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Comox educator earns national award

Charlene Gray, who works at Tigger Too Preschool in Comox has earned a Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education.

Recipients of those and Teaching Excellence Awards were presented Wednesday at a ceremony in Ottawa ahead of World Teachers’ Day on Oct. 5.

The Prime Minister’s Awards for Excellence in Early Childhood Education honour exceptional early-childhood educators who help build the foundation that young children need to make the best start in life.

This year, awards were given to 94 teachers/educators from across Canada, 27 of whom travelled to Ottawa to receive their Certificates of Excellence (national-level) from the prime minister and attend three days of celebratory and professional development activities.

Gray works at a preschool operated by the Comox Valley Children's Daycare Society for children aged three to five.

Described as a tireless advocate for children everywhere, her programming reflects her vision that children can guide their own learning. She creates a stimulating environment, infused with nature, which children feel belongs to them and where they can pose questions and wonder about the world around them.

• Gray has developed a series of tools for families and educators to facilitate a child's transition into kindergarten. Transition documents outline the child's strengths and goals; a Welcome to Kindergarten booklet uses photos from the elementary school to introduce the child to the school prior to entry and special parent pamphlets contain targeted information from teachers.

• She participates in a variety of child advocacy communities, including the development of Project Childsign, which aims at placing child-friendly signs on community buildings helping young children "read" their way around. The goals are to raise awareness of children as community members and to encourage consideration of children when planning public spaces. It also creates awareness and respect for the work of early childhood educators.

• Gray gets the children out of the centre by paying visits to the library, the fire station, the grocery store, a vet's office and more.

• Parents are encouraged to participate at any level — be it to observe or to share a hobby. One parent even came in to make pasta with the children. Gray also communicates and shares information and anecdotes with parents by phone and e-mail.

• Gray regularly plans field trips and family events. Together they have visited one family's farm where they gathered eggs and spinach and hosted a Mother's Day Tea. Other events include family nights, picnics and parties.

• Gray makes sure her students are visible in the community as they collect toys for Santa's Workshop and "adopt" families at Christmas.

"Charlene was open, warm and sensitive to the needs of our family ... Her passion for her work was evident as she shared 'snippets' of my son's day with me," said one parent. "Charlene allowed me glimpses of his preschool experience that assured me that my son and I were valued participants in her program."

"I got to witness first hand Charlene's commitment, dedication, care, patience and the respect she has for all preschoolers," said another. "All the children are treated equally while taking into consideration their ages and abilities."

For additional information on the Prime Minister’s Awards, visit www.pma-ppm.gc.ca.

— Prime Minister's Awards for Excellence in Early Childhood Education

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