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.
Applications are open: February 1st – March 1st, 2024
Time left to register:
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.
- Be a classroom educator of children between the ages of birth through pre-kindergarten.
- Be currently employed in a family, large family, center-based, or school-based early childhood program that fully complies with OCCL regulations.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
Directions for application:
Educator of the Year winners will receive:
- A Plaque
- A digital banner
- A free year-long membership with the Delaware Association for Education of the Young Children (deaeyc)
- Public recognition: Featured in REACH, DIEEC’s website, and announced at Advocacy Day
- Multiple gift cards from organizations such as Lakeshore Learning and Discount School Supplies
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
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.
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.
For any further questions, please email us at:
Home-based setting: Kirsten Swift (Little Sprouts – Smyrna, Del.)
Center-based setting: Lindsey Mulvena (St. David’s Episcopal Day School – Wilmington, Del.)
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