2017 Gala Award Winners

The 16th Annual Early Educator Awards Gala was held last Friday. It was an evening of dinner, dancing, and awards that was emceed by our own Amy O’Leary, director of Strategies for Children’s Early Education for All Campaign.

“Early education and care is getting a lot of attention at the local, state, and national level. None of the progress we have made for young children and families in Massachusetts would have been possible without the early educators who work across the state,” O’Leary said. “This is a critical time for all of us who are committed to young children and high-quality early childhood education. To succeed, we must all continue to work together. It was an honor to help celebrate this work at the gala.”

As Amy pointed out at the gala, a lot has changed since last year:

Against this backdrop, local leadership in the field has been deeply inspiring. Among these leaders are the winners of this year’s awards.

The 2017 Early Educator Award recipients were:

Leadership & Management

Shekesha Thompson, Director of Adventure Kids in Leominster
Bailey Kent, Chief Education Officer at The Children’s Workshop, Inc.

Community Relationships

Kate Gorman, a teacher at the Beacon Hill Nursery School in Boston


Laura Merdkhanian, Teacher at the Curly Elementary School, Boston Public Schools

Family Partnership

Pattie Capistron, Lead Teacher at The Rocking Unicorn Nursery School in Chatham

Maxine Hollins, a preschool teacher from the Grove Hall Child Development Center in Boston.

STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math):

Vicki Bartolini, Professor and Chair of Department of Education at Wheaton College

The Pat Xavier Advocacy Award

Tatiane Dias de Oliveira, a nanny in a private household in Somerville, MA; the Leader and Advocate at Matahari Women Workers’ Center and Childcare Expert: and a Partner at CozyKin

BAEYC Abigail Elliot Award

Eleonora Villegas-Reimers, Chair of the Department of Special and Elementary Education at Wheelock College in Boston and a member of the Massachusetts Board of Early Education and Care.

Also acknowledged were programs that earned accreditation from NAEYC (the National Association for the Education of Young Children); providers who earned accreditation from the National Association for Family Child Care; and educators who earned their CDA – Child Development Associate were honored.

Congratulations to all the award winners and to all the recently accredited programs and early educators.