Denise Day starts her mornings at Bright Beginnings by keeping an eye out for a specific child. She greets all the kids and their parents as they come in, offering a warm welcome to everyone as they arrive at the center. She knows that this specific child has a harder time than the others in the morning, often arriving frustrated and upset. Denise rushes over to comfort the toddler and her mother when they arrive, attempting to make the transition as smooth as possible.
Comforting people through transitions both big and small is part of what Denise does best in her toddler classroom. She got to know her toddlers and their parents when she was in the infant classroom and moved over to the toddler classroom to provide continuity of care. “Denise is very adaptive in her work with infants and toddlers, and her strong passion for working with young children provides rich opportunities to develop for the toddler age group,” said Yasmin Shaffi, the education manager at Bright Beginnings.
Denise proudly tells a recent developmental success story of a child who just learned to walk in her classroom. “She came to the center at age one, and wasn’t walking or standing. She was pretty shaky. I encouraged her, worked with her, and tried to build her self-esteem – now she’s walking all over the place!”
Success stories at Bright Beginnings are very familiar to Denise – she’s one herself. She started as a parent at Bright Beginnings in 1996, using their services for her two young daughters and taking advantage of the resources available for parents. She became a parent aide while she was working to get her GED and then transitioned to a full time teacher when she earned her Child Development Associate (CDA) with an Infant and Toddler endorsement. Currently, Denise is completing her associate’s degree in early childhood at the University of the District of Columbia. Her experiences allow her to encourage parents and to create a positive, welcoming environment that’s focused on the future.
One of the unique things about Bright Beginnings is their holistic view on the family and their support for parents. Through initiatives like the parent resource center, support groups, and providing parent and child learning opportunities in the home environment, Bright Beginnings helps parents move toward self-sufficiency while ensuring children are ready to succeed in kindergarten and beyond. There’s a huge demand for their services; Bright Beginnings has started construction on a second center that will allow them to meet more of the demand for infants and toddlers. It wouldn’t be possible without teachers like Denise.
“She collaborates with co-teachers, she’s supportive and motivated to improve our services, and she has great relationships with the parents,” said Shaffi. It’s clear that the parents and staff at Bright Beginnings appreciate Denise and the work she does, but that sentiment goes both ways. When asked what she’d say to the parents, she said “I would thank them for allowing me to work with their children. They are their child’s first teacher. I try to share my story to encourage them, I assure them that their children are safe, and I support them however I can.”