QUALITYstarsNY had a conversation with Edna Decker, Director at New Wonders of Slate Hill and Karen Morgan, owner of Karen’s Day Care.

Edna and Karen were two of the many child care providers honored at the Child Care Council of Orange County Child Care Heroes Gala held on May 9, 2024. This event honored child care professionals committed to providing quality child care in their communities in Orange County. Edna was awarded Day Care Director of the Year, and Karen Special Needs Hero of the Year. We are thrilled to be able to share their stories. Congrats to Edna, Karen, and the other award winners!

Edna Decker

Edna Decker receiving the Day Care Director of the Year award.

What does earning this Orange County Hall of Heroes award mean to you?

Edna Decker: “This award means everything, not just to me as an individual, but to my entire team and New Wonders community. It personally makes me realize that I went into the right field when I started a new career at almost 40. I have continuously questioned if I had made the right choice, and this just proves that I did, and that all things are possible when following your heart and your dreams.”

Karen Morgan: “What a great feeling to be recognized for my work on building social-emotional skills in children over the years in my home daycare! My reward has always been to see children apply what they have learned from me and thrive. Being acknowledged by my peers is the greatest honor. This Special Needs Hero of the Year award highlights my commitment to giving all children strategies to self-­regulate and feel successful. Children will carry these lifelong skills with them throughout their lives.”

What made you interested in joining the early childhood field?

Edna: “I actually didn’t know that I was interested until I started it! I had the luxury of being a stay at home mom to my amazing little girl, and I had taken a part time job at New Wonders when my daughter went into Pre-Kindergarten almost 5 years ago. I found a passion for early education that I didn’t know I not only wanted but I truly needed. I am constantly in awe of young minds. Watching monumental moments in a child’s life will forever fill my soul. After struggling with my own child’s early intervention, I have spent a lot of my time aiding parents in an unknown path of evaluations and IEP meetings. Thanks to partnering with
Orange County Pediatric Therapy Group, I am able to help parents navigate through the entire process. I can lead my school as a parent and always ask myself ‘what would I have wanted for my own child?'”

Karen: “I believe that children’s play can determine their life focus. When I was young, I nurtured my dolls as if they were babies in my care. This eventually led me to pursue a degree in early childhood education and devote my career to facilitating developmentally appropriate play. Another major influence on my decision to be achild care provider is the guidance and support I received from my mom (Jeanette) and my first-grade reading teacher, Harriet Hendel. Growing up with dyslexia, I struggled to read. Mrs. Hendel treated me with the upmost respect; she was patient, kind, and a very capable teacher. My mom inspired me to always be positive and available to the children.”

To what do you attribute to your success as an early childhood professional?

Edna: “When I think of success, I think how did I actually get here? Who guided me to where I wanted to be? Who gave me the tools to put in my toolbox to be able to do it all? There is a three-way tie for what I would call my successful trifecta: 1.) My family 2.) My team 3.) My mentors.

“My family has ALWAYS been my everything. My daughter is my inspiration for all that I am, and the real reason to the forever asked question ‘why?’ My mother has been my biggest cheerleader every step of the way. My husband has been my support, he is there to help me, physically, mentally, and emotionally no matter the day. He continues to amaze me by stepping in to help not just at home but when I need him to help build my next project at all of our five locations.

“My team at New Wonders of Slate Hill is incredible. They help me in every way. Every wacky idea that I have, every late night, continuously have my back. I couldn’t dream of a better group of women to lead. In fact when I won this award they truly celebrated knowing that this was a full team win!

Karen Morgan

Karen Morgan receiving the Special Needs Hero of the year award.

QUALITYstarsNY in Attendance

Quality Improvement Specialists Dr. Eileen Flicker and Melissa Calizaire attended the Gala to show support for their programs.

“My mentors are the people that have given me the most tips and tricks. Our owners Valarie Petersen and Frank Nutt have given me the opportunity to grow with our company. Rosemarie Lawton who has aided in helping New Directors like me grow. My daughter’s first teachers Dianna Jaeschke and Kayleigh Pawliczak that showed me that you should teach and love each and every child as if they are your own as they did and continue to do for my own. Without each and every single one of these people I would never be able to receive this award.”

Karen: “My success as an early childhood educator is based on my hard work ethic, willingness to reflect and accept feedback, and love of ongoing learning. I have a natural way of interacting with children when they are having challenging moments, and can turn frustrating situations into enjoyable ones. My husband of 34 years has unconditionally supported me personally and professionally. I’m grateful he appreciates my work and is happy to share me with the children and families. My mentors have also been instrumental in my success as a provider. Rosemarie Lawton, Sally-Ann Raessler, and Tara Mullen from the Child Care Council of Orange County have guided the development of my learning environment. They have also provided many resources and lift me up when needed.”

We’re excited to celebrate you as a member of the QUALITYstarsNY community! How has being a
participant in QUALITYstarsNY impacted you as an early childhood professional?

Edna: “QUALITYstarsNY has provided endless support to not just our program, but many programs and individuals. Without them I would have never had the financial opportunity to go back to school at this stage of my life. With the amount of educational support that they have given out, opportunities are endless for so many people. I will forever be grateful for all the doors that they aide in opening for so many.”

Karen: “Dr. Eileen Flicker from QUALITYstarsNY helped me learn my value as a teacher. I am now more confident about who I am as an educational leader. Eileen energizes me when she visits and is accessible to me at all times. With her guidance and the many learning materials I received from QUALITYstarsNY, Karen’s Daycare is a 4-Star program.”

Congrats to Edna, Karen, and all other award winners! Thank you for your service to children and early childhood professionals in Orange County and beyond.

Other QUALITYstarsNY Participant Child Care Heroes of Orange County Award Winners:

Family Day Care of the Year – Shyrell Dale – Precious Little Hands Childcare
Infant Teacher of the Year – Jhuddy Rodriguez, Windsor Academy
Preschool Teacher of the Year – Adam Tomer, Pattycake Playhouse