October 1, 2015

“I hope she stays here forever” – Phyllis Palmer, Volunteer Extraordinaire!

Posted in Awards, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP), United Way, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , at 11:51 am by Lund

Teachers and children at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program love volunteer Phyllis Palmer. The children love that whatever she is doing with them, she makes them feel important and cared for and the teachers feel exactly the same way. Phyllis has taken on the charge of caring for the whole program. Childcare Coordinator Judy Harvey says, “Phyllis has gone above and beyond what I could ever expect from a volunteer. Her work with the children is amazing and everyone loves her. She just does what needs to be done, whatever it is. And she takes the most wonderful care of the teachers. It feels like she has been here forever. I hope she stays here forever.”

When there is something that needs to be done, Phyllis gets to it. “I hope that in the few hours I am at Lund each week I can contribute to the collective effort that makes the center so special and run so smoothly,” she says. “Sometimes that includes sweeping the floor after snack, wiping down rest mats or washing a few dishes. It also might mean rubbing the back of a restless 3 year old, or reading a book to whoever needs a lap and some one-on-one time with an adult.”

Phyllis, a retired Kindergarten and First Grade teacher, is especially dear to the older preschoolers. She brings intentional structured activities to work with the children on early literacy and math skills. She is able to bring small groups of children out of the classroom to play learning games and practice the skills that they will need in kindergarten. The children love Phyllis and look forward to their time with her. They refer to her days as “Phyllis Days” and take the “schoolwork” or “kindergarten work” they do with her very seriously.   These children would not have such focused exposure to these activities without Phyllis. She is actively improving their level of kindergarten readiness and giving them tools and experiences that will help them succeed in kindergarten from the very first day. The children are excited about school and know what to expect when they get to Kindergarten.

This genuine and considerate care does not stop with the children. She takes great care of the teachers at the program as well, knowing that the work they do is challenging but crucial for the happiness, stability and education of the children. One rainy summer day she dropped off a new copy of “Blueberries for Sal” and homemade blueberry bread for the teachers to enjoy. She accompanied her gift with an uplifting note that said, “Blueberries need the rain.” She knows and appreciates how hard it is to be stuck inside because of rain with active toddlers and preschoolers who need to run, climb and get outside in the fresh air.   She also has volunteered for two years in a row (in searing heat in 2014 and cold, windy rain in 2015) to work at the rest stop at the Charlotte Senior Center providing snacks and help to riders participating in the Lund Ride for Children.

The teachers at LECP were delighted to nominate Phyllis for a United Way Building Block Award for her outstanding commitment to the program. She was honored, along with many other community members, at the United Way’s celebration breakfast last week held at the Flynn Theater in Burlington.   “Receiving a United Way Building Block Award was quite a surprise! If somehow it sheds light on the amazing job the whole staff at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program does every day of every week, then I am both honored and humbled.” Once again not missing the chance to celebrate and look out for the teachers who are so happy to work alongside her.

Phyllis (third from right) with the other winners of the United Way Building Blocks Awards for Education at the Flynn Theater, September 24, 2015.

Phyllis (third from right) with the other winners of the United Way Building Blocks Awards for Education at the Flynn Theater, September 24, 2015.

 

October 17, 2014

Getting Outside – Preschool Trip to Shelburne Farms

Posted in Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , , , , at 6:27 am by Lund

The kids were ready to go long before the car seats were strapped into the van and the snacks packed up.  Going on field trips is always exciting and this one particularly so – Shelburne Farms!  Six preschoolers, LECP teacher Collin Cope, Cristin Manner, a Behavioral Interventionist from the HowardCenter who works in the Lund preschool classroom twice a week, one parent and one enthusiastic field tripper from Development loaded into the van and set off to have fun on the farm.  We rode the tractor down from the Welcome Center to the Children’s Farmyard where we were met by Rachel Cadwallader-Staub, educator at Shelburne Farms, who helped the preschoolers to understand  gentle ways to touch the animals.  Then we visited the cows, sheep and goats before settling down on a log to watch the parade of chickens come out of their coop for the day.   The kids then went into the chicken coop to collect eggs and see the chickens who weren’t quite ready for the day yet.  They were enthusiastic in their egg hunting, feather petting and chicken feeding.  Then we hit the playroom which was filled with farm toys, a tractor to climb on, hobby horses to ride and all manner of other exciting things that made it a hard place to leave.  The kids had a great time exploring the different toys and I began to wonder how we would ever convince them to leave the room.  It was going to take something pretty special.  How about milking a cow?

"I heard that there were preschoolers out there.  I might just stay in here."

“I heard that there were preschoolers out there. I might just stay in here.”

Collin, who spearheaded the trip, gathered the kids together.  He made them all sit on the floor and sat right down with them.  Once all were quiet and seated (it was not instant as I’m sure you can imagine) he handed them each a plastic vegetable to hold and told them about the really exciting and special thing they were going to be allowed to do.  The kids listened and focused on Collin because he was down on their level making each of his words exciting, speaking low and slow and had given them something to hold to take away the temptation of grabbing at the toys.  He carefully laid out the next steps the kids would have to take – stand up, hold a specific adult’s hand, walk out of the room to the stone wall by the cow.  If the kids deviated from the plan, they were gently reminded and redirected.  No one cried, no one made a break for the tractor, everyone was in control and ready for the next thing.  All the kids made it to the cow and stood quietly waiting as the farmer explained how the milking would work.  They they each had a chance to milk the cow. It was impressive to watch how Collin handled the kids and set them up for a successful transition.

Milking the cow

Milking the cow

“Field trips are important because they expose the kids to experiences they might not be getting at home,” says Collin.  “It gives them a break from the routine of school and gets them out into the community where they can meet new people and interact with them.  It allows them to make connections to real life.  We read books and sing songs about chickens but on the farm they can see chickens, touch them, feel them and connect to the reality of what they have been learning about.  But the most important thing is that it is really really fun!”

By the time we all loaded back up on the wagon to head  to the parking lot, the scene was a little different.  Every child was crying at some point, there was distinct deviation from the instruction to sit properly on the seats.  Hunger and fatigue were settling in.  The other riders on the wagon pretty quickly lost their warm grins.  But without batting an eyelid, Collin and Cristin patiently and lovingly helped the kids to remember what they needed to be doing.  Hunting for bees’ nests in the trees, telling silly stories about people losing their hats and the promise of cheese at the farm shop helped the wagon ride go as smoothly as a wagon being pulled by a tractor on a dirt road can go.  The kids probably didn’t notice the magnificent view of Camel’s Hump over a cobblestone of autumnal trees or hear the honking of a seam of geese sewn across the sky but all of them knew that they had done something special that day.   They might only remember one thing – milking the cow, petting a chicken, bumping along behind the tractor, the sharp taste of cheddar on a stick – but buried down in their brains there will also be the knowledge that they had teachers who were willing and excited to take them out to see the big, bright world.

July 29, 2014

First ever team Employee of the Quarter award

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Awards, Employees, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , , , at 4:46 pm by Lund

The sight of lots of people gathered in the hallway of Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program last Friday afternoon was probably  confusing at first for the toddler looking out from the vantage point of his teacher’s arms but he soon picked up on the air of celebration and happiness amongst the crowd.  His teacher and all her colleagues were being awarded Lund’s first ever team Employee of the Quarter award.

Bringing joy to Joy Drive, every day.

Bringing joy to Joy Drive, every day.

Associate Director of Residential and Community Treatment, Courtney Farrell, read out a glowing nomination about the wonderful work that the 14 full-time and one part-time teachers at LECP do every single day.  “As a team, the teachers in childcare make a huge difference in the everyday lives of the children at Lund and embody our missions as an agency to help children and families thrive.  Their commitment to meeting the needs of children is so commendable and we are all so impressed with their work each and every day.”

LECP serves 50 of Vermont’s most vulnerable children and every day the teachers are faced with the challenging behaviors that come from a population living lives of constant transition and turmoil.  They give the children love, consistency, structure and fun and strive to spark their curiosity and imagination in every interaction.  There are hard moments of course but the progress that the children make under the love and supervision of these dedicated teachers is inspirational.  From playing with blue oobleck, to catching frogs, dancing, singing songs, reading the same book ten times back to back and hours of dramatic play inspired by the garbage truck that pulls up behind the playground, children are thriving at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program thanks to the energy, love and commitment of their amazing teachers.

Congratulations to all the teachers.  Thank you for bringing joy to Joy Drive.

April 22, 2014

Elsa Tietje Wins Kidsafe Collaborative’s “Outstanding Promising Professional Award”

Posted in Awards, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP), Residential, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 2:26 pm by Lund

Elsa's colleagues (from L to R)  Ginny Prentiss, Collin Cope and Jadranka Gubic joined her to celebrate.

Elsa’s colleagues (from L to R) Ginny Prentiss, Collin Cope and Jadranka Gubic joined her to celebrate.

The room was packed at the 25th KidSafe Collaborative Awards Luncheon and everyone was there to celebrate the achievements of six fantastic individuals and organizations whose work exemplifies the mission of KidSafe to work together to improve the community’s response to child abuse and neglect.   One of the honorees was Elsa Tietje of Lund’s preschool who won the ‘Outstanding Promising Professional Award’.  Director of Residential and Community Treatment Services, Kim Coe, introduced Elsa. ” She shows exceptional commitment and focus on being the best teacher she can be.  Elsa’s creativity and love of play is evident in the glitter and paint that covers the walls  – and sometimes the children – in the classroom.  Elsa understands the importance and the power that relationships play in the power of healing.   She truly is an example of excellence in the field of early childhood education and we are grateful for the inspiration and hope that she brings to her work every day.”  Elsa has worked at Lund for two and a half years but was also involved with the organization while a student at UVM.

Excutive Director of KidSafe, Sally Borden, presented Elsa with the award,  ” Your kind and nurturing approach and your inspiring dedication to reaching the children that need you most have increased the safety and well being of children  in our community.”

Kim Coe introduces Elsa (center in white) with Judy Harvey, Childcare Coordinator at Lund.  Sally Borden of KidSafe Collaborative listens from the far left.

Kim Coe introduces Elsa (center in white) with Judy Harvey, Childcare Coordinator at Lund. Sally Borden of KidSafe Collaborative listens from the far left.

Elsa is a quiet but powerful leader in the classroom and can effortlessly move from light moments to challenging situations, always with the well being of the children at the heart of her interactions.  One recent morning, the children in her classroom were enjoying free playtime before the routine of the day.  One little girl was hanging around Elsa’s neck and she was pretending not to be able to find her and asking her delighted friends where she was.  “Has anyone seen Tina?  I don’t know where she is, can anyone see her?”  The children were laughing and commenting that Elsa seemed to have extra hands and feet on her body.  Elsa followed their lead and seamlessly integrated mathematics and basic biology into the game, “How many feet should I have, Bryce?  2?  Well I seem to have 4.  That’s 2 too many.”  All the while holding a 25lb weight on her back without missing a beat.  The child on her back didn’t say a word but her smile said it all.  Another girl approached Elsa and her attached friend and tried to push her way into having a turn.  Elsa defused the situation and explained calmly to the second girl that her behavior wasn’t appropriate and helped her to find a different way to ask for a turn.  Another child arrived having fallen over on the path on the way in and needing some extra love as her mom departed for the day.  Elsa scooped her up in a big hug all the while taking a headcount to make sure she was still in ratio with the number of children in the classroom.  It was a feat of love, education and multi-tasking all before 9am!

Elsa understands that her role extends far beyond the classroom and she works intensively with parents outside the classroom to ensure that they have the resources and information that they need to build strong families and help their children to succeed.  One parents says, “Because of Elsa, my family is stronger, less stressed and more creative.”  Elsa also works closely with the staff at Lund’s residential treatment center to ensure a family-centered team approach to helping the families who live there.

Upon receiving the award, Elsa immediately turned the focus away from herself and thanked Lund, especially Kim and Childcare Coordinator, Judy Harvey, “Lund has really taught me everything I know about how to be a good teacher.  We really can change children’s lives one day at a time.”

Governor Peter Shumlin, Senator Bernie Sanders, Secretary of the Agency of Human Services Doug Racine and Attorney General Bill Sorrell all attended the luncheon and gave speeches thanking the honorees for their hard work. “There are all kinds of great people out there and great things that help,” said Senator Sanders in his speech.  “So my job, and the job I think of the congress, is to get our priorities right and recognize that the future of this country is with the children and we have got to do everything we can to protect those kids. I just want to thank of you for the work that you do every single day, thank all of the recipients who are being recognized today and thank them for all that they do and let’s keep going together.”

Governor Shumlin made reference to the problems of opiate addiction faced by so many families in this state, ” One of the things when I started talking to Vermonters about our opiate challenges and the many other challenges, was a number of people who are struggling with addictions, moms, would say to me, ‘You know when I was finally ready to face my addiction, when I bottomed out, when the blue lights were flashing, when I got taken away to go and choose between treatment and incarceration in many cases, it was my kids that suffered the most because they had no one there for them when they came home from school that day.'”  It is those kids who are being helped, loved and cared for by Elsa and the many other wonderful staff members at Lund who are doing the difficult but extremely important work of helping families in Vermont to break cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction.

The luncheon celebrated 25 years of the work of KidSafe Collaborative in the state and the important partnerships that have occurred under their umbrella. It was a gathering of many important people who dedicate their professional lives to the safety and wellbeing of children and to making Vermont a wonderful state in which to grow up.  From Elsa making the difference in a child’s morning to Senator Sanders preparing to run for the U.S. Presidency in 2016, people in Vermont should be enormously proud of the work happening here.

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Governor Shumlin with all the honorees.