Two University of Nevada, Reno faculty have been named Early Educators of the Year by the Nevada Department of Education for their work in childhood education in the College of Education & Human Development.
The two child care workers in the College's Child & Family Research Center, Kaitlin Cortes and Avis Moore, were selected out of field of 51 nominees across Nevada. Moore was selected as the infant/toddler teacher and Cortes as the Pre-Kindergarten teacher to receive this honor.
“Both Avis and Kaitlin exemplify excellent teaching and a strong commitment to life-changing learning for their students," Dean of the College of Education & Human Development said. "We are so proud of their accomplishments, and this incredible honor proves that they are truly committed to a world-class education that starts at a young age."
Cortes and Moore were celebrated with a surprise visit to their classrooms by the Department of Education staff and University staff on Sept. 14 to celebrate their selection. Both awardees will receive generous donations from Lakeshore Learning and The Children’s Cabinet and will represent early childhood education in Nevada as ambassadors and thought leaders throughout the 2021-22 school year.
“Early childhood educators are integral to not only our education system, but our community as a whole,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert said. “These teachers serve in fundamental roles, supporting Nevada’s youngest learners during critical stages of development. I am grateful for this opportunity to celebrate the outstanding work of Avis Moore and Kaitlin Farley Cortes, and to use this opportunity to shine a well-deserved spotlight on every early childhood educator in our State.”
In their classrooms, they both plan and implement curriculum, supervise University student workers, screen and assess children, manage the classroom environment and meet with parents. Their days are never the same but never boring either.
“Working at Early Head Start opened my eyes to the potential impact I could make in the life of not only a child, but an entire family,” Moore said. “I love what I do, and I feel grateful that families trust me to help them maneuver through the early years of their child’s life.”
Moore works at the University's Early Head Start program with children from birth to 3 years old. She has been at the CFRC for 21 years and has been teaching for more than 30 years total.
"She was selected because of her unwavering commitment to the field of early childhood education, serving as an early childhood teacher for both Head Start and Early Head Start for so many years," Kaitlin Lewallen of the Nevada Department of Education said. "What especially stood out is the emphasis she places on partnering and building relationships with families, which was a consistent theme that jumped out to us in her application, her interview, and in the letters submitted from the families she works with."
Cortes has been teaching preschool-aged children, 3-5 years old, for nearly five years at the CFRC, and about 12 years total.
“I’m delighted and honored to be the inaugural Early Educator of the Year. I am so appreciative that the Nevada Department of Education has chosen to begin honoring early childhood educators," she said. “I have always believed that every child is a complete person worthy of respect and love. I look forward to participating in research and work that allows me to encourage future early childhood teachers, both in my current program and throughout the field.”
Cortes works at the Child & Family Research Center on campus in the Sarah Fleischmann building.
"Kaitlin was selected because of her passion for continuous growth and learning and commitment to improving the early childhood field and larger system by pursuing a graduate degree, working with University staff to develop diversity curriculum and advocacy for early childhood professionals as well as quality access of care for children through a stronger teacher pipeline," Lewallen said.
The Nevada Early Childhood Educator of the Year award was spearheaded by the department of education's Office of Early Learning and Development to recognize, elevate and celebrate the important work done by early childhood educators in the State. This is the inaugural year they have recognized teachers for this honor.
“It is a privilege and great honor to work with Nevada’s first honorees as Early Childhood Educators of the Year," Sherry Waugh, Child & Family Research Center Director, said. The parents and children of the CFRC are so lucky to have these talented educators working with their children.”