For some, early care and education are so important that they become more than just a job.
That's how it is for Maureen O'Bryan-Grogg.
A few weeks ago, Child Care Resources Inc. presented Grogg with the 2010 Teachers Educating and Developing Dynamic Youth (TEDDY) Award for Outstanding Director. Based on an anonymous parent nomination, the TEDDY recognizes childcare providers who work with young children in providing exceptional care and education in the Charlotte area.
"I was thinking, 'I wish my whole staff could receive this award,'" said Grogg, director at First Kids at First Presbyterian Church in Concord for 18 years. "I see my teachers love these kids as if they were their own. That's a gift. I'm so proud of them for being able to do that."
According to a Child Care Resources news release, a selection committee uses an objective rating scale to score the finalists' self-assessments. They make visits to observe the finalists at work, and they review their portfolio to determine the winner in each category. The categories include: Outstanding Director, Outstanding Teacher, and Outstanding Family Child Care Home Provider.
"I oversee a lot of the curriculum that we implement here," said Grogg, who believes in expanding learning and creativity. "I help the teachers in setting up centers throughout the day. Part of the day is administrative, getting chores and things like that. My favorite part of the day is getting to work with kids."
With a degree in elementary and special education from the University of Kentucky, Grogg always knew she wanted to work with children.
In 2006, she served on the N.C. National Association for the Education of Young Children delegation to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the protection of children's programs such as Head Start and Smart Start.
Grogg is co-president of Cabarrus Rowan Stanley Association for the Education of Young Children and teaches two courses each semester at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. But for now, she is focused on First Kids.
One of the things the children at First Kids are working on is a garden project. Teachers rotate classes in the garden to plant and water the plot of land next to the playground.
"When we started the garden last year, we had a little girl who hardly ever spoke to any of us," said Grogg." She mixed up her words a lot. Because the children had such a hard time understanding her, she quit talking a lot. She was just very quite a lot of the time."
But she was different when she was out in the garden.
"She got excited. Her heart was pounding. She had rosy cheeks and she started talking up a blue streak," said Grogg. "She goes, 'I plant flowers in my garden.' She said such intelligible sentences we hadn't heard from her before. I never saw someone so excited."
Grogg believes children learn best in different environments and that hands-on learning like playing outside in the dirt and gardening are important learning activities.
"You see other kids when we have the water table out; they just turn on like little light bulbs," she said. "Others turn on with blocks, others turn on with painting. It's like turning on little light bulbs all day long."
The TEDDY Award is sponsored by The Charlotte Observer, Kaplan Early Learning Company, Smart Start of Mecklenburg County and Build-A-Bear.
Grogg believes it's important to give back to the community. Young children should start with their own neighborhoods and surrounding areas.
"It's good to find something that you are interested in and build on it from there," she said. "Each child is unique and special. We need to instill in them the thought they have the responsibility that they have to take care of other people, too."
Grogg lives with her husband, David, in Concord. They have two children, 19-year-old Patrick and 23-year-old Chatman, who both attend Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.