Educator Spotlight: Cheryl Vargas
Our Educator Spotlight features some of the most amazing educators in our community. Throughout this series you will have an opportunity to learn a little more about our readers, as well as explore unique preschool programs across the U.S and in other countries.
I'd like for you to meet...
How long have you been a childcare provider, and why did you become one?
Cheryl has developed amazing themed dramatic play spaces over the years-many of which have been featured here on the site. Let's get to know her more!
I have been a licensed family child care provider for a little over 3 years. Before that I was nanny for about a year, and before that I was an accredited center teacher. As a lead preschool teacher I worked at a high-risk, inner-city center. As an infant teacher I completed my practicum for my A.A.S. degree in Early Childhood Development. I miss working with babies a lot sometimes! Meeting the needs of a variety of family backgrounds from different communities, different ages and playing different roles in relationships with parents has helped me grow in many ways. My education really gave me a strong foundation and my experiences with families and children has helped me build my identity as a child care provider- which is always evolving and changing.
I was in business management when I switched my major. My dad was a firefighter, and he used to always tell me "Do what you love!" He really convinced me I could be anything I wanted to be and I still believe him. There were events in my life that made me ask myself how I wanted to spend a good portion of my life, since a career takes much of it. I looked deep and thought ,
"I just want to spend it with children".
What is the philosophy of your child care program?
Our children gradually shift away from the me-centered understanding of their world and learn they are part of a community. They become problem solvers, communicators, good friends, helpers and gain healthy self-esteem. Self-help skills, self-regulation skills, joyful creative thinking, and an inquiring mind with a love of learning is what they build toward every day. I even help them learn a little grit, some clear boundaries, and how to communicate those boundaries- which is very necessary to navigate their worlds.
I am still working on our program philosophy- still growing, reflecting, making changes. Thankfully there are many guiding tools out there from many amazing, wonderful professionals that are there to help early childhood educators. I borrow ideas and approaches from many theorists, many places. Integration of those ideas mixed in with lots of inspiration is what you might see materialize in our environment and activities.
What is your favorite thing about being a childcare provider?
The experiences of observing children during my mindful moments. The sounds of their laughter, their tiny inquiring voices, their little arms when they hug me! When they tell me they love me it makes my heart happy. I love seeing their amazing creations, am awed by their pro-social skills. I love my amazing, invested, supportive families.
What makes your program unique?
I think what makes programs unique are the providers! Each of us has different gifts to offer the children, and all of us have the capacity to use our work to grow in every way as human beings.
Passion drives me. I think about the daycare, dream about it, all the time. It is the season of my life right now. I probably do not have enough work/life balance but I feel compelled to keep doing better and growing as a provider. I am not afraid to take my values and strengths and apply them to my program. Communication is very, very important to me.
I think what makes my program unique is also my environment. I love natural light, mixing up the layout and changing out the toys frequently. I have a playroom dedicated to the daycare, a sunroom and a living area that transforms into many functional spaces. There are toys that require thought, problem solving, cooperation and imaginative play.
What advice would you give a new provider?
The first couple years are the most difficult. You will benefit from a network of mentors and can find lots of seasoned providers willing to help you along your way online. Having boundaries is very important! Keep revising your contract and policies. Behavioral guidance training and reading will take you far. Everything you invest into your growth will return to reward you.
Give yourself credit. Take care of yourself. It's okay to take pride in your work, even when others do not value it, because there will be those times. Set high standards for yourself and your daycare families. Communicate- positively. If you don't know how to respond to a parent or child, say "I am going to think about this some more". Journal! Things will get easier, you will learn new tools to deal with many situations. You will become stronger, more patient, more able to experience joyful moments with your littles, and that is what this is all about!
A big thank you..
I want to extend a big thank you to Cheryl Vargas for sharing her wonderful program with our readers! Be sure to swing by Cherie's Learning Tree on FB or her Website to see more of the amazing things she's created for her program!
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