Petersburg Pilot -

Whale Watching and LeConte Glacier Tours based out of Petersburg Alaska

Children's Center teacher wins regional award


Jess Field / Petersburg Pilot

Theressa Phillips (center) shows off her teacher of the year award in the Star Room. Phillips is surrounded by a couple of the toddlers she spends her days with including Brea Randrup (left to right), Midori Hinde, Brenda Gudgel and Ellia Stewart.

Petersburg Children's Center (PCC) teacher Theressa Phillips received the Southeast Alaska Infant Toddler Teacher of the Year award given by the Association for Education of Young Children (AEYC) at its annual conference March 17-19 in Juneau.

PCC director Brandi Heppe nominated Phillips for the award, and PCC staff and parents wrote letters of support detailing the great work Phillips does and why she deserved the recognition.

"Toddlers is a tough job to do because it's a lot to juggle and deal with," Heppe says. "She just does it so well, and the kids just absolutely love her."

Phillips joined PCC in 2013 and quickly fell in love with her new job. She especially likes being in the Star Room, spending her days with toddlers 19 months to 3 years old. Phillips admits some weeks seem longer than others, and Friday cannot come soon enough, but thankfully she has a great teaching assistant in Tatiana Stelmach. The pair works well together and the toddlers adore them, Heppe says.

Phillips has two boys, Damon, 7, and Trent, 5, so playing dress up and having dance parties in the Star Room is somewhat new to her but extremely fun. The group can consist of 10 girls that are curious and full of energy, and pigtails are a common sight.

The girls genuinely appreciate approval for completing tasks like placing an arm on a Mr. Potato Head or putting on their dress up clothing all by themselves. Toddlers show excitement for their accomplishments no matter how big or small, which is something that brings Phillips joy, she says.

"Another great thing about this age group is, everything is brand new and exciting and awesome," Phillips says. "They haven't been desensitized by the world yet, and everything is still so cool."

Learning communication skills is very important to the development of this age group. For the most part, Phillips' days are filled with laughter but there are emotional moments and arguments over favorite toys. Toddlers have a hard time expressing why they are mad or upset, which often leads to frustration and the child throwing a fit, Phillips says.

"Their behavior isn't bad because they're wanting to be bad, I honestly believe it's because they cannot communicate very well," she says.

PCC is on a hot streak when it comes to bringing home AEYC awards; this is the third year in a row for winning a teacher of the year award. Parents often make the effort to tell Phillips how much they appreciate her, but she had no idea about the award until her name was called.

"I was very nervous. I was shaking when I went up there to get my award," she says. "I just feel very appreciated."


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