Past Recipients of the Quality Improvement Program of the Year Award

2023: Coast to Coast Kidcare and Petersburg Children’s Center

Coast to Coast Kidcare

Coast to Coast Kidcare is a child care group home located in Seward.

Owner Melissa LaRow has been a licensed provider for 15 years in both Maine and Alaska. When her husband was stationed in Seward in 2021, Melissa launched her new business to remain at home with her three boys. Her career path was inspired by her mom who ran a licensed child care program in Maine while she was growing up. Today, Coast to Coast Kidcare serves 23 children and offers a full range of care options (full-time, part-time, overnight care, drop-in and weekend care) for local families.

In the past year, Coast to Coast Kidcare has made significant changes to improve the quality of its care. The program achieved Learn & Grow Level 1, Level 2 and is currently working towards Level 3. Her nominator mentions that “Melissa participated in the Working on Level 2 Cohort and is engaged in the growth process and meeting her program goals”. Melissa has also invested in her personal growth and education.  After taking Financial Management of Early Childhood Programs to earn her Administrator Credential and to advance on the Alaska SEED career ladder, she decided to pursue a BA in Child Development and Family Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF). In 2022, the administrator and lead teacher participated in well over 100 hours of the free thread trainings. The program also developed and implemented a preschool curriculum for all children enrolled.

Coast to Coast Kidcare has also improved its program, using funding from the child care stabilization grant program and thread’s Quality Initiatives to remodel an attached garage. This remodel has provided a new space that allows for small group activities and learning, better organization of toys and supplies, a quiet area for nursing moms, a break and training area for staff, and an area for preparing lessons and crafts.

Coast to Coast Kidcare plans to continue improving and providing the best quality care for the children of Seward for a long time to come!

Petersburg Children’s Center

Petersburg Children’s Center is located in beautiful Petersburg in Southeast Alaska! The program cares for children from 6 weeks to 12 years of age, and when fully staffed, employs 12-14 people. The program is licensed to serve up to 65 children.

Founded in 1974 by a local woman who saw a need for child care, Petersburg Children’s Center has cared for generations of Petersburg’s residents. A cornerstone in their community, local parents rely on the program. Sharlay’s nominator mentions that “she will sit down with parents to go over assistance applications, advocate with them to the board if needed, and makes sure to keep connected to the families, even in her administrative role. She is always the first to help in the classroom if needed and knows everyone who comes in”.

Like many child care programs, Petersburg Children’s Center is recovering from the impacts of the pandemic.  They are working on expanding their main facility to permanently accommodate the school-age program, after the pandemic forced them to move the school-age program into their main facility. They have also experienced staff turnover.  Director Sharlay Mamoe is a strong advocate and leads her staff in staying on top of the issue. “Sharlay is a leader in many ways, but she is ALWAYS advocating for early childhood education and the teachers in the field.” Petersburg Children’s Center is   hopeful that policy changes will come in the near future that support the field.

Their dedicated staff, continued support from the community, and help from Learn & Grow are what keep Petersburg Children’s Center thriving. They have completed dozens of trainings, both in and outside of work hours, to ensure the highest quality of care. The Petersburg Children’s Center team strives to provide the most eventful, structured, safe, and fun environments to learn in. “Sharlay is always looking to the next thing to help support her staff, ensure the quality of her program, and become better in her position as the director”.

The staff at this center work tirelessly to ensure the children are well cared for. Petersburg Children’s Center loves being there for the children of Petersburg and plans to for years to come.

2022: Kyrie N’ Friends and Hillcrest Children’s Center

Kyrie N’ Friends

Laurie Mead is the owner of Kyrie N’ Friends, a family child care program located in Soldotna. She has been involved in the field of early childhood education for the better part of 40 years.

Although her at-home child care program began as a way to supplement her family income, it grew into something so much more. “Young children are my jam. I understand and appreciate that young children have a voice. As adults we need to slow down and listen.” Laurie wanted more than to understand the children – she wanted to build lasting relationships with their families. To learn how everyone could come together and work for the betterment of the children.

When Learn & Grow was a pilot program, Laurie seized the opportunity to jump on board. “I could see the benefits for my program, the children and their families.”

As her involvement in Learn & Grow expanded, Laurie was inspired to continue her education. She completed the Alaska Early Childhood Administrator Credential and then decided to return to school. Currently she is working to finish her BA in Early Childhood Development and Family Studies. Learn & Grow has also inspired her to explore ways to improve her program quality while reflecting her teaching philosophy.

The nominator of this program wrote, “I cannot speak enough to the determination and dedication Laurie has shown towards her program and her professional growth, as well as motivating her staff to continue their education path. It has been an honor to observe her confidence build as she successfully completes her degree and strengthens her program.”

Hillcrest Children’s Center

Hillcrest Children’s Center has served Anchorage families for 55 years. The center started as a Kindergarten program in 1967 and has evolved to meet the needs of families to provide full-day, year-round services for children from birth through school age.

Today, a parent-comprised Board of Directors govern this non-profit, with Christina Eubanks at the helm as executive director managing the program and staff. Working together, the Hillcrest team makes program decisions based on their values of responsive relationships, inclusivity, and striving to provide the highest quality of care.

Over the past year, Hillcrest has diligently sent staff to Learn and Grow trainings and ensures they understand how to implement the material in the classroom. Last semester, six staff members also took college credits! One of the results of the professional development support is that Hillcrest has many long-term employees such as Mr. Jim (40 years), and Ms. Carmen (18 years) as well as the dedication of their lead teachers.

“Human relationships are the foundation of our program, and we believe that learning is best achieved through meaningful play,” says Christina Eubanks. Throughout the past year, Hillcrest has updated their learning environments with creative ways to play and learn. They have also began remodeling the playground with inclusive play at top of mind.

Hillcrest’s goals related to relationships and play are supported by their participation in Learn & Grow, and they have created a beautiful, inclusive learning environment.

2021: Irma’s Child Care and Discovery Preschool

Irma’s Child Care

After completing an Environment Rating Scale assessment, a thread Professional Development Specialist worked with Irma’s Child Care, pre-COVID, to organize, categorize and rearrange her family home learning environment. As a result, this Anchorage program moved from Learn & Grow Level 1 to Level 2 in the past year, improving the quality of her program in a pandemic!

Irma also completed more than 90 hours of training hours, including attending workshops on COVID-19 mitigation planning.

As her nominator shared, “Irma has grown as a female business owner, increased her program’s quality and understands the effect of this on her children in care. She is an advocate, continuous learner and a leader in the bilingual family child care group. Her dedication is especially inspiring during COVID.”

Discovery Preschool

Rosemary Williams took over as the owner/administrator of Discovery Preschool in Juneau in December 2019, just months before the pandemic outbreak. She had worked at Discovery Preschool earlier in her early childhood career and was excited to return as owner in order to support the children and staff. As a Learn & Grow Level 2 program, Williams knows the importance of supporting her staff – at all times — in order to provide continuity of care to the children in her program.

During COVID, she has invested more time and resources to ensuring her staff has professional development to help and support them in their jobs, and also found time to earn her Administrator credential.

This program’s nominator said she “is always standing up for her peers and staff — eager to help and support them in any way she can. She’s amazing, and so very deserving.”

2020: Carousel Child Care Center and Denali Preschool and Learning Center

Carousel Child Care Center

For 30 years Carousel Child Care Center has served low income children and families in Anchorage. This Learn & Grow program is intentionally planning and investing in its continuous quality improvement activities, including a focus on wellness and professional development for both the administrative and teaching staff. The focus on staff development has resulted in improved learning environments, more individual child support/skill building and increased parent engagement, involving families in a range of activities–from holiday celebrations to hat and glove drives. The program has also received funding to improve its building and is upgrading its learning environments to improve its quality of care.

Pictured from left: thread COO Melinda Myers, thread Board President Sen Tan, and Carousel Child Care Center Administrator Sean Shawcross.

Denali Preschool Program

Pictured from left: AEYC-SEA Executive Director Joy Lyon, thread COO Melinda Myers, thread Board President Sen Tan, Denali Preschool Program Administrator Deena Cook, and thread Northern/Interior Assistant Director Stacie Dublin.

Denali Preschool and Learning Center

Denali Preschool and Learning Center is the only licensed center serving Healy and the surrounding Denali Borough area. Administrator Deena Cook has exemplified herself as a supportive and responsive leader, ensuring the program works to improve the quality of care through their active participation in Learn & Grow. Their quality activities have focused on staff development. All staff are enrolled in Alaska SEED and either have obtained or are working on their CDA, as well as building appropriate and responsive environments that are stimulating, engaging and intentional. Recently more multicultural and science related curriculum was incorporated into the preschool classroom while designated interest centers were introduced in the infant/toddler classroom.

2019: Little Hands Bilingual Montessori Daycare

Pictured from left are thread Board member Starr Marsett, recipient Janet Cerdena Bryant thread Board President Sen K. Tan, and Stephanie Berglund, thread CEO.

The recipient of thread’s 2019 Quality Improvement Program of the Year Award is Little Hands Bilingual Montessori Daycare (BMD) in Anchorage, Alaska. Little Hands BMD is owned by Janet Cerdena Bryant who received this year’s award.

Through this award, thread is recognizing the center for its commitment to continuous quality improvement. Teaching its children both English and Spanish, Little Hands BMD celebrates diversity of its families and fosters cultural activities throughout the year, encouraging parents to be active participants. Little Hands BMD further demonstrates its dedication to improvement by its voluntary enrollment and active participation in Learn & Grow, Alaska’s Quality Recognition and Improvement System (QRIS).

2018: Center for Child Development (CCD) at Providence Alaska Medical Center

Pictured, left to right, are thread CEO Stephanie Berglund, thread Board member Lindsie Mills, Providence CDC staff member Brandy Graham, Providence CDC Executive Director Chris Jurenka, Providence CDC staff member Kristen Stearns, and thread Board Vice President Sen Tan.

The recipient of thread’s 2018 Quality Improvement Program of the Year Award is the Center for Child Development (CCD) at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska. The CCD was developed by the Sisters of Providence to provide quality child developmental services to employees, physicians, and community partners of Providence Health & Services Alaska. We recognize Providence CCD for its commitment to continuous quality improvement and working to advance its leadership, professional development of staff, engagement of families in programming, and development of strong relationships in a quality learning environment. Providence CCD further demonstrates its dedication to improvement by its voluntary enrollment and active participation in Learn & Grow, Alaska’s Quality Recognition and Improvement System (QRIS). In 2017, Providence CCD became the first program in the state to achieve a Level 2 in Learn & Grow.

2017: Enep’ut Children’s Center

Pictured are Stacie Dublin (left) and Tracey Adams (right) with Carrie Grafft, Administrative Director for Enep’ut Children’s Center in Fairbanks.

The inaugural recipient for the 2017 Quality Improvement Program of the Year Award is Enep’ut Children’s Center in Fairbanks, Alaska. Enep’ut is a Yup’ik word meaning “our house.” Founded with Native Alaskan beliefs, babies and children are respected and nurtured to encourage development into productive members of the community. With an open door policy, parents are encouraged to participate in program meetings, share ideas and spend time with their children in the facility, creating a positive home environment. Everyone is encouraged to have a voice and participate in all aspects of the learning process. Communication is key, and the staff at Enep’ut is always available for parents and children alike.

Enep’ut Children’s Center is committed to engaging in continuous quality improvement, as demonstrated by their enrollment and active participation
in Learn & Grow. They are working to advance administration and leadership, professional development of staff, engaging families in programming, and developing stronger relationships in a quality learning environment. The staff and administration work hard to ensure that not only is each child learning and growing, but they are also learning and growing themselves. Each member of the staff has obtained or is working towards their CDA Credential, a nationally awarded and recognized credential in the field of early care and learning.