Tasty Tuesday: Amanda Sowder

April 17, 2018 | Article and photos for the Week of the Young Child™ by Kim Thomason, Virginia Quality
Amanda Sowder | Milestones Childcare Center | Floyd County, VA

Tasty Tuesday’s spotlight professional, lead teacher and assistant director Amanda Sowder, works at Milestones Childcare Center, which is the only licensed childcare center within the town limits of Floyd, VA. She shared insights with us on her journey in the Early Childhood field and using Family Style Dining in the classroom.

“When I was a senior in high school, my mom opened Milestones Childcare Center. After a few months in the classroom as an assistant teacher, I knew it was meant for me to become a preschool teacher. The children’s excitement, curiosity, and natural love of learning drew me to the field, and being so close to Radford University, it only made sense for me to attend their Early Childhood ECE/ECE SPED program.”

After graduating Radford, she returned full-time to the preschool program at Milestones Childcare and soon began working with Virginia Quality to make improvements throughout the center. Virginia Quality helps childcare programs work to improve their quality of care.

“When we first started looking at what it took to be rated, it was quite scary and overwhelming. But with the help of some amazing mentors, we managed to be rated with a 3 star the first time, and the last time we were rated, it translated into a level 4 with the new system. We’re very proud of our progress and though it can be hard to find qualified teachers in the area that are willing to buy in to developmentally appropriate practices, we know what is proven to be effective and developmentally appropriate and we strive to provide that for every child we teach.”

This is ultimately what led Milestones Childcare to begin transitioning to Family Style Dining, which gives the opportunity for children and teachers to eat together at the same table, serving themselves while sharing in conversations, similar to eating around the kitchen table at home. The skills needed to serve themselves are essential adaptive skills for children and promote self-confidence and pride in the children.  Amanda said, “It’s important to me and our Milestones family to help children feel empowered and to help them to be ready for life, not just kindergarten. The life skills they learn at this age are the basis for their success as they grow into adults.” In fact, according to First Things First, 90% of a child’s brain develops by the time they are 5 years old.

Family style dining implementation takes a fair amount of time and preparation to fully integrate into a center. When asked what advice she would give to other centers wishing to take the plunge into Family Style Dining, Amanda shared: “Take it little steps at a time. Assess the skill level of your students and see what they can already do. Practice scooping and pouring and passing before using food on the table and start small with snack first. Once that is mastered, move on to breakfast and then lunch. Take it slow and be patient. Spills will happen, but giving children the materials and skills they need to clean up after themselves is an important part of the process.”

Amanda is a teacher at 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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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.

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.

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.