SUNY Cortland child care teacher wins national award

The following is a republished press release and not an article written by The Cortland Voice … to submit a community announcement, email Peter Blanchard at [email protected].

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Heather Tuttle

Heather Tuttle

When it’s circus week in her preschool classroom, Heather Tuttle ’06 M ’10 comes prepared for everything, which can mean planning math lessons that double as carnival games or even dressing up in a clown costume herself.

“I’m a kid with the kids,” said Tuttle, who has taught for four years in SUNY Cortland’s Child Care Center. “One day, if we’re doing a lesson on snowflakes and all of a sudden they want to talk about dinosaurs, we’ll talk about dinosaurs instead. I have to be flexible.”

Tuttle’s flexibility and creativity are just two of the reasons she recently was awarded the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s Tylenol National Child Care Teacher Award — one of only 50 teachers from across the nation to earn the honor.

More impressively, Tuttle learned she placed within the top 10. That means she’s in the running for the top overall prize, the Helene Marks Award, which will be announced at a national awards ceremony on Saturday, April 16, in Philadelphia.

“I’m so excited,” said Tuttle, of Greene, N.Y. “This is an honor that recognizes how we teach, how we do our lessons and how we interpret what children want.”

Heather Tuttle with her pre-school classroom.

Heather Tuttle with her pre-school classroom.

The award brings a $500 grant for a Child Care Center enhancement project that Tuttle proposed, plus $500 for personal use. In her award application, Tuttle outlined a plan to increase the use of the playground’s outdoor stage area, where children can put on impromptu “plays” with seemingly ordinary handheld supplies. The proposal will look to add curtains for decoration, a supply storage area and a “discovery” table to encourage imagination.

All of Tuttle’s classroom lessons attempt to pique the curiosity of her students, who range in age from 3 to 5 years old.

“I’m a guide for the kids,” she said. “They’re leading their educations and I’m trying to guide them where they need to be.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree from the College in childhood/early childhood education, Tuttle worked for five years in her native Cincinnatus, N.Y., as a teaching assistant. She pursued a master’s in literacy and credited her “out-in-the-field experience” with refining her skills as a teacher.

“I really got comfortable in the classroom,” she said. “Every day is different, and that’s why I love my job.”

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