Saturday, July 20, 2024

Award winner turned judge

Early Childhood Education alum looking out for the next generation

Sarah Kirby knows firsthand the importance of Early Childhood Education (ECE) professionals, and she is advocating for a better understanding of family childcare.

Kirby, a CNA graduate of the ECE Diploma program in 2013, received the 2022 Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in the field.

“I was thrilled to have won; it was really a great honour to be nominated,” she said. “Often family childcare is not fully understood and, therefore, not recognized for the quality of early learning that can be offered there, this really helped to shine a light on how special family childcare settings can be.”

She won the award when she operated her former business, Wildflowers Child Care Centre.

“I previously worked as an early childhood educator in a variety of settings, including for profit and early intervention, but once I had my own children, I was unable to return to work because the cost of regulated childcare was so high,” explained Kirby.

It was this experience that led her to starting her own business.

“By opening a regulated space in my home, I was able to offer them the quality of programming and developmentally appropriate curriculum I really longed for them to receive.”

Closing her centre was a really tough decision, says Kirby..

“I closed Wildflowers in September to accept a position as an agency monitor and home visitor with Family and Child Care Connections,” she said. “Now my role is in supporting other childcare providers to be approved to offer regulated family child care and help expand more accessible quality early learning across the province.”

Born and raised in Gander, NL, Kirby says the college really helped her excel in her passion.

“My training was able to educate me on current best practices around early learning and prepared me to enter the field with a deep understanding of child development, that I could continue to build on,” she said. “I recommend this program all the time. It is a fantastic time to become an ECE and CNA provides great applied learning opportunities for its students.”

She adds that there are many career paths in this field that can be taken.

“The early childhood education program can lead to a rewarding, stable and successful professional career, there are multiple ways you can apply your diploma within the sector. If you are considering a career change or a new education, there are many supports and incentives in place now for early childhood educators, so it is worth reaching out and speaking to someone who is knowledgeable about what a career in early learning can look like.”

A busy mom of two, Kirby says she is always working on her personal and professional development.

“As an educator, I believe it is our job to continually educate ourselves on best practices and others on the field,” she said. “I am currently participating in an outdoor learning professional development course and completing a degree in Early Childhood Education.”

She is also an avid volunteer working with the Early Childhood Education Human Resources Council, is on the board of the Canadian Association of Young Children as the provincial director and is a member of the Nature Based Childcare Advocacy Council NL.

“I also manage multiple social media channels that highlight best practices in the early learning sector, educate the public on the ECE profession and shine the light on the quality early learning opportunities in family childcare,” she said.

Now, she is an evaluator for the very award that she won in 2022, and she’s had the opportunity to be part of reviewing and scoring nomination packages for educators across the country.

For more information about Early Childhood Education and other CNA programs, visit

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Ryanne McIsaac
Ryanne McIsaac
Ryanne is Editor of CNA Currents. Born and raised in Stephenville, NL, Ryanne moved back to Newfoundland after spending 16 years in Calgary, Alberta. Ryanne has a Journalism Diploma from College of the North Atlantic and a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Cape Breton University. She worked for many years as a reporter and freelance writer. She is happy to be back in her hometown and working for CNA.


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