Early Educator Spotlight Award Winners

April 2024

Ella Reid, Preschool Teacher in a Two-Year-Old Classroom at Verner Center for Early Learning

Three blonde-haired toddlers are painting outside on a playground. They're wearing brightly-colored smocks and painting in shades of brown on a table. Their teacher, Ella, is sitting behind them and helping them paint while holding a toy care. Ella is white, her hair is blonde with patches dyed purple, she's wearing glasses and a pink t-shirt.

Ashley Parks, Teacher Residency and Professional Development Director at Verner, nominated Ella for this award. She explained that Ella brings her infectious energy to everything she does: mentoring a teacher-in-training, explaining the diapering and toileting procedure to a toddler for the 454th time in a day, or inviting families to take part in the life of the classroom. She honors each child’s family by featuring a photo of them. She skillfully supports students who are neurodiverse and have autism, learning disabilities, or sensory processing issues.

We asked Ella why she became an early educator and what keeps her coming back every morning to work with the kids and their families. Here’s her answer:
“I began my Early Childhood Education career 19 years ago. When I got into the classroom and experienced the joy and wonders of our world through the eyes of tiny humans, I was hooked!  I love connecting with children, guiding them through their daily struggles and wins, and discovering new skills and knowledge. Each moment is fresh and exciting when you work with children.  I can often be caught breaking into song about anything, since I’ve learned that when you sing it then it’s way more fun for littles and bigs alike.

At the end of the day I am tired after running and playing and holding space for all those big feelings in those tiny bodies. But I know I am impacting the lives of these children and families in a big and positive way. I may only have these children in my classroom from 1-3 years, but being able to lay a solid foundation for the future is so valuable. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to change the world. Thanks to this incredible career, I know I am creating a positive change. I teach these young children how to express their emotions safely, that they are loved unconditionally, that they are capable of hard things and that they can always ask for help.  They pick up on academic skills along the way, but those social skills cannot be skipped, so it is such an important part of my teaching practice.

I also love the connections I make with the parents and caregivers. Having worked primarily in Early Head Start, I have had an incredible opportunity to help families to advocate for their children, to see their children’s incredible gifts (especially if they tend to get a lot of negative feedback from others), and to support them through tough life situations.  Our families are incredible and so strong and each and every one loves their child so deeply.  Being able to give them the tools to advocate for the needs of their child in an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) meeting will benefit the child, but also the caregivers as they continue through school systems.

Verner also contributes to my desire to continue in this field. I am supported and valued daily as a professional as well as an individual.  They truly care about our teachers and recognize that at times we may need more than a paycheck.  They advocate and provide mental health services for teachers, to help us deal with all aspects of our lives, not just during work hours.”