Every year, Qualistar shines the spotlight on one early childhood professional in Colorado who brings high quality education to the classroom every single day.

For 2018, a woman referred to as a modern-day Mary Poppins was recognized for her love and dedication to her students and their families, the stable structure she provides as well as her unwavering focus on high-quality learning.

For Lora Grippin, quality is non-negotiable. That is why she is the Early Childhood Professional of the Year.

“I can’t imagine quality not being important to me,” Lora says. “I can’t imagine not wanting the best for these kids.”

Lora has created an outstanding full-day pre-school in her home in Sterling, Colorado where she raised her own children. Family is at the core of Lora’s Preschool. She engages the families of her students in their learning process. Lora says when families work together with educators, a child is more likely to succeed.

“They are extended family,” Lora says. “The parents share their kids with me and I don’t take that lightly. That is a big deal to share the most precious thing in the world with me.”

Lora encourages parents to follow her lead and have the children’s learning and discovery of things continue at home… and it does.

“When we go home, my son has a little easel and he says ‘let’s play school.. what letter is this?’,” parent Staci Rhodes says. “He’ll write it down and then say ‘what number is this, mom?’ And he’ll write it down.”

“Our 2-year-old picks up a lot,” parent Cory Jackson says.. “You’re driving down the road and he goes ‘hey, that’s an octagon, like an octopus.” It’s a stop sign. You’re thinking ‘where does he get that?”,, and then, you think… Lora!”

There are eight children currently at Lora’s Preschool. Former students have transitioned easily into kindergarten and elementary school.  In fact, their teachers credit the foundation the children received at Lora’s Preschool for making them ready to take on the added responsibilities that regular school demands.

That is the goal of Qualistar, a non-profit that is dedicated to elevating early childhood education through quality assessments, training, grants and scholarships for teaching professionals who want to continue their education

Qualistar works directly with the educators in charge of the 150,000 children enrolled in the 4,200 licensed child care centers across Colorado.  Not all centers mirror Lora’s Preschool  In fact, fewer than half of 5-year-old children from low-income homes in Colorado enter school ready to learn. Qualistar is determined to improve the educational opportunities for all children.

That’s why Lora aligns herself with Qualistar. She continues to educate herself on how to deliver the best possible learning experience by attending seminars and Qualistar training sessions. She is also an educator herself, acting as a mentor to other educators who are starting out and as an independent facilitator for Love and Logic curriculum for parents.

Everyone in Sterling knows Lora Grippin and parents will sit on a wait list with the hope of getting their children into her program.  Aside from that community recognition and this honor from Qualistar, Lora’s Preschool has also been recognized with the Colorado Shines Level 5 rating, the highest rating the organization gives to successful ECE programs.

“The children teach me every day that these moments are just so precious and I want to be involved in everything they do,” Lora says. “Being down on their level. Listening. Talking to them and not at them. Caring about what they have to say. Caring about their world and learning about their world. We’re not farmers but a lot of the kids I take care of are….that’s the community we live in. So, it’s a big deal to know which tractor, red or green.. it’s a thing out here in Sterling. It’s a thing to know about the cows and 4H and just get involved in their world.”

“When you have somebody to step in and basically fill your shoes during the day, teach them, guide them to become good human beings.. that is what Lora does,”  parent Heidi Tribbett says.  “She makes them good people.”