Child care providers who help families and communities thrive by supporting quality, inclusive child care in B.C. were recognized at the virtual Child Care Awards of Excellence ceremony Tuesday evening.
“This past year, our lives were turned upside down, but early childhood educators and child care providers worked hard to adapt, safely and quickly, providing a sense of routine and comfort for B.C. children and their families,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development. “Their achievements deserve our gratitude and recognition on a daily basis, but this year more than ever I’m honoured to celebrate their exceptional achievements with the Child Care Awards of Excellence. Congratulations!”
After an open call for nominations and a review by an external selection committee, 17 Child Care Awards of Excellence were awarded across nine categories. The awards were given to people and teams who support families in their communities by providing quality and inclusive child care programming.
“I have been so inspired by the way early childhood educators and child care providers across the province have stepped up to the challenges of COVID-19, letting their professionalism and dedication shine through the pandemic,” said Katrina Chen, Minister of State for Child Care. “They’ve made such an incredible difference in the lives of so many this year, and these awards are one way to recognize their achievements and show our appreciation on behalf of all B.C. families.”
The 2021 Child Care Awards of Excellence recipients include:
- Shauna Alec, of Lake Babine Nation, was honoured with the Lenora Pritchard Award of Excellence. As the director of early childhood education for Lake Babine Nation, Alec strives to build on the legacy Pritchard left behind. Pritchard was an early childhood educator who worked in many Indigenous communities throughout B.C., including Lake Babine Nation. She died in a car accident. Alec’s Early Years Outreach program supports hundreds of children and their families in Burns Lake and surrounding communities.
- Magdalena Amestica, of Kelowna, received the Lifetime Achievement Award. At 88 years old, Amestica maintains her full-time job as a play trauma therapist. Immigrating to Canada from Chile in 1975, Amestica’s calming nature was quickly noticed. Her healing abilities stem from her belief that love is a universal language, and you do not need English to express it.
- Edna and Myrtle Johnson, of Esk’etemc First Nation, received the Regional Award of Excellence for the Interior region. An entire generation of children in Esk’etemc have grown up under the sisters’ care. Their passion for preserving the Secwepemc language and culture through crafts, songs and storytelling is rooted in the tradition that everything today is also for the next seven generations.
- Keely Freeman, of Nanaimo, received the Emerging Leader Award. Founder of the Nanaimo Innovation Academy, Freeman has a knack for connecting people and mobilizing community members to make a meaningful impact. Last fall, with the help of local volunteers, Freeman delivered more than 200 books to children in Nanaimo.
In light of the pandemic, the Province introduced a new award this year, the Perseverance Award. This recognizes a child care team that has persevered in overcoming the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic to continue to provide safe and high-quality child care to local families.
The inaugural award was presented to the SFU Child Care Society. The early childhood educators at their Morningside 3-5 program have gone above and beyond to support families and children throughout the pandemic.
“This last year has challenged us all to be courageous and vulnerable, but has also given us hope that our early childhood educators are now being recognized for their worth as essential and integral professionals in our communities,” said Rachel Day, executive director of SFU Childcare Society. “I know there will be some very excited children in the Morningside program who will proudly display and share what this award means to friends and family.”
- May is Child Care Month in B.C.
- Every two years, the Child Care Awards of Excellence recognize the contributions that early childhood educators, licensed child care providers, non-profit and private organizations, businesses and local governments make throughout British Columbia.
- The 2020 Child Care Awards of Excellence ceremony was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This year’s award recipients were chosen from 88 nominations submitted by peers, parents, child care advocates, local governments and other organizations.