Over two decades ago, a group of volunteers in New Jersey decided to set aside a day to honor child care providers, teachers and other educators who dedicate their lives to caring for and educating young children. Since its inauguration in 1996, National Provider Appreciation Day® has been celebrated on the Friday before Mother’s Day.

Child care programs have been faced with many challenges recently: making difficult decisions about whether to close their doors or remain open, dealing with financial uncertainty, keeping informed on rapidly changing protocols, navigating financial relief programs and much more. Despite the challenges, child care providers continue to take steps to do what is best for children and families. Providers are among this country’s unsung heroes.

Today we here at AECA say a huge THANK YOU to all our providers out there! We appreciate you!

Please read this special message from Zephonia Avant.

My name is Zephonia Avant. I work closely with early childhood educators in our state as I serve in the roles of trainer, facilitator and coach. My professional experiences range from classroom teacher to serving families in adult education programs. As a member of AECA, I am honored to serve our profession in the area of advocacy as the AECA Public Policy Chair.

The headlines read: “New light is shed on early childhood educators, a reverence for a new respect.”, “Early childhood educators are the new front line workers”, “Early childhood educators keep doors open”.

The news’ headlines brought forth heroes who had for so long been hidden beneath the ordinary “day to day” happenings of our communities. For so long the pillar of our economy and the free world has been a faithful silent foundation, the ones caring, nurturing, teaching our children today, and preparing futures of tomorrows. Remaining faithful and committed to your calling, you held the hands of little ones and kept children close, maintaining normalcy during the year when the world stopped turning.

Bravely, you entered an invisible war zone of a fearless pandemic. Each day you walked into the unknown prepared with a face mask, temperature check, hand sanitizer and prayers that didn’t cease. When everyone said “stay home”, your heart said go! While there were great victories along the way, some battles were simply lost. All day long you stared death in the face while the faces of the children looked at you without any hesitation, without any reservation and even full of joy. Parents looked to you with most confidence not only as a caregiver for their child but as a source of strength and assurity. There is no test, no assessment tool that can ever measure how much our children learned this year. What our children learned is unfathomable, too great to measure. There is no teacher evaluation tool to measure your valor, your strength, or your courage. As children lost grandparents, either to quarantine or to the grave, and locks were placed on playgrounds, churches and school doors closed, you remained constant and unwavering. When your classroom doors had to close, you opened your homes to the world sharing cooking experiences, art projects, story times and even videos to model how to dress warmly in the newly fallen snow.

In total awe, I have watched you, not sure if I could have walked in your shoes myself.

As the world begins to turn again and waken from the nightmare, you will continue to be the pillar of strength, the sparrow’s song just as you always have been. May you stand a little taller, a little braver, displaying proudly your warrior heart.

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