Provider Spotlight: Teresha Sutton

Teresha Sutton headshotTeresha Sutton is a family child care provider in Harford County. Her program, What About the Children, Inc., has a Maryland EXCELS Quality Rating 5 and uses Creative Curriculum, faith-based lessons and activities, collaborations with local organizations, and individualized learning to support children.

Ms. Sutton recently shared her journey as a provider, what she loves about her work, and what Maryland EXCELS has meant for her program.

Q: When did you know this was exactly the kind of work you wanted to do?

A: My journey in the child care profession has been deeply rooted in my passion for nurturing and caring for young children. Throughout my career, I have held various roles in education and child care. I have served as a long-term substitute teacher, classroom assistant and school administrative assistant, allowing me to positively influence and shape young minds of all ages. In 2003, I obtained my license as a family child care provider.

The name “What About the Children” was divinely inspired by the Lord. It carries a promise that I would become a vessel, providing accessible and affordable quality child care services to families in need. My mandate in life is to create safe and loving environments where children can thrive.

family child care room with welcome signQ: Is there one thing about your program that’s most near and dear to your heart? 

A: Many things in my program are near and dear to me, but creating a nurturing and inclusive environment where every child feels loved, valued, and supported comes first. In addition, my program implements a personalized learning approach that tailors activities and lessons to meet each child’s unique needs, interests, and abilities.

Q: Do you have a favorite community partnership or a successful way of engaging families?

A: Harford County’s Opening the Gift program is a fantastic community partnership for our program. Collaborating with a program that encourages families to prioritize reading and the library as part of their family time can have a lasting and positive impact on the children’s education and love for learning.

young children playing outside on inflatable slideQ: What advice would you have for a new provider?

A: A few pieces of advice would be to prioritize safety, build relationships, plan engaging activities, have effective communication, and practice frequent self-care. Child care can be demanding, so prioritize self-care to avoid burnout. Also, provide the best care for the children because each child is unique, and your dedication, patience, and compassion will make a significant difference in their lives. Finally, have fun!

Q: What role has Maryland EXCELS played in your program?

A: Maryland EXCELS has tremendously impacted my personal life and our child care program. The step-by-step model allows you to work at your own pace while enhancing your professionalism. Having a supportive Maryland EXCELS Program Coordinator like Nancy Gumbel makes the experience even more enriching. She helped me reach the highest level and become an accredited program. Nancy’s guidance has played a significant role in my success.

Maryland EXCELS: Helping Families Search for Quality Child Care

Families have a lot to consider when looking for the proper child care and early education program for their family. Cost, location, and availability are important factors—but quality is the most crucial factor.

Maryland EXCELS helps families choose quality child care and early education programs that meet their needs. By searching for a Maryland EXCELS quality-rated program, families are choosing from programs that emphasize achieving high standards and implementing practices that support children’s development and learning.

Families can easily search for programs in the Find a Program Directory on the Maryland EXCELS website. Search categories include location, quality rating, and other achievements. Qualifications for each quality rating are also viewable.

As participants of Maryland EXCELS, child care centers, school-age child care programs, family child care homes, and public prekindergarten programs earn ratings on a progressive scale from 1 to 5. A quality rating of 1 indicates a program has met initial quality requirements. A rating of 5 signifies a program has demonstrated the highest quality rating.

With each level of quality, the program is meeting more stringent requirements in areas such as curriculum, teacher training and qualifications, degrees, and other staff development activities that make teachers better teachers, and family child care providers more adept at their jobs.

Families can naturally have anxiety about leaving their children under another person’s care and guidance. Therefore, it’s essential to seek a provider with the proper skills, qualifications, personality and environment to suit their children’s needs.

Interviewing programs is an excellent starting point. MSDE’s Division of Early Childhood provides guidance on how to start these conversations, and offers other valuable information to help families find the best fit.

Here are some additional questions families can ask to gain a clearer understanding of how a program or provider operates:

  • What curriculum do you follow?
  • How much time do the children spend working with the curriculum?
  • What are some examples of culturally-inspired activities you do with the children?
  • If a special education teacher, speech or occupational therapist works with your child, where in your house or center can this person conduct sessions with my child?
  • How are disagreements between children handled?
  • What do you do if a child is having a rough day or seems out of sorts?
  • What do you do if a child doesn’t want to participate in an activity?
  • What are your child care center or house rules?
  • How do you enforce the rules and what are the consequences for not following the rules?

The more a family knows, the more informed they will be.

Does your family need help with child care costs? You may be eligible for the Child Care Scholarship Program, which provides financial assistance to working families in Maryland. The Maryland Family Network’s LOCATE: Child Care Service enables families to find child care either via telephone or online.

Improving the Lives of Children Who Are At Risk

Research shows that children who experience safe, nurturing, and trusting relationships with the adults in their lives have a greater chance of success–emotionally, economically, and intellectually. These adults include caregivers and education providers for children who spend significant time in child care homes or centers.

In a recent presentation, Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child addressed the positive impact early child care and education providers can have on children who are at risk. For those children who experience increased stress, quality early childhood programs can make long-term differences. Additionally, according to The Impact of Early Adversity on Children’s Development, an article on the Harvard University Center website, having dependable and nurturing relationships with adults can “reverse the damaging effects of early life stress, with lifelong benefits for learning behavior and health.”

The Maryland State Department of Education supports this research by requiring child care programs that accept the Child Care Scholarship to participate in Maryland EXCELS. This requirement ensures that children have access to child care programs committed to continuous quality improvement. 

Opening Doors to Inclusion

How do you recognize the various cultures and experiences of the children in your program?

Inclusion in child care and early education is an essential  topic. As you work to ensure inclusivity in your program, consider the  practical suggestions from Quality Assurance Specialist Petrea Hicks. Hicks has dedicated a significant amount of her career in early childhood to inclusivity and the importance of all children being represented equally in their programs and classrooms.

Hicks suggests providers help children see themselves positively by ensuring the books and materials in the learning environment are diverse and help to avoid or combat stereotypes. According to Hicks, fostering an environment reflective of a child’s culture and background will help that child make social-emotional gains from an early age.

Below are three additional  tips from Hicks on being more racially and culturally inclusive in your early childhood program.

  1. With the help of associated training, be educated and knowledgeable to ensure your program is being inclusive.
  2. Focus on a child’s strengths. Your expectations for a child fuel them, so be sure to focus on their strengths to build confidence.
  3. Recognize all children at all times. Always celebrate diversity, not just during months honoring history. For example, in addition to recognizing Black History month in February, ensure there are books and materials in your program regarding African American culture available throughout the year. Programs should seek books and materials highlighting  influential people in the community and stories about unique experiences specific to various audiences. Stories should also include diverse characters so children can see themselves in the books they read.

Eco-Friendly Program Achievement

Maryland EXCELS recognizes several eco-friendly organizations that offer achievement certificates. Each opportunity has a distinct set of steps that involve you as a provider as well as education and awareness for the families and children you serve. Each program also varies in cost, length of award time, and amount of activities. Hopefully, you can find one that best fits your needs!

Eco-Healthy Child Care®  

Eco-Healthy Child Care, a national initiative created by the Children’s Environmental Health Network, provides programs with an easy-to-understand checklist to help reduce health hazards found in a child care environment. The checklist also includes detailed instructions on how to follow through with each item on the list. This option ranges from $25 to $50, depending on the size of your program. Applicable to all child care program types.

Maryland Green Schools Program

Created and supported by the Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education (MAEOE), the Maryland Green Schools Program trains, encourages and supports providers in their environmental sustainability. The organization also teaches providers how to encourage children to reduce their environmental impact.

Nature Explore Classroom Certification

The Nature Explore Classroom Certification, designed by a division of the Dimensions Educational Research Foundation, supports programs to create nature-based spaces for learning and play. This program, which is designed for providers with an outdoor space, emphasizes strong staff development and family involvement to expand environmental awareness within the community.

Eco-Schools USA Program  

The National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools USA program is designed to involve children in the natural world through learning while expanding their environmental skills and understanding. This program emphasizes greening of existing facilities and incorporation of environmental learning and practices within the curriculum. Resources and support are strong, with an easy-to-use online handbook.

After you earn a certificate or endorsement through one of these available courses, upload your documentation into your Maryland EXCELS account. Contact your Program Coordinator or email for more information.

By pursuing an Eco-Friendly Program Achievement, not only does your program benefit, but you help teach young children about keeping our planet healthy and being responsible stewards of the environment.

For more information about the Maryland EXCELS Eco-Friendly Program Achievement, visit our Additional Achievements webpage.


15 Nap Time Albums You’ll Enjoy

After a busy day of reading stories, completing activities and playing outside, it is time to put the children down for a nap. Naptime is the perfect time of day to take a breather. Whether you decide to use this time for cleaning, lesson planning, or to work on Maryland EXCELS, below is a list of some great albums to play in the background. The familiar tunes and soft melodies will help you to de-stress while lulling your little ones into relaxation.

  1. Lullaby Renditions, by Rockabye Baby! (Search for the Rockabye Baby! site for music by artists like U2, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Maroon 5, Bob Marley, etc.)
  2. Arms of An Angel, by Instrumental Pop
  3. The Disney Songbook, by Jim Brickman
  4. Beatles: Guitar Instrumentals, by Peter Pupping and Fred Benedetti
  5. Good Day Sunshine: Acoustic Guitar Classics, by Peter Pupping and Fred Benedetti
  6. In the Lounge with Stevie Wonder, by Instrumental Inc
  7. Pop Hits for Ballet Class, Vol. 2, by Nate Fifield
  8. 100 Popular Hits – Instrumental Spanish Guitar, by Various Artists
  9. Great Country Hits Instrumental, by The London Fox Players
  10. Elton John: A Piano Tribute, by Boko Suzuki
  11. Instrumental Versions of Current Popular Songs: Just Give Me A Reason, by: The O’Neill Brothers Group
  12. The Very Best of Enya, by Enya
  13. Piano Tribute to Bruno Mars, by Piano Tribute Players
  14. Acoustic Tribute to One Direction, by Guitar Tribute Players
  15. Putumayo Kids Presents Instrumental Dreamland, by Various Artists

These albums can be found on your favorite streaming service.