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Press Release: September 2014
Habitot Children's Museum
Media Contact: Lauren Levin, (510) 647-1111 x31,
Public Information:
Images: available

"Preschool Teachers Awards Event Welcomes 125"

(Berkeley, CA) September 29, 2014

Over 125 thrilled parents, enthusiastic friends, and family members packed the house at Habitot Children’s Museum for the 6th Annual "Preschool Teachers Make a Difference" contest, sponsored by TIAA-CREFF/Scholarshare.

At the September 29th event, ten exemplary early childhood educators were recognized as this year’s winners. Over 500 preschool teachers have been nominated since Habitot launched the awards program, and over 60 have been awarded gift certificates for classroom supplies, educational products, free field trip visits to Habitot, and wide recognition for their outstanding contributions to early childhood education.

This year teachers received a $100 gift certificate from Lead Sponsor Childcraft / School Specialty, a Chinook Book, and a charming puppet from long-time contest sponsor Folkmanis, as well as memberships and field trips from Habitot.

Suzette Barnachie, a classroom parent, said about the teacher she nominated, Arlene Fiesta from Learning Ladder Preschool in Alameda: “My child was almost completely non-verbal before attending Arlene’s autism-specific classroom: thanks to her attention to his learning style, he has begun to speak in sentences, and we know how to support him at home.” Many teachers had their whole classes in attendance, and some teachers cried as they heard from their nominators how much their teaching had meant to the whole family.

Aisha Brown, representing awards judge Supervisor Keith Carson, spoke about the delight she, the office staff, and Supervisor Carson felt in reading the essays, and how difficult it was to choose the winners from such a fantastic field.

At a time when teachers receive little respect or recognition for their work, Habitot created the “Preschool Teachers Make a Difference” Awards to remind people about the critical role of early childhood educators, launching three- and four-year-olds on the road to a lifetime of learning.

“My hope is to elevate the profession and appreciate these unsung heroes whose impact on young children is immense,” said Gina Moreland, Habitot’s executive director and creator of the contest. “At Habitot, it is important to us to support the whole village that raises a child, and preschool teachers are a crucial part of that community.” The contest has grown each year since 2008, thanks to strong word of mouth and to the generous participation of Media Sponsors Red Tricycle, Savvy Source / Schoola, Parents’ Press, and 510Families.

While guests mingled and enjoyed refreshments in the museum space, happy children playing on the museum exhibits added to the mix. Habitot looks forward to opening nominations for the 7th “Preschool Teachers Make a Difference” Awards in the spring of 2015. Habitot is always seeking nominations for teachers to be honored by this unique program: nominations are accepted from all eight Bay Area counties from classroom parents and school administrators. We are also looking for community sponsors who would like to help us recognize teachers by contributing prizes, funding, or spreading the word about the contest.

2014 "Preschool Teachers Make a Difference" Award Winners:

  • Jason Alonzo – Growing Light Montessori, Kensington
  • Arlene Fiesta – Learning Ladder Preschool, Alameda
  • Maryam Fofana – Rockridge Little School, Oakland
  • Gloria Gardner – The Little Red Schoolhouse, Richmond
  • Jessie Kan, Elaine Tseng, and Cecilia Wang – Presidio Knolls School, San Francisco
  • Merria Ross Kranen – Grace Children’s Academy, Oakland
  • Cortney Olsen – St. Francis Preschool, Novato
  • Deborah Thies – King Child Development Center, Berkeley
  • Rowena Velasco – Kai Ming Head Start Geary Center, San Francisco
  • Sally Wright, Sarah Post, Carmen Madriz – Haste Street Child Development Center, Berkeley

2014 Judges: Supervisor Keith Carson, representing District 5 for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Catherine Taylor, Executive Director of the California Association for the Education of Young Children, the statewide chapter of NAEYC; and Matt Regan, Senior VP and staff member of the Early Childhood Education Committee of the Bay Area Council, a business and development association with a commitment to early childhood education.

About Habitot Children's Museum

Habitot Children's Museum was founded in 1992 to meet the unique needs of infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Habitot’s mission is to help the broad community of parents and caregivers raise curious, creative and confident children with dedicated programs for children with special needs, teen parents, formerly incarcerated mothers, and homeless families. Hands-on exhibits and programs focus exclusively on early childhood, ages 0-5.

Since opening 15 years ago in 1998, Habitot has welcomed almost 1,000,000 visitors, filling a niche for new parents and caregivers who seek safe and enriching experiences for young children, with parenting support, a toy lending library, affordable music and art classes, immersive learning exhibits, and a drop-in Art Studio.

Habitot Children's Museum has been recognized as the "best museum for families" by Bay Area Parent Magazine readers. In addition, Habitot's founder, Gina Moreland, has been honored with a Bay Area "Jefferson Award", and was the City of Berkeley's "Early Childhood Champion of the Year." In 2011, 2012 and 2013, Parents' Press readers voted Habitot "Best of the East Bay," and in 2013 Habitot received the GuideStar Exchange Silver participation level, a leading symbol of transparency and accountability provided by GuideStar USA, Inc., the premier source of nonprofit information. In 2010, 2011 and in 2012, Habitot was designated a "Top-Rated Non-profit" by GreatNonprofits, a leading provider of reviews and ratings of nonprofit organizations. See all awards

Habitot Children's Museum
2065 Kittredge Street
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 647-1111