gala programOn April 3, 2015, some 200 early educators gathered in Randolph for the 14th annual Early Educators Awards Gala sponsored by the Boston Association for the Education of Young Children (BAEYC).

The gala celebrates Greater Boston’s early childhood educators and their contributions to the development of young children. The event also recognizes outstanding educators and high-quality programs. Our own Amy O’Leary, Early Education for All Campaign Director, served as the evening’s Mistress of Ceremonies.

Debbie LeeKeenan was awarded the Abigail Eliot Award. The award honors outstanding commitment to young children and the early childhood profession not only through work done on behalf of BAEYC, but also through a record of distinguished professional achievement.

The award is named after Abigail Adams Eliot, a pioneer in early childhood education and in training teachers of young children. Ms. Eliot, who died in 1992 at the age of 100, was founder of the Ruggles Street Nursery School in Roxbury, the first nursery school in the country; and one of the few that provided training in early childhood education.

Eliot’s training program later became part of what is known as the Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study (its name at the time) at Tufts University.

It is this department that links Eliot and Keenan, who spent 20 years as director and lecturer at the Eliot Pearson Children’s School, the laboratory school for the (renamed) Department of Child Study and Human Development at Tufts. Talk about coming full circle with the award!

Six other, peer-nominated early educators also won awards:

 Yisel Lizardo, a Family Child Care Educator at Dream Angel’s Child Care in Fitchburg, won for leadership and management.

Liza Monahan, a preschool teacher at Regis College Children’s Center in Newton, won for relationships.

Sarah Eig, teacher, Ellis Memorial in the South End of Boston, won for curriculum.

Nicole Geoffrion, a teacher at ABCD South Side Head Start, won for physical environment.

Brenda Powers, program director, at Nazareth Child Care Center, Catholic Charities in Jamaica Plain, won for family partnership.

Jamiera Bing, a teacher at the Wesley Education Center in Dorchester, won for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

The gala also recognized:

• Thirty-three center-based programs that earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children

• Four family child care providers that earned accreditation from the National Association for Family Child Care, and,

• Ninety-seven early educators who earned Child Development Associate certificates.

Congratulations to all the winners.