Why Early Childhood Educator of the Year?

DIEEC’s Early Childhood Educator of the Year Award acknowledges and honors the critical role of professionals in Delaware who exemplify the best in quality early care and education. Our overall goal is to elevate the importance of the early childhood education profession in the public eye.

Congratulations to our 2024 Early Childhood Educator of the Year Winners!

Thank you to Delaware’s First Lady, Tracey Quillen Carney for announcing our winners!


Meet Your Winners:

Mary Waters

Family Child Care Winner

With over 15 years of experience, Mary Waters provides exceptional early learning at Ms. Mary’s Nature Preschool in Hartly. Mary has merged her passion for early childhood education and her love of nature to create a unique home-based preschool where children thrive as learners as they connect with nature. Her unique outdoor classroom, nestled in woodland, offers children ample opportunities for nature exploration in a peaceful learning environment. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Wilmington University and Early Childhood Administrator Certification from Delaware’s Department of Education. Mary lives in Hartly with her husband and children.

Meghan Eudy

Center-Based Winner

Meghan Eudy is employed at the Delaware Technical and Community College (DTCC) Child Development Center in Georgetown. Her tenure with DTCC began in 2009 while she was pursuing her degree in Early Childhood Education. Throughout her college journey and practical hours at DTCC, Meghan’s passion for the field deepened. As an Early Childhood Educator, she is dedicated to nurturing children’s growth and fostering their skills through play-based methods and the resources available both within her center and across the state.

Runners-up:

Stacy Morgan

Family Child Care Runner-Up

Stacy Morgan is the founder of the Little Bit of Sunshine Nature Learning Academy, which she established in 1995 after leaving a career in banking. With a passion for creating a nurturing, nature-based learning environment, Stacy has spent over 29 years fostering a space that supports the physical, emotional, and educational growth of children. Stacy’s achievements include being a Let’s Go Outside 2022 participant, and having her academy featured in the Voices From the Field section of DIEEC’s REACH newsletter. She continues her professional development through DIEEC’s professional learning experiences and attending online webinars with We Skoolhouse, Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, Take Me Outside, and Kristen RB Peterson. Stacy earned her Family Child Care CDA in June 2023 and is working on her Hygge in The Early Years accreditation.

Caitlin Gibbons

Center-Based Runner-Up

Caitlin Gibbons is an early childhood educator with eight years of experience in preschool education, including two years at the Odessa High School Pre-K Lab. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Delaware, Caitlin is dedicated to nurturing young minds and fostering a love for learning. Beyond the classroom, she collaborates with high schoolers in the pathway program, bridging the gap between early childhood and secondary education. Through her passion for creating inclusive and engaging learning environments, Caitlin remains committed to shaping the educational journeys of both young children and teenagers, leaving a profound impact on their learning experiences.

We would like to thank our sponsors at Becker’s School Supplies, Discount School Supply, Early Childhood Innovation Center, Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children, and Lakeshore Learning who donated prizes for our award-winning educators.

Eligibility and Application Guidelines

2024 Important Changes:

  • Self-Nomination: Educators must nominate themselves to ensure that only those who are interested are being considered for the award.
  • Selection Process: Winners will be chosen by a panel of experts and educators.
  • A Letter of Support: Applicants will now need to provide one letter of support from a parent of a current or former child in the program/classroom, the director of the program/center, or a colleague.
  • Winners: There are two award categories: one for center-based programs and one for family child care programs. One winner and one runner-up will be selected in each category.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Be a classroom educator of children between the ages of birth through pre-kindergarten.

AND

  • Be currently employed in a family, large family, center-based, or school-based early childhood program that fully complies with OCCL regulations.

AND, either:

  • Be a full-time lead or assistant classroom educator/family child care educator (minimum of 30 hours worked per week) employed for a minimum of 18 months in one child care facility/program that operates full day.

OR

  • Be a lead or assistant classroom educator/family child care educator(minimum of 15 hours worked per week) employed for a minimum of 18 months in one child care facility/program that operates part-day.

Not eligible to apply:

  • Floaters, substitutes, temporary teachers, and teachers with part-time hours
  • Educators of school-age children in early childhood education programs (i.e., before/after school educators)
  • Administrative educators (staff who have administrative responsibilities that prevent them from being a full-time teacher)
  • DIEEC Educator of the Year Award winners from 2022 to present

*Please note:

  • Only one educator may be named per application. 
  • Co-lead teachers or teaching teams are not eligible to share this award (only one recipient will be awarded).
  • Winner and runner-up will not be selected from the same program site. 

2024 Educator of the Year Panelists

Patti Lynch

Lisa Miller

Lynn Worden

PDRC Coordinator, Wilmington Early Care & Education Council (WECEC)

Executive Director, Delaware Association for the Education of Young Children (deaeyc)

Associate Professor, University of Delaware

Patti Lynch boasts over thirty-five years of active involvement in early childhood education, serving in roles such as classroom teacher, curriculum coordinator, and technical assistant. Passionate about empowering the early childhood community, she currently leads as the Program Manager at the Wilmington Early Care and Education (WECEC) Professional Development Resource Center (PDRC), striving to unite resources and community. WECEC facilitates monthly meetings, organizes professional development events, and fosters a continuous exchange of resources to support the ECE profession.

Lisa started working at an educational publisher, using her English degree to create literacy workbooks and manipulative materials for high school curricula. Years later, while teaching English at Delaware Technical Community College, she began to understand the impact of early learning experiences on literacy. She then became an assessor of early learning development for ages pre-k to adults and the director of education at Huntington Learning Center. When she became Executive Director at deaeyc nearly five years ago, she knew she had landed where she was meant to be.

Lynn Worden is an Associate Professor at UD in the Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, having been a faculty member since 2002 and serving as the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program coordinator for 20 years. She specializes in teaching courses related to infants and toddlers, parents and families, and supporting the professional development of ECE majors. Before joining UD, Lynn accumulated extensive experience in various settings, providing support to children ranging from infants to school-age and their families.

Jill Kortright Wood

Diane Frentzel

Rhondalin Cannon-Tingle

Program Quality Assessment Supervisor, Pennsylvania Key (PA Key)

Program Manager, Delaware Readiness

2022 Educator of the Year Winner – Little Angels ECE Program

Jill Kortright Wood is a Program Quality Assessment Supervisor for Keystone STARS, Pennsylvania’s ECE quality system. Initially engaged through networking discussions on statewide quality initiatives, Jill now leads her team in the Delaware Valley and oversees Pennsylvania’s implementation of the Environment Rating Scales. Recently, she dedicated significant time to supporting researchers at the University of South Carolina in studying equity in early learning environments. Prior to her current role, Jill provided coaching and professional development support to early educators and services for children and families at a Philadelphia-based nonprofit before joining the Pennsylvania Key in 2007.

Diane serves as the Program Manager of Delaware Readiness teams, facilitating collaboration among families, educators, schools, and communities to prepare children ages birth to 8 for success in school and beyond. With extensive experience, including tenure as a child care director at Bright Horizons, Diane brings leadership to statewide initiatives. Since 2016, she has overseen the Making a Difference Conference, which is dedicated to enhancing early childhood professionals’ skills and knowledge. Diane holds a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Development and Education from the University of Delaware.

Rhondalin Cannon-Tingle is a Family Child Care educator and the proud owner of Rhonda’s Little Angels ECE Program in Seaford, Delaware. With over 25 years of experience in the Early Childhood Education field, Rhondalin brings a wealth of expertise and passion to her work. In 2022, she was honored with the title of FCC Educator of the Year by UD/DIEEC, a testament to her dedication and excellence. Rhondalin currently serves as the Sussex County Network Ambassador for DIEEC, demonstrating her commitment to supporting and empowering fellow educators in the community.

Kirsten Swift

2023 Educator of the Year Winner – Little Sprouts School

Kirsten Swift brings three decades of early childhood teaching experience, finding her passion in nurturing young minds as a classroom teacher. Following a 20-year tenure at St. Anne’s Episcopal School, Kirsten embarked on her lifelong dream of owning a preschool. In June 2022, she opened Little Sprouts School, offering part-time Pre-K and Preschool classes in a nature-infused, home-based setting. Blending outdoor and indoor learning, Kirsten’s curriculum fosters child-led exploration alongside teacher-guided activities.


2023 Winners

Home-based setting: Kirsten Swift (Little Sprouts – Smyrna, Del.)

Center-based setting: Lindsey Mulvena (St. David’s Episcopal Day School – Wilmington, Del.)

2022 Winners

Home-based setting: Rhondalin Cannon-Tingle (Rhonda’s Little Angels Daycare and Preschool, Seaford), pictured on the right

Center-based setting: Colleen Millman (Delaware Technical & Community College Child Development Center, Georgetown), pictured on the left