and providers are the quality rating checklists. These lists help programs meet their goals and contain content that helps improve child care practices.

Programs can also reference step-by-step guides for outlines of the requirements for each standard. The checklists also include a Policy and Statement Builder tool to develop or revise policies, handbooks and documentation that may be required to achieve a higher quality rating.

Rife found the Policy and Statement Builder tool particularly helpful to work up to a quality rating 3 as quickly as she did. She also sees the benefit of having comprehensive policies and handbooks to share with families.

“I think it makes you more professional. I’m a home child care provider—everything I do and say reflects on me,” Rife said. “I show [families] the certificates and show them the work I’ve done because they’re interested in it. … They know that’s a good thing because you’re keeping your knowledge fresh about how to take care of the children.”

An additional benefit of reaching a quality rating 3 that Rife didn’t expect is the increased Maryland EXCELS payments she receives for accepting Child Care Subsidy.

“I didn’t know until a couple of months ago when Petrea told me,” she said. “That was pretty exciting, especially when she broke it down into dollar amounts… It was like a bonus.”

Rife feels so encouraged by the support of her Quality Assurance Specialist and her achievements that she plans to keep working toward higher quality ratings. In fact, she is already working on a quality rating 4.

“I love what I’m doing with my life right now and the effect I’m having on the children and their lives,” she said.

Provider Spotlight: Dorchester County Providers Moving Up with Judy Center Support

The Dorchester County Judy Center serves as a hub for the community, helping to nurture children and their families as they grow and prepare to enter school.

Part of the community focus is to help child care and early education programs and providers strengthen the foundation they are providing for infants to preschoolers and young school-age children.

In the past year, this Eastern Shore Judy Center helped programs and providers in Maryland EXCELS get the professional development needed to publish at a Quality Rating 3.

For area families looking for child care and early education, having more local programs and providers with a Quality Rating of 3 gives families greater options for high-quality care.

For the programs and providers, a Quality Rating of 3 also means increased financial benefits of higher Child Care Subsidy payments.  Depending on the number of children enrolled with Subsidy vouchers, this can amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in Maryland EXCELS payments to the program or provider.

“It all goes back to doing what’s best for the child so they’re benefitting in the end and giving providers the skills they need in order to be a quality provider,” said Chareka Harris, coordinator of the Dorchester County Judy Center in Cambridge.

The Dorchester County Judy Center is one of 51 Judy Centers throughout Maryland, which provide services to promote school readiness for children birth through age five. This center also serves as a community hub that supports families as a whole by partnering with other agencies to offer services ranging from adult education to health services.

“I think that the community recognizes that we’re here to work together for the good of all children,” Harris said. “But most importantly, in this county, [we’re working] to get children as ready as they can be as soon as they walk in to that schoolhouse door.”

Last year, the Dorchester County Judy Center aimed to help three more programs and providers achieve at least a Maryland EXCELS Quality Rating of 3. At the beginning of the year, two programs and providers were published at a Quality Rating of 3.

With lots of encouragement, the incentive of free registration to the 2017 Maryland State Family Child Care Conference, and the opportunity for Professional Development, the center exceeded its goal and helped seven programs and providers move to Quality Rating 3!

The Center offered professional development in areas such as licensing, assessments, and health and safety. Maryland EXCELS Quality Assurance Specialists, Mary Beth Johnson and Dianna Aguirre also conducted technical assistance training and helped providers with questions and documents. Each provider who published at Quality Rating of 3 was featured in a congratulatory post on the Judy Center’s Facebook page. Harris explained that the posts encourage providers and families in the close-knit community.

“This is to highlight the goodness and hard work they put in to get to that level,” Harris said. “It’s like a badge of honor. It also highlights their business and boosts self-esteem. It’s great to get that recognition.”

The Judy Center also helps families understand the importance of having programs and providers who work hard to achieve a higher Quality Rating in Maryland EXCELS and what the extra check marks mean for their children.

When parents are seeking child care, the Center points them to the Maryland EXCELS website and shows parents how to find quality child care through the website’s resources.

“We want to help make sure children have a good foundation so that teachers can go on and continue with the skills that were provided during their early years,” Harris said.

Provider Spotlight: Ms. Lisa’s Eco Child Care

Before her son Dean was born, Lisa McCourry, family child care provider in Maryland EXCELS, had never given any thought to eco-friendly practices.

Her son thrived for the first nine months of his life. Suddenly, after McCourry introduced food and formula, Dean had his first asthma attack.

play area

Doctors found that McCourry’s son was severely allergic to a variety of foods. She changed Dean’s diet immediately, but was confused when his asthma seemed to worsen.

Following a doctor’s recommendation, she also made changes to the types of products she used in her home, including replacing bleach with non-toxic products.

“I grew up using [cleaning] chemicals that everybody else used. I didn’t know any better,” McCourry said.

This initial floor-to-ceiling cleaning of her home inspired a new way of life and child care philosophy for McCourry. She was amazed not only by the change in her son’s health and behaviors, but by the changes she saw in the other children in her care.

Today, her son is all grown up, but she has no intention of returning to her former cleaning products and practices.

Good Clean Fun

Based in Howard County, Ms. Lisa’s Eco Child Care is one of many programs participating in Maryland EXCELS that goes above and beyond in eco-friendly practices. McCourry, who has 30 years of experience as a child care provider, passes on the lessons she’s learned about eco-friendly living to the children in her care every day.


“Some of the kids will say, ‘Ms. Lisa, why don’t you have carpet on your floor?’ And I’ll say, ‘Well, we have rugs, and Ms. Lisa cleans them,” she said. “I [describe] to them, ‘This is how we keep things clean, this is how we disinfect things.’”

McCourry also likes to incorporate the children into the daily routine, including helping to wash their own dishes after mealtime.

Even their snacks are eco-friendly: McCourry and the children grow their own vegetables together in her backyard. She wants to help the children understand better ways of eating, both nutritionally and environmentally.

This past summer, McCourry introduced her children to watermelon and bell peppers grown in their garden. “You can make eating vegetables fun,” she said. “You can put all the colors down–the red, the green, the orange, and the yellow. [Children] want to eat like that.”

Nature inspires many lessons for the children, McCourry said. She shared that she takes the children for a walk around her neighborhood every day as weather permits, and they learn about what they observe.

“The kids have to list everything they see,” she said. The children talk about falling leaves, garden snakes, birds, or their favorite topic – McCourry’s neighbor’s horses.

The fun doesn’t stop on rainy or snowy days. Children make and play with homemade clay, slime, and other toys, though their favorite activity is the wintertime “beach parties.” McCourry fills the large tub in her center’s bathroom for the children to put their feet in, and then spreads beach towels on the bathroom floor for a faux-tropical escape.

Reaching Beyond Her Home

Just as McCourry models eco-friendly practices for the children in her care, she also makes a point to educate their parents and other providers.

She doesn’t think leading an eco-friendly lifestyle is challenging, but does worry about how her parents feel about her tips.

“I don’t want to come across as a know-it-all,” McCourry said.

Still, she also knows she has a lot to share, and she once identified symptoms of lactose intolerance to the parents of one of the children in her care. Her solution is to send a monthly newsletter to parents that contains a health-related tip.

“It doesn’t have to be something big. It just helps them in a different way,” she said.

McCourry also leads many Train-the-Trainer workshops with the Children’s Environmental Health Network about the importance of eco-friendly child care practices. She said providers appreciate that her workshops focus on the providers themselves as much as the children in their care.

While her passion for eco-friendly living originally began with caring for her son’s health, over the years she’s seen firsthand what a difference this way of life can make for people of all ages.

Turning Children into Lifelong Learners with the Reggio Emilia Approach


By Mary Beck

While every child care program and school has a learning philosophy and mission, The Young School draws its inspiration all the way from Reggio Emilia, Italy, where a unique approach to early education began.

What sets the Reggio Emilia approach apart is that the children are at the helm of their own learning at all times.

The Young School is a Reggio Emilia-inspired school designed for children from infancy through age 4. It’s an important distinction that if a school isn’t located in Reggio Emilia, Italy, then it is a Reggio Emilia-inspired school. The Young School has six locations in Maryland, five of which participate in Maryland EXCELS. Three are accredited by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). The school’s philosophy complements its commitment to quality child care and early childhood education.

In keeping with the Reggio Emilia philosophy, children may stop and start their activities as they please and guide their own learning as they explore in different sections of the center, called cottages. The philosophy considers the teacher to not just be an instructor, but also a co-learner and collaborator with the child. Even when a child needs help, The Young School’s rule is to ask two friends for help before asking an adult.

“Teachers in this type of environment always take more of a secondary role in terms of leadership and guidance in the classroom, because these students are so independent and given complete autonomy over most of the parts of their day,” said Stephanie Janoske, The Young School’s Ocean Cottage director.

Janoske noted how this approach gives the teachers the opportunity to observe more and to plan and document the students’ interests. Additionally, because the children are free to gather their own supplies for a project and help each other, teachers have the freedom to give students more one-on-one attention.

Actively Learning, Together

All four cottages at the Columbia location feature the hallmarks of a Reggio Emilia-inspired environment: an open area with ample natural light and live plants, a project room and a great room with a loft, and a learning language around which the cottage is focused. Learning languages are concepts that allow for broad exploration, such as movement or memory. Each cottage is further divided into a math/science area, an art area, and a social area.

Brenda Coggins, director of education for all locations of The Young School, described how the children in the Forest Cottage were learning about sewing. They cut fabric on their own and learned how to use miniature sewing machines to bring their creations to life. The older children taught both younger children and teachers how the machines worked.

This independent approach extends to infant classes as well, with simpler toys and tools. Coggins described the infants’ cottage as a place that focuses on play and loose materials.

“There’s no ‘push a button and lights and music play’ toys in there,” she said. “Passive toy, active child.”

Guiding Amazing Projects

Teachers at The Young School are not deterred by folks who may be skeptical about their philosophy. Every teacher at the program is eager to speak to how capable children are and how much they learn, and the teachers maintain the utmost respect for the Reggio Emilia philosophy.

“Your child’s not going to learn their ABCs in the traditional way you may be expecting,” said Janoske. Instead of learning the letters of the alphabet sequentially, the teachers “introduce [the children] to the print of their name, and they’re going to be excited about spelling their name because that’s important to them.”

This excitement is palpable as the children work on their activities during the day. In the Forest Cottage, a little boy was eager to share the purple shark he had sewn the day before. In the Ocean Cottage, a 4-year-old child proudly announced that she was writing a book about Rapunzel. A 3-year-old girl casually worked on another book next to her, watching and learning from her classmate.

“The children have a desire to learn naturally, and if you can incorporate that natural curiosity with their interests, you have such a better response from the child in terms of their retention of the information and their drive to continue learning more,” Janoske said.

This drive is evident not just in the children’s everyday activities and creations, but in each cottage’s multi-month projects. A point of pride for the Ocean Cottage is the mud kitchen that the children created and gifted to the center the year before.

“Our cottage is a community of builders,” Janoske said. Many children in the cottage were interested in cooking and using materials outside to create, so they decided to [fulfill] that need by creating a mud kitchen – a handmade kitchen playset made using planks of wood, spare kitchen parts such as sinks and stove grates, and loose utensils to “cook” using dirt or other natural materials.

“They had the blueprints in math and science where they had graph paper and they used rulers to draw a square [to determine], ‘This is where we’re going to cut out for the sink, and this is where we’ll cut that,’” Janoske described. “We had a handful of conversations about what kind of designs we could use, and we looked at examples from other schools and talked about what we were missing.”

Once the children finished planning and obtaining their materials, they hammered the wood together and built the kitchen themselves (with supervision, of course!).

“One by one, they all took a turn in putting pieces of wood together, so they all had a hand in putting that structure together,” Janoske said.

Coggins has observed over the years how this way of learning has fostered confidence and excitement in children. She is proud of how The Young School is accredited by MSDE and a successful participant in Maryland EXCELS while also maintaining the principles of the Reggio Emilia approach.

“All of our teachers and project directors are tracking objectives and giving summary reports to parents, and yet we’ve been able to stay true to who we are,” she said. “[The children] own their learning, which turns them into lifelong learners from a young age.”

In the Spotlight: Minds in Motion Child Care

At Minds in Motion Child Care in Montgomery County, being family-oriented is more than a simple philosophy – family is the backbone of the organization.

The program is owned and operated by sisters Teresa, LaTisha, and Latrice Gasaway. The sisters started the program in 2008 as a before- and after-care program at a church in Potomac before opening their full-service child care center in Gaithersburg. Today, the sisters operate both locations and serve 165 children total, and they are growing their program through participation in Maryland EXCELS and the Child Care Subsidy program that helps them enhance their program for families and staff.

One of their unique program offerings is the creative dance program, which is available to children age 2 and older. “The [dance] instructor creates a whole curriculum with exercise, movement, music, instruments, and song,” said LaTisha Gasaway. “It gets [the children] going, gets [them] exercised, and gets their energy out.”

The program’s success is already leading to more exciting opportunities for the children. “We’re also implementing American Sign Language instruction, because our dance teacher is also fluent in ASL,” Gasaway said.

For the sisters, being family-oriented extends beyond the walls of their child care program. They host events for the community throughout the year and offer resources to families enrolled in their program who are in need.

“I like to pay special attention to families who attend the ResCare program in Gaithersburg, at-risk children, and families in shelters,” said Gasaway. “Since 2008, we’ve helped over 250 families who need assistance beyond what the county can provide,” she said. This assistance includes help with transportation, finances, and navigating the Child Care Subsidy application process.

Additionally, Minds in Motion hosts seasonal festivals open to the community. Gasaway said the festivals are “always packed” with families from both the program and the community. The team recently held this year’s Thanksgiving festival and Thanksgiving dance showcase.

“We want to be a link to the community,” she said.

Rewarding Hard Work

The Minds in Motion team’s hard work doesn’t end with their community involvement. Earlier this year, the program increased their published Quality Rating from 2 to 3 in Maryland EXCELS.

“We looked at our program and felt we needed to be a step above, so we took the journey,” said Erica Woodruff, Minds in Motion’s regional assistant director. To achieve a higher quality rating, “we had to make changes in the classroom, ourselves, and the curriculum. We trained our teachers to become better leaders and more proficient at what they do.”

“We see happier students and teachers, more parent involvement, and better structure. Students are retaining more,” Woodruff shared.

A higher Maryland EXCELS Quality Rating allowed Minds in Motion to reap additional financial benefits from Child Care Subsidy. The team has already purchased new transit vans this year using the additional funding.

As the program pursues Quality Ratings 4 and 5, they will receive even higher Maryland EXCELS payments from Child Care Subsidy. Woodruff said the team plans to use those additional resources to build a new playground and furnish a computer lab with Chromebooks.

“Our ultimate goal is to become Level 5 and [have our staff] credentialed within a year,” Woodruff said. “Maryland EXCELS is great because [it provides] assistance, support, and it makes you want to do more.”

Her team wanted to acknowledge their Quality Assurance Specialist Yvonne Bell and their Program Coordinator Lin Phelps for their support.

Could Maryland EXCELS payments be benefitting your program, too? Discover eligibility requirements and tiered reimbursement payment information here.

In The Spotlight: Gladys Family Daycare

I Select story books that allow the children to make a personal connection to things they see in their own home, as well as to present them with stories relating to cultures that are not necessarily their own. Gladys Arredondo, Gladys Family Daycare

Gladys Arredondo was inspired to pursue a career in child care after her first grandchild was born. She operates Gladys Family Daycare in Montgomery County, and has participated in Maryland EXCELS for the last four years.

What inspired you to go into early child care services?
I am originally from Peru, but I have lived and worked in Maryland for the last 15 years. The birth of my first grandchild inspired me to obtain my child care license. I have always wanted the best care for my children and grandchildren. That desire led me to pursue a career in providing child care services for other families.

¿Qué la inspiro a ofrecer los servicios de cuidado Infantil en su hogar?
Yo nací en el Perú y tengo más de 15 años de vivir y trabajar en Maryland. El nacimiento de mis nietos me inspiró a obtener la licencia para brindar servicios de cuidado de niños en mi hogar. Yo siempre he querido darle el mejor cuidado para mi familia y ese deseo la llevó a seguir una carrera en la prestación de servicios de guardería para otras familias.

What was one of the most interesting experiences you have had with the children in your program?
One day, I was working with one of the children in my program on the primary colors. When we got to the color “blue,” the child picked up on my accent in the pronunciation of the word and stopped me. “No Gladys, it’s B-L-U-E, ‘blue.’ Now repeat after me. B-L-U-E ‘blue’,” said the child. It was a moment that I will never forget. For a moment, the roles of teacher and student had reversed.

Parents of the children in my program ask me to teach their children Spanish. I am amazed at how quickly they pick up on the language.

¿Cuál fue una de las experiencias más interesantes que ha tenido con los niños en su programa?
Un día, yo estaba enseñándole a uno de mis niños los colores primarios. Cuando llegamos al color “azul,” el niño le llamo la atención mi acento cuando pronuncie la palabra “azul” y me detuvo. “No Gladys, es B-L-U-E, ‘azul.’ Ahora repite después de mí. B-L-U-E ‘azul’, ” dijo el niño. Fue un momento que nunca olvidare. Por un momento, el rol de maestra y estudiante se habían invertido.

Los padres de los niños de mi programa me piden que les enseñe a sus hijos español. A mí se sorprende lo rápido que los niños aprenden el idioma.

Do you have a helpful tip, tool, management technique, that makes your day flow easier?
Teaching through play is my best technique. I always say, “Tratar de que todo sea divertido (Make everything that you do fun)!”

¿Tiene algún tip, consejo útil, o estrategia que le facilita el flujo de su día?
La enseñanza mediante el juego es mi mejor técnica. Tratar de que todo siempre les sea divertido.

In your program do you have a favorite:
• Outdoor activity?
• Time of year?
• Educational material (songs, instruments, art supplies, games, books, music, sand, balls, etc)?
• Time during the day?

I love to have outdoor celebrations for holidays, specials occasions, and birthdays. I love to take the children for walks, particularly to the park by my house. It has a beautiful lake, and the children love [to see it].

Summer is my favorite time of year, but I enjoy winter as well. Building snowmen with the children is one of our favorite winter activities.

I like to use songs and games as instruments of learning. I love to read books to the children as well, and we always sing songs after we have finished reading. Music plays a big part in my program. Children listen to songs in both English and Spanish, and they LOVE to dance!

My favorite time of the day is right after nap time. This is when the children get to choose their next activity for the day. The children love the puppet theater, which holds a special place in my heart. The puppet theater was one of the many things I obtained as the winner of the Kaplan giveaway.

Cual es su momento y/o actividad favorita en su programa:
¿Actividad al aire libre?
¿Época del año?
Material didáctico (canciones, instrumentos, material artístico, juegos, libros, música, arena, bolas, etc.)?
¿Tiempo durante el día?
A mi me encanta tener celebraciones al aire libre para fiestas, ocasiones especiales y cumpleaños. También me gusta llevar a los niños a pasear, especialmente al parque cerca de mi casa que tiene un hermoso lago, y a los niños les encanta.

El verano es mi época favorita del año, pero también me gusta el invierno. Construir muñecos de nieve con los niños es una de mis actividades favoritas durante el invierno.

También me gusta usar canciones y juegos como instrumentos de aprendizaje. Me encanta leerle libros a los niños también, y siempre cantan canciones después de leer un libro. La música juega un papel muy importante en mi programa. ¡Los niños escuchan canciones tanto en inglés como en español, y les encanta bailar!

Mi momento favorito del día es justo después de la hora de la siesta. Esto es cuando los niños tienen que elegir su próxima actividad para el día. A los niños les encanta el teatro de títeres, que tiene un lugar muy especial en mi corazón. El teatro de títeres fue una de las muchas cosas que pude obtener gracias al premio de Kaplan.

What are your favorite ways to incorporate children’s culture and home languages into the activities at your program?
I try to vary my daily menu to incorporate foods from all of the cultures of the children under my care. I have six children ranging in age from 3 to 6, and all of the children have different cultural backgrounds. Some have parents who were born and raised in the United States, while some have one or more parents who have come to the United States from other countries. All of the parents are great. For holidays, parents will prepare traditional foods from their cultures to share.

At some point during the day, in one way or another, culture comes into play. For example, sometimes I give the children flour and water to play with. One day, one of the children mixed the flour and water together and started making tortillas. The other children took notice, and began making tortillas too.

I select story books that allow the children to make a personal connection to things they see in their own home, as well as to present them with stories relating to cultures that are not necessarily their own.

¿Cuáles son sus maneras favoritas de incorporar la cultura de los niños y otros idiomas en las actividades de su programa?
Yo siempre intento variar el menú diario para incorporar alimentos de todas las culturas de todos mis niños. Yo tengo seis niños entre las edades de 3 a 6 años, y todos proceden de diferentes culturas. Algunos tienen padres nacidos y criados en los Estados Unidos, mientras que otros tienen uno o más padres que han venido a los Estados Unidos procedente de otros países. Todos los padres son geniales. Para los días de fiesta, los padres preparan los alimentos tradicionales de sus culturas para todos compartir. En algún momento del día, de una manera u otra, se honra y celebran las diferentes culturas. Por ejemplo, yo a veces les doy a los niños harina y agua para jugar. Un día, uno de los niños mezcló la harina y el agua y comenzó a pretender a hacer tortillas. Los otros niños se dieron cuenta y empezaron a hacer tortillas también.

También selecciono libros de cuentos que le permiten a los niños hacer una conexión personal con las cosas que ven en su propia casa, así como presentarles historias relacionadas con culturas que no son necesariamente las suyas.

Tell me something unique about your program.
The children know their routine. For example, the children have nap time every day after lunch, but Fridays after lunch are a bit different. After they have finished with lunch on Fridays the following scenario plays out:

I tell the children: “Hoy es viernes! (Today is Friday)!”
The children exclaim: “Siiiiiiiiiii! (Yes)!”
I then ask them: “Quieren dormir? (Do you want to take a nap)?”
The children reply: “Noooooo!”
So, then I ask them: “Y que quieren hacer? (Well, what do you want to do)?”
And the children respond: “Jugar (Play)!!!! Bailar (Dance)!!!!”

I like to joke that the parents are very happy on Fridays when they come to pick up their children because the children are tired out from all of the playing and dancing.

I am amazed at how quickly children who are new to my program warm up to me. Parents are often anxious the first time that they drop their children off, but at the end of the day when the parents come to pick them up, the children don’t want to leave.

¿Compártanos algo único sobre su programa?
Los niños conocen su rutina. Por ejemplo, los niños tienen la hora de la siesta todos los días después del almuerzo, pero los viernes después del almuerzo son un poco diferentes. Después de haber terminado con el almuerzo los viernes el siguiente escenario ocurre:

Gladys les dice a los niños: “Hoy es viernes!”
Los niños exclaman: “Siiiiiiiiiii!”
Gladys entonces les pregunta: “Quieren dormir? “
Los niños responden: “Noooooo!”
Entonces, Gladys les pregunta: “Y que quieren hacer? “
Y los niños responden: “Jugar!!!! Bailar!!!! “

Yo creo que los padres están muy contentos los viernes cuando vienen a recoger a sus hijos porque los niños están cansados de todo el juego y el baile.

A mí siempre se sorprende la rapidez con que los niños que son nuevos en mi programa se encariñan conmigo. Cuando tengo una nueva familia en mi programa los papas están ansiosos por ser esta la primera vez que se separan de sus hijos, pero al final del día cuando los padres vienen a recogerlos los niños no se quieren ir!

What is your favorite community resource or special service resource? Why?
My favorite community resource is the public library. I feel very fortunate to live so close to one. It affords the children the opportunity to be exposed to so many new and different types of books every visit. It really opens the children up to a whole new world of information.

¿Cuál es su recurso favorito de la comunidad o recurso especial de servicio? ¿Por qué?
Mi recurso favorito de la comunidad es la biblioteca pública. Me siento muy afortunada de vivir tan cerca de una biblioteca porque la misma le ofrece a mis familias la oportunidad de ver nuevos y diferentes tipos de libros en cada visita. Realmente a través de los libros los niños ven el mundo.

What benefits have you seen in your program(s) as a result of your Maryland EXCELS participation?
Maryland EXCELS has helped me to become more knowledgeable as a child care provider. It pushes me to better myself, and increase the quality of the services that I provide to children and their families. Thanks to Maryland EXCELS, I pursued my NAFCC accreditation. I was fortunate enough to win the KAPLAN giveaway, which allowed me to make great improvements to my facilities, as well as to obtain new resources for the children. I am actively striving to publish at Level 5.

¿Qué beneficios ha visto en su(s) programa(s) como resultado de su participación en Maryland EXCELS?
Maryland EXCELS me ha ayudado a adquirir nuevos conocimientos y mantenerse actualizada. Me empuja a superarme y a mejorar la calidad de los servicios que le ofresco a mis familias. Gracias a Maryland EXCELS, ella me motive a adquirir la acreditación de la NAFCC. Tambien tuve la suerte y bendición de ganarme el sorteo de KAPLAN, lo que me permitió hacer grandes mejoras en mi programa, así como obtener nuevos recursos para los niños. Yo continuo activa ya que quiero poder publicar en un nivel 5.

What are your goals for participating in Maryland EXCELS?
I am actively striving to publish at Level 5. I want to continue to educate myself, and increase the quality of the services that I provide to the children and families that I serve.

Once I retire, I would like my daughter to follow in my footsteps and take over the business.

¿Cuáles son sus metas para participar en Maryland EXCELS?
Yo quiero poder publicar mi programa en el Nivel 5. Yo quiero poder continuar capacitándose profesionalmente y poder elevar la calidad de los servicios que le brindo a mis niños y las familias de mi programa.

Una vez que Gladys que me retire, yo quisiera que mi hija siguiera mis pasos y asuma la administración de mi programa.

Feel free to share anything else about your Maryland EXCELS experience.
I am a big proponent of Maryland EXCELS. I am actively encouraging other child care providers in my area to participate. This has not been an easy task. For those who are speculative about the program, I would like them to know that Maryland EXCELS provides an excellent opportunity for all of us to work and learn from one another. Everyone that I have interacted with from Maryland EXCELS has been very supportive, and despite English not being my first language, they have always been there to help me unconditionally. I hope that my experiences and successes with Maryland EXCELS will encourage others in my area to participate.

Siéntase libre de compartir cualquier otra cosa acerca de su experiencia de Maryland EXCELS.
Yo soy una gran partidaria de Maryland EXCELS. Yo siempre trato de motivar a otros proveedores de cuidado infantil a que se registren y no me ha sido una tarea fácil. Para los que no creen en este programa, quisiera que sepan que Maryland EXCELS ofrece una excelente oportunidad para todos nosotros los proveedores para trabajar y aprender unos de otros. Todo el equipo del personal con el que yo he interactuado de Maryland EXCELS ha sido muy solidario. Y a pesar de que el inglés no es mi primer idioma, todo el equipo siempre me ha apoyado y ayudado incondicionalmente. Yo espero que mi experiencia y éxito con Maryland EXCELS anime a otros proveedores vecinos en mi comunidad a participar.

In the Spotlight: Tender Blessings Accokeek: Family Child Care Program


Owner: Elizabeth Gyermeh

A question asked of many providers is “What inspired you to go into early child care?”  In the case of Elizabeth Gyermeh, owner of Tender Blessings Accokeek, the answer has everything to do with “Mom.”

As a child, Elizabeth’s mother encouraged her to enjoy a variety of simple, natural learning experiences such as riding a bike, playing outside, and just plain getting dirty.  “(Those experiences, along with pursuing a degree in the field of early childhood)… changed my perspective on child education… I realized over those months (during a particular course in college) that there is so much more to the development of a child than teaching them in a classroom,” Elizabeth explains.

When Elizabeth became a mother, she used those childhood opportunities, formal education, and work experience in a center to start her own family child care program.  As it happened, Elizabeth’s mother was doing the same thing.  Though they each began their own business, they worked together to develop a shared philosophy which, “…encourages child development, but allows the children to learn naturally in an environment that marries the best of early childhood education and family dynamics,” Elizabeth states.

Some of Elizabeth and her children’s favorite ways to learn naturally happen outdoors and include the creation of a fall wonderland in her backyard (complete with hay bales, pumpkins and corn stalks), planting and tending of a spring garden, and playing in the wooded area of her yard.  While engaging in these activities, Elizabeth enjoys how the unique abilities and personalities of the children balance each other and how they guide their learning experiences and allow them to share their skills.  A striking example of this is one child in her program who can speak both English and Farsi.  Elizabeth has found that the other children in her program are also using some Farsi words in their everyday interactions.  And, by engaging the child’s mother to coach her, Elizabeth has come to listen for, understand and pronounce several Farsi words, herself.

Thanks to you (and your mom) for creating a place where children can learn through natural exploration and fun!

In the Spotlight: NOSHI Child Care


“Wake up with determination and go to bed with satisfaction!”  That is Rakhshinda Sohail’s motto for approaching each day in her Anne Arundel County family child care program.

Knowing that my job is to help kids achieve their full potential and to help them feel happier and feel better about themselves brings a huge smile to my face and, (at the) end of the day, helps me sleep better at night,” Rakhshinda comments.

A former international flight crew attendant in Pakistan with a degree in Commerce and Political Science, Rakhshinda has learned about many diverse cultures from around the world.  When she came to the United States ten years ago, it was the birth of her second child that motivated her to switch her focus to early childhood studies.  She went on to earn an associate degree.  After having a great experience working for two child care centers, she opened her own family child care program.

My ultimate goal is parent satisfaction… once they leave their children in my care they (parents) should be care/stress free,” she says.  Part of that satisfaction has come from her participation in Maryland EXCELS.  “Parents are looking for child care programs that are participating in Maryland EXCELS,” she notes.

She feels that her participation in Maryland EXCELS has provided a way to identify herself as a “qualified professional” and helps her to stay on track with the development of her early child care program.

Through some of her favorite activities such as dance, music or outdoor playtime, Rakhshinda has created a happy, home-style setting for her children.  “It keeps me young, energetic, happy and active and children love these activities as well!” she adds.

Thank you for sharing your energy and enthusiasm. Keep up the great work, Rakhshinda!