Innovative Ideas Award 2017-11-02T15:51:50+00:00

2017 Leading for Children Innovative Ideas Award

AT LEADING FOR CHILDREN, we know that early childhood educators are always finding new and creative ways to nurture and inspire children — our next generation of critical thinkers and leaders. We are pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 Leading for Children Innovative Ideas Award.

Congratulations to Kathy Kourapis, Childcare Director of the Riverview High School Cyesis Teen Parent Program in Sarasota, Florida.  The $2,500 Leading for Children Innovative Ideas Award Grand Prize has been awarded to her for the Lullaby League volunteer program. This innovative idea is focused on enlisting volunteer support in programs serving the babies and toddlers of high school students. To create a multigenerational approach, emphasis is placed on recruiting people of different ages including senior citizens.

We also want to congratulate Kim Mulfinger, President and Executive Director of St. Vincent Center for Children and Families in Evansville, Indiana, winner of the $1,000 runner-up award. With Kim’s leadership, SVCCF developed an innovative compensation structure that enables the program to attract and retain high-quality educators.  This has led to improved teacher-child and teacher-parent relationships and will ultimately result in improved outcomes for children and families.

We are also pleased to award ten honorable mentions, each of whom receive $100 to purchase books from The Book Vine, our colleagues in Chicago.  Honorable mention winners are:

  • Kelly Krupp, Guadalupe Center
  • Faye Dismuke, Ouachita Child Enrichment ABC
  • Dawn Brown, Christ the King Early Education Center
  • Debbie Mays, Bright Beginnings
  • Jamie Hartley, Methodist Day School
  • Julie Hume, Kind Hearts Day Care
  • Maria Paulino, Busy Bees Preschool Center
  • Melissa Russell, The Hundred Acres School
  • Victoria Damjanovic, University of South Florida Preschool for Creative Learning
  • Jeana Courson, La Petite Academy #7193

We thank our distinguished panel of judges who contributed their time to review all the applications received.

  • Jane Fleming, Ph.D., Reading Specialist and Co-Founder of KIDS LIKE US
  • Luis Hernandez, Training & Technical Assistance Services (T/TAS) Early Childhood Education Specialist
  • Nichole Parks, Quality Rating Improvement System Coordinator, Arkansas State University Childhood Services
  • Holly Seplocha, Ed.D., Professor in the Early Childhood concentration, William Paterson University
  • Beverly Smith, Assistant Head of School, West Side Montessori School
  • Valora Washington, Ph.D., CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition

From the many applications received, our judges chose the winning entries based on how well they exemplified the entry requirements. Winners needed:

  • An easily-adopted innovation that positively impacts child development and learning.
  • An innovation that aligns with the foundational principles and core values of Leading for Children.
  • A recommendation of strong support.

We want to thank everyone who submitted an entry for the 2017 Leading for Children Innovative Ideas Award!  We look forward to inviting new and inspiring ideas in 2018.

LFC Innovative Ideas Award: Promoting and Celebrating Innovation

At NAEYC this year I was standing by the elevator bank when I overheard two women talking about a simple system they had implemented that was making a huge difference in their communication with families. I took this idea home with me and was amazed at the difference it made. I wish there was a venue for more sharing of this kind.”  — Program Director from Connecticut

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Panel of Judges

Jane Fleming, Ph.D.

Jane Fleming is a reading specialist with more than 20 years’ experience working in urban public schools in Chicago, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. She is co-founder of KIDS LIKE US, a nonprofit organization dedicated to research, professional development, and advocacy around teaching with culturally relevant texts. Prior to her affiliation with Kids Like Us, she was at the Erikson Institute and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Luis A. Hernandez

Luis Hernandez is an Early Childhood Education Specialist at Training & Technical Assistance Services (T/TAS). Luis’ work focuses on a wide range of early childhood education and professional development topics. His expertise includes early literacy, dual language learning, adult learning practices, changing demographics and diversity, and ECE management and partnership topics. As a regular presenter and keynote speaker at national, state, and local conferences, Luis is highly regarded for his motivational and energizing presentations. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of the McCormick Tribune Center for Early Childhood Leadership and the United Way’s Center for Excellence in Early Childhood.

Nichole Parks

Nichole Parks is the Quality Rating Improvement System Coordinator with Arkansas State University Childhood Services. Her primary role is coordination of trainings, coaching, assessments and initiatives for early childhood program administrators.  Her philosophy is that by nurturing the growth and development of program leaders, we create pathways to sustainable quality and develop programs deserving of our children. During her 23 years in early childhood education she’s taught preschool, served children and families as the Infant and Toddler Director of a NAEYC and state accredited program, and served as a mentor for directors leading their programs through quality accreditation.

Holly Seplocha, Ed.D.

Holly Seplocha has worked for more than 35 years as a teacher, administrator, university professor, teacher educator, consultant, researcher, presenter, and advocate for children and families. Currently, a professor at William Paterson University, Holly teaches graduate courses in literacy and language development, early childhood learning environments and assessment, and research. She is the project director of NJ Center for Quality Ratings at WPU working with NJ’s QRIS system to conduct external program evaluations, and working with New Jersey Department of Education to head the project to write the state’s Pre-K Implementation Guidelines and develop training videos for teachers on the guidelines.

Beverly Smith

Beverly Smith is Assistant Head of School at West Side Montessori School in New York City.  Prior to joining WSM she was head of Acorn Montessori School in Lebanon, New Jersey. She has taught at and consulted for the Center for Montessori Teacher Education, with a particular focus on school management. She has a BS in Elementary Education, and an MA in Counseling. She holds a Connecticut Public School Educator certificate, an AMS (American Montessori Society) Middle School credential and an AMS Management credential. She is also Associate Coordinator of the Course for Montessori School Management at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in New York.

Valora Washington, Ph.D.

Valora Washington is the CEO of the Council for Professional Recognition, the largest credentialing system for early childhood educators in the United States.   Throughout her career Dr. Washington has co-created several institutions, such as Michigan’s Children, a statewide advocacy group, the Early Childhood Funders Collaborative, and The CAYL Institute.  She is the author of over 50  publications including  The New Early Childhood Professional  and  Guiding Principles for the New Early Childhood Professional  (forthcoming in November 2017).  Frequently tapped for senior-level service, she has been Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Governor’s School Readiness Commission; Board Chair for Voices for America’s Children; Secretary of NAEYC; chair of the Black Caucus of the Society for Research in Child Development; Co-Chair of the National Head Start Association Commission on 2010; and a member of numerous task forces and boards including of the Boston Children’s Museum and Wheelock College.