Juneau's Krista Bertholl was honored this month as one of the seven Child Care Providers of the Week in the state by two PBS children's programs.
Owner of Mountains to Meadows Child Care Center, Bertholl has 25 years experience in early education and child care in Alaska. Her program, which she runs out of her home, focuses on social and emotional development as well as outdoor education.
"I strive to give children and their families a warm, loving, home-like environment while providing many learning experiences," Bertholl said of her program. "The children learn to be a friend, make a friend and keep a friend, and that is a skill they can use for the rest of their lives."
Along with Gina Palmer, of Palmer Child Care in Ketchikan, Bertholl was awarded Child Care Provider of the Week from the PBS programs "A Place of Our Own" and "Los Niños en Su Casa." The awards were presented July 15 at the first annual Alaska Child Care Provider Awards celebration in Anchorage.
"The child care providers that were recognized were selected from numerous other nominees and stood out because of their years of experience, their dedication and continual strive to improve the quality of care and education they provide children in their care," said Kimberly Chavez, senior associate producer of the PBS programs.
"These ladies go above and beyond what is required of them, and care not only for the children but for the families as a whole."
Sheila Wray, Early Learning Services coordinator for the Education of Young Children Southeast Alaska, nominated Bertholl for the award because her program was one of only three in Southeast Alaska to earn accreditation from the National Association for Family Child Care.
"They worked really hard," Wray said of the three Southeast programs. "If anybody needs to be honored, it's our accredited programs. There's not many of them."
Aside from Mountains to Meadows, Grammy's Child Care in Juneau owned by Jenny Geary, and Palmer Child Care in Ketchikan are accredited by the NAFCC.
Chavez said the women honored in Anchorage "are improving the future of their great state and the nation one child at a time."
"They are raising smart, confident and compassionate people who will be prepared to go on and do great things in their lives," she said. "They all work toward school readiness by including interactive and engaging activities that expose children to the topics and skills they will need when they start school."
MOUNTAINS to MEADOWS
As an embodiment of its name, the Mountains to Meadows curriculum involves an outdoor program, including daily hikes to beaches or parks, picnics, camping trips, as well as gardening and raising chickens.
"The children are outdoors every day no matter the weather," Bertholl said. "Being outside has a calming effect on everyone. There is more space for all those busy, growing bodies. Nature - even in your own backyard - is fantastic learning tool. We incorporate art, math, science and literacy."
Children in Mountains to Meadows have taken trips to DIPAC salmon hatchery, the woods, berry picking spots and trails. The center also holds an annual Mount Roberts hike, which Bertholl said the kids look forward to all year.
"Outdoor education also is beneficial to children, because they learn about where they are from and learn to appreciate our beautiful city," she said.
Sheila Wray, of AEYC, agreed.
"It's not just going outside to play," she said. "It's bringing the outside in and giving experiences with the natural world, which is important for young children because that's how they learn - through their senses."
Bertholl and her assistant, Melinda Messmer, even teach children about the life cycle by raising baby chicks. They constructed a chicken coop in Bertholl's backyard last month. It houses three chickens.
"She promotes an active and healthy lifestyle while also taking the opportunity to teach children to respect and care for the environment," Chavez said. "It is a combination of all that she offers children, including her dedication and love for her profession, that make Krista truly stand out as an outstanding child care provider."
Jenny Geary, owner of Grammy's Child Care and who used to live on Bertholl's street, praised her colleague.
"She has so much energy and life," Geary said. "She and her helper, Melinda, they're just a perfect match. Anytime people call me and I'm busy, I always say, 'Call Krista Bertholl, because she's just perfect.' I think she's just a highly exceptional child care provider.
Wray believes Bertholl and other child care providers are among society's unsung heroes.
"People can't work if they do not have reliable child care, and they can't focus and be productive if they are worried about their child," Wray said. "This is a huge issue for parents and children, yes, but also for the future of our society."
Every week, "A Place Of Our Own" and "Los Niños en Su Casa" highlight an outstanding child care provider from a different part of the nation as a way to thank them for the amazing work they do.
Other Alaska child care providers to earn Child Care Provider of the Week were Linda Campanella, of Kenai; and Luz Angelica Schuitt, Jane Krise, Donna Kirby and Julie Allen Hendrix, all of Anchorage.
"A Place Of Our Own" and "Los Niños en Su Casa" can be seen daily on PBS nationwide and airs in Alaska on KAKM at 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mountains to Meadows, which has been open more than three years, is located on Oday Drive in the Mendenhall Valley. For more information contact Krista Bertholl at 789-3086.
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or email@example.com.
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