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Excellence Award Finalists

To honor and recognize the work of dedicated early childhood professionals over the last year, the Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Conference is proud host the 3rd annual RMECC Excellence Awards! The Excellence Awards are an opportunity for all conference participants to nominate and select the candidates YOU think best demonstrate the accomplishments, innovation, and resolve of outstanding early childhood professionals.

One winner in each category will receive a $1,000 cash prize! The finalist with the most votes wins. Anyone can vote for a finalist in all 4 categories. Each person can only vote once.

The awards ceremony will be held (and winners announced) in person at the event on Friday, March 8th (Equity and Inclusion and Community Leader) and Saturday, March 9th (Workplace Wellness and Rookie of the Year) right before the morning keynote. 

Award Finalists & Winners

Equity and Inclusion Superstar: This award recognizes a preschool or child care center owner, director, administrator, or teacher; family child care home teacher/provider; or FFN provider that offers exceptional work and sensitivity in the area of equity and inclusion for children with disabilities, challenging behaviors, or those requiring greater social-emotional support.


Karen Laurie

Early Childhood Special Educator, Community Partnership for Child Development

Karen is an Early Childhood Special Educator currently employed by the Community Partnership of Child Development, a Head Start program serving children birth through 5 years old. With over 20 years of experience in Early Childhood, she has also been a Child Find Coordinator, an Early Childhood Mental Health Consultant, a Child Find Team Member and Meeting Facilitator, a home daycare provider, a Toddler and Infant teacher, and a teaching assistant. Early Childhood is Karen's passion!

Cecilia Quintanilla - WINNER

ECE Teacher, Denver Public Schools Bryant Webster ECE-8 School

Cecilia moved to the United States from Bolivia in 2017.  She teaches in the Spanish Immersion Early Childhood classroom and serves as a lead teacher.  Cecilia serves in a variety of leadership capacities to educate and train others on working with multi-language learners, as well as the needs of gifted and special education students.  In addition, Cecilia wrote a book in English and Spanish intended to open up dialogue about giftedness and talents with young children. 

Isabel Stephenson

ECE Immersion Teacher, Stedman Elementary ECE Teacher

Ms. Stephenson is from Venezuela, but has been in the USA for more than 30 years and became a US citizen. She is a mother and a proud grandma of 3 wonderful kids. She loves teaching the little ones because you "can always make a difference in their lives." Ms. Stephenson recently created a video using the voices of diverse ECE children to inform educational leaders what they need to succeed. Highlighting the voices of ECE children who were culturally & linguistically diverse was so important.

Workplace Wellness ChampionThis award recognizes a preschool or child care center owner, director, or administrator that prioritizes their staffs’ health and wellness by providing a positive and supportive work environment that supports work-life balance and offers personal wellness and strong professional development opportunities.


Daisy Chell - WINNER

Director, Sonshine Patch Preschool

After obtaining a degree in Early Childhood, at the young age of 20, Daisy left to attend a missionary trip in the Philippines with the intention of spending a short time helping others. A short time turned into 10 years. While there, she served in an orphanage, school, and pregnancy center.  Upon returning to the states, she has claimed the roles of a preschool teacher, Sunday School teacher, Infant/Toddler Supervisor, and, currently, director of Sonshine Patch Preschool.   

Elizabeth Lamb

Founder/Director, The Children's World School

Beth came to Colorado in 2010 with Teach for America. Beth taught elementary school in Denver for 7 years prior to founding The Children's World School in 2019. Beth holds a bachelor’s degree from College of Charleston and a Master’s Degree in Reading Education from Regis University and is a licensed Early Childhood Teacher in Colorado.  Elizabeth loves to watch children use play as a path to learn new things! She loves to spend time adventuring with her husband and three children.

Nicole Little

Program Director, Mile High Early Learning 

Nicole is a fierce advocate for her teachers and students. Starting her career in ECE as a kindergarten teacher, moving into a role providing intentional outdoor experiences for children, and ultimately now directing a group of over 20 teachers, Nicole's passion and drive has never wavered. Nicole is someone that teachers respect and look up to. She works every day to provide trauma informed care not only for the children but for her teachers as well. I cannot think of anymore more deserving. 

Community Leader: This award recognizes a preschool or child care center owner, director, administrator or teacher; or a family child care home teacher/provider who’s advocacy and service goes beyond the doors of the child care they work in. A person who does extraordinary work to elevate the child care industry, assist others with opening new programs, promote quality, advance systems, and provide support to new providers and teachers. 


Nathaniel Cradle

CEO, Venture for Success Preparatory Learning Center

In 2013, Nathaniel Cradle’s vision and dedication to early education culminated in the founding of Venture for Success Preparatory Learning Center (VFS Prep), a non-profit ECE program in Northeast Denver. Recognizing and addressing systemic issues related to subpar care and economic challenges, he filled a crucial void in early education support for the community.

Nathaniel is distinguished by his innovative approach to early education and an unwavering dedication to community engagement. 

Deb Deverell - WINNER

Head of School, Paddington Station Preschool

Deb is not only the director and leader for her program, but also helps any other director or program in need.  She is always willing to answer questions, brainstorm with you, or share resources. She is an advocate for early childhood and truly a team player for all of ECE. Her hope for all students, their families, and the entire fabulous faculty and staff at Paddington is that each person feels a connection and sense of belonging. When she is not at Paddington, she loves to catch up with family and friends, knit, work in her garden, read, and spend time outside skiing, snowshoeing, biking, walking, and traveling!

Adele Melnick

Executive Director, Growing Years Preschool

Adele was born in South Africa and came to the US after High School. She has been in ECE for over 22 years, 17 as the director of Growing Years Preschool. She is a liaison for the local Au Pair community as well as being on the local trail running and tennis teams.  Adele is married with 2 children and a large family back in South Africa.  Among many professional degrees & certifications, she recently earned her Master's Degree of Science in Leadership and Management from Walden University.

Rookie of the Year: This award recognizes a preschool or child care center owner, director, administrator, or teacher; family child care home teacher/provider; or FFN provider who is new to the field of early childhood, has an energy and passion that inspires others, and is demonstrating above-and-beyond creative thinking and problem solving in the classroom, community, or business operations. 


Reagan (Mercury) Cravens 

Early Childhood Special Education Paraprofessional, Colorado Springs School District 11

Mercury Cravens, a Rookie of the Year candidate, exudes passion for Early Childhood Education. Her love for children, dedication to the field, pursuit of an ECE degree, and hardworking ethos make her a transformative force. Mercury enriches both the team and families with her unwavering commitment and professional excellence. She is an 18 year old ECSE paraprofessional who is mature, poised, and makes the classroom a better place.

Jordan Davis - WINNER

Early Childhood Toddler Teacher, Illuminate Colorado

Jordan is a vibrant individual with a dual degree in sociology and psychology from Western University. Jorden finds great joy in spending quality time with her friends, taking invigorating walks on sunny days, and listening to music. She also loves indulging her culinary curiosity and exploring new recipes in the kitchen. Her passion for life shines through in everything she does, and she looks forward to many more adventures in the future. 

Randy Throw

Child Care Owner, Randy Throw - Deux Zoo Child Care 

Randy Throw is a new FCCH in Mesa County. He jumped into opening a family child care home in the Summer of 2023 and has hit the ground running. He currently is operating a regular home, but will be applying for a large when qualifications are met. He has been a champion to his community for UPK, low income, CCCAP families and children who need extra support. Randy is an amazing provider who wants to implement all sources of support to ensure all families and children are thriving. 

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