Blacksburg, Virginia; October 9, 2023: In late September, First Steps, an initiative of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley (CFNRV), celebrated 14 early childhood educators and advocates at the third annual Early Childhood Champion Awards. First Steps is a network of more than 60 New River Valley (NRV) organizations that support young children and families through education, childcare, healthcare, advocacy, and more.
The award ceremony kicked off the annual Igniting Connections Symposium, a free, day-long conference for early educators held at the Inn at Virginia Tech and sponsored by Early Childhood Education Initiatives at Virginia Tech. More than 100 people gathered to honor the 14 nominees and five award winners. In addition to educators and caregivers, those in attendance included local and state government officials, Virginia Tech employees, and business leaders.
The ceremony drew the attention of the U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, who in a video message, praised the NRV’s childcare workers and shared how he is working to bring more funds to the industry. “Early childhood educators are so critical to providing a solid foundation for Virginia’s children and the childcare industry plays a critical role in our country’s economy,” said Kaine. “Our families need and deserve safe, nurturing, and affordable childcare options. Our childcare providers and workers deserve to be supported and appropriately compensated for the important work that they do.”
The 14 nominees received a total of 22 nominations from colleagues, parents, and family members. Five nominees were selected as this year’s awardees and received cash prizes from the CFNRV. Angie Muncy, the owner and director of Milestones Childcare in Floyd received a total of eight nominations and won the top award, 2023 Early Childhood Champion of the Year.
“Angie’s work over the years has been a true inspiration. Her ability to administer a program that provides consistent, quality, and individualized care and education to the children and families that she serves is amazing,” said Kim Thomason, program manager for Virginia Tech’s Early Childhood Education Initiatives. “Angie is a reflective and dedicated childcare program owner and director evident by her commitment to best practice and the educators that work for her and their commitment to Milestones Childcare Center, the children, and families they serve.”
This year’s Early Childhood Champion runner-up is Oma McReynolds of Intercept Youth, where she serves as a family consultant. Her nominator, a former client, said in part, “Because of Oma and her knowledge, support, and compassion our family is intact. We credit her for the restoration of our family and will forever be grateful for her consistent, dedicated, and empathic investment in us.”
Additionally, First Steps recognized three honorees: Kaydan Appea, an assistant teacher at the Virginia Tech Child Development Center for Teaching and Learning in Blacksburg; Sidney Nelson, an assistant director at the Radford Early Learning Center; and Stefi Schafer, a lead teacher at Blue Mountain School in Floyd.
The full list of nominees is below. Nominations for the 2024 awards will open next spring. More information on First Steps can be found at cfnrv.org/firststeps. To support or get involved with the work of First Steps, please reach out to Jessica Wirgau at email@example.com or 540-381-8999. Learn more about this year’s winners and nominees at cfnrv.org/first-steps/early-childhood-champions/2023-awards/.
- 2023 Early Childhood Champion: Angie Muncy, Owner and Director, Milestones Childcare
- Runner-Up: Oma McReynolds, Family Consultant, Intercept Youth
- Honoree: Kaydan Appea, Assistant Teacher, Virginia Tech Child Development Center for Teaching and Learning
- Honoree: Sidney Nelson, Assistant Director, Radford Early Learning Center
- Honoree: Stefi Schäfer, Lead Teacher, Blue Mountain School
- Lisa Bass, Preschool Program Instructor, Christiansburg Parks & Recreation
- Christi Caldwell, Preschool Teacher, Pearisburg Head Start
- Emily Gruver, Board President, The June Bug Center
- Kysha Marshall, Teacher, Virginia Tech Child Development Center for Teaching and Learning
- Resa Mattson, Program Coordinator, The June Bug Center
- Chesley Mercado, Instructor, The June Bug Center
- Chelsea Naughton, Director, Heart ‘n Hand Childcare Center
- Linda Naughton, Owner and Teacher, Heart ‘n Hand Childcare Center
- Dawn Sullivan, Owner, Sullivan Family Day Home