Family Friday: Mitzi Fleming

April 20, 2018 | Article for the Week of the Young Child™  by Uva Wright, Virginia Quality, United Way of Southwest Virginia
Mitzi Fleming | Bright Beginnings Day Care | Russell County, Virginia

Family Friday’s spotlight professional, Mitzi Fleming, began her career in education 10 years ago. As a mother to two daughters, she began working in the school system as a teaching assistant. Knowing that working with children had become a passion for her, she decided to pursue owning a childcare center in her community.  

Drawing from her experience in the school system, Mitzi knew that children in her small community of Castlewood, VA needed a place where they could come that was a safe and nurturing environment. She also knew that families also need a loving environment that they could trust to be dependable. Growing up in Dickenson County, Mitzi never recalled seeing childcare centers within her community. At that time, mothers mostly stayed home with their children, at least until they began school. Mitzi was able to stay home with her daughters, then entered the workforce once they began school. Knowing that some families don’t have the ability to have someone at home with their children until they begin public school inspired her to open her own childcare center, Bright Beginnings Day Care. Families are the main focus of her program and those families keep her motivated to be someone they can count on when they go to work.   

Having experience in elementary education, Mitzi wanted to make sure that she had the right education to understand early childhood development. She worked to achieve her Child Development Associate (CDA). In order to accomplish this, she had to attend at least 120 hours of professional development, create a professional portfolio, take an exam, and have an on-site observation. Even though the CDA process can take several years, Mitzi was determined to finish as soon as she could, completing it in only one year.  Receiving her CDA last fall was an exciting milestone for her, and a huge achievement towards her commitment to the families that she serves.

Families in Southwest Virginia struggle to find high quality childcare for their children, with only 20% of childcare programs in Virginia participating in the Quality Rating and Improvement System. High quality care in Virginia is defined by health and safety standards, teacher education and qualifications, program’s curriculum, teacher-child interactions, and the overall environment of the program.  Virginia’s Quality Rating and Improvement System (VQRIS) helps childcare programs work to improve their quality of care. This is important for families of young children to know that the program their child attends is committed to this process.

Mitzi understands that her families deserve the very best for their children. She works with the staff at United Way of Southwest Virginia, through Virginia Quality to ensure that her families receive, and she can provide, that high quality that children need at such an early age. Her program, Bright Beginnings, is working to receive a Level 3 in the Virginia Quality system. Level 3 is focused on the curriculum and assessment of a program and makes sure that children receive opportunities to have developmentally appropriate learning experiences. Mitzi knows that being part of Virginia Quality is a commitment to her families that she is focused on ensuring their children have high quality experiences at an early age.

Mitzi is an owner of a Virginia Quality center, focused on high quality care and kindergarten readiness. By voluntarily joining Virginia Quality, early learning programs show their staff, families, and community that they are committed to quality education for young children. To learn more about Virginia Quality and United Way’s other Childhood Success initiatives, visit netnswvarelief.wpengine.com/education.

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ABOUT THIS SERIES
This story is part of United Way of Southwest Virginia’s spotlight series highlighting five professionals in our Virginia Quality network during the 2018 Week of the Young Child™. Annually, during this week, we recognize the importance of early learning and early literacy and celebrate the providers who bring early childhood education to young children. Through the five stories we will publish this week, you will see the investment these professionals are making in the lives of our children – teaching them to create, problem-solve, engage, and celebrate – and preparing tomorrow’s workforce for the next steps in their journey from cradle to career in Southwest Virginia. To read other stories in this Week of the Young Child™ spotlight series, visit www.netnswvarelief.wpengine.com/2018-week-of-the-young-child.

ABOUT UNITED WAY OF SOUTHWEST VIRGINIA
United Way of Southwest Virginia fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Southwest Virginia because they are the building blocks for a good quality of life. Through an initiative-based cradle-to-career approach, United Way of Southwest Virginia is creating sustainable solutions to address the challenges facing tomorrow’s workforce. United Way convenes cross-sector partners to make an impact on the most complex problems in our region. Through collaboration with government, business, nonprofit and individuals, United Way innovates for positive, lasting social change. With a footprint that covers almost 15% of the state of Virginia, United Way of Southwest Virginia serves Bland, Buchanan, Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington and Wise, and the cities of Galax and Norton. For more information about United Way of Southwest Virginia, visit www.UnitedWaySWVA.org.

ABOUT WEEK OF THE YOUNG CHILD
Week of the Young Child™, sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), is an opportunity for early childhood programs across the country, including child care and Head Start programs, preschools, and elementary schools, to hold activities to bring awareness to the needs of young children. For more information and inspiration on how you can celebrate Week of the Young Child™, visit www.naeyc.org.