Let’s Grow Kids has recognized four Vermonters as Early Childhood Superheroes for going above and beyond to help young children reach their full potential. The honorees include:
- Mandi Menard, of St Albans, is co-owner of KinderStart Preschool in Williston, where she serves as both the program director and lead preschool teacher. In addition to working full-time while pursuing a master’s degree and raising two children of her own, Mandi took on yet another role this year as an early childhood advocate. She was one of the key organizers of the Rally for Kids, which was held at the Statehouse in March during Early Childhood Day at the Legislature.
- Laurie Metcalfe, of Bennington, is the new executive director of Northshire Day School in Manchester Center. She’s the previous director of Sunrise Family Resource Center’s Early Care and Education Program, where she designed trauma-sensitive classrooms, oversaw professional development for staff and became a tireless advocate for early childhood education. “Everyone has a vital role in making sure every child has the best possible experiences in early childhood,” Laurie said.
- Johanna Page, of Burlington, has been an Essential Early Education (EEE) paraeducator in the Burlington School District for over 25 years. She also supports children with special needs at Trinity Children’s Center. Johanna, who is retiring this year, said her greatest satisfaction over the years has been to witness the progress of individual children and their families. “It’s rewarding to see that the early education we did prepared them and to see how well they’re doing years later,” Johanna said.
- Lori Pinsonneault, of Bennington, is the community-based child care support services coordinator at Sunrise Family Resource Center. She’s worked in early childhood for over 30 years and has coordinated professional development opportunities for early childhood professionals in Bennington County for over 25 years. “I am proud to help our early childhood professionals. I have the pleasure of working with the people who spend their days caring for our children and their families,” Lori said.
The selection of Early Childhood Superheroes followed a statewide call for nominations of unsung heroes among educators, child care professionals, parents, grandparents, volunteers, business peoples, policymakers, civic leaders and clergy. From the nominations, a panel of early childhood experts representing Building Bright Futures, Vermont Birth to Five, the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance and Let’s Grow Kids selected four Vermonters from various regions of the state who have demonstrated a commitment to the success of Vermont’s youngest children through “above and beyond” contributions to children’s lives.
“These Early Childhood Superheroes are out there in their own communities every day making the sort of positive, lasting change for Vermont’s children that we’re working to achieve on a statewide level. Their commitment and hard work is an inspiration to all of us who are working to ensure that all Vermont families who need it are able to access high-quality, affordable child care because all our kids deserve a strong start,” said Let’s Grow Kids Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire.
Let’s Grow Kids is a public awareness and engagement campaign about the important role that high-quality, affordable child care can play in supporting the healthy development of Vermont’s children during their first five years—the most important years for laying a foundation for success in relationships, in school and in life. Because Vermont’s shortage of high-quality, affordable child care is a serious challenge for our communities and our economy, our goal is to gain public support leading to increased, sustainable investment that gives all children the chance to reach their full potential. Let’s Grow Kids is an initiative of the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children with support from the Turrell Fund.