A kindergarten teacher and a childcare professional in Selbyville were among the 11 winners of this year’s Governor’s Award for excellence in early-childhood care and education. The awards were announced at a banquet last Thursday, Sept. 28.
Melody Bradley, a fourth-year kindergarten teacher at Phillip C. Showell Elementary School in Selbyville, won a first-place award in the teacher’s category. And Wanda Bunting, who runs Country Bear Child Care out of her Selbyville home, won a second-place award in the family childcare category.
The Family and Workplace Connection, a Wilmington- and Dover-based non-profit elder- and child-care resource and referral organization, coordinates the award. Officials award the annual distinctions based on five criteria adopted by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
The five criteria are available at The Family and Workplace Connection’s Web site at www.justintimecare.org.
After earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from Wilmington College, Bradley — the mother of a 3-year-old boy and a Georgetown resident — started her teaching career. And after four years in the job, she said that going to school at Showell every day isn’t much like a job at all.
“It’s something I’ve always been good at,” Bradley said.
On Monday, about a week after receiving news that she had won the award, the teacher — who said she was born to teach — sang to kids’ music on the radio in her classroom, helped her students with their work and said the award is good because early-childhood educators don’t usually get the recognition they deserve.
“It was encouraging,” Bradley said, adding that she was surprised and elated to hear that she had won. “I felt very humbled.”
“They couldn’t have made a finer choice,” said Phillip C. Showell Principal Ivan Neal. “(Bradley) is a hard worker and provides our students with a very nice classroom environment daily.”
After having her second daughter eight years ago, the 11-year Selbyville resident thought it would be cheaper for her to quit her Perdue job and stay home to take care of her kids — and others. Bunting has now been running Country Bear Child Care for those eight years and seems to have fallen into a job that she genuinely enjoys.
“I love it,” said Bunting, who is now earning her degree in early-childhood education to better prepare the kids for kindergarten.
On Monday, Bunting held and fed 8-week-old Chayse Neal, the youngest of six kids at the daycare that day, as her dog Lightning and the five others children looked on. Bunting said she received word that she had won the award in early September. It was the second year straight that her parents had nominated her for the award.
“I was shocked,” Bunting said. “I don’t normally win anything. To be able to be recognized, it’s a great pleasure.”
Kristen Schul, mother of 20-month-old Pearson, a blonde-headed boy among the small crowd on Monday, did not seem as surprised as Bunting.
“She treats (Pearson) like he’s her own.” Schul said as she raved on the job Bunting does taking care of and educating the kids. “He’s safe there and happy there. It’s worked out beautifully.”