Awards, Grants, and Scholarships

Iowa AEYC has grant and scholarship opportunities for members and others in the Iowa early care and education workforce. If you are interested in a T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Iowa Scholarship, go to the T.E.A.C.H. page for more information.

2017 Iowa AEYC Award, Grant, and Scholarships

Children's Champion Award
The Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children wiill grant an award to a person who has made significant contributions on a statewide level to improving the quality of care and education of young children. The person can be any professional, legislator, public figure, volunteer, policy maker, advocate, or anyone currently living or working in the state, who has demonstrated an outstanding service or achievement to benefit Iowa's young children.

2017 Friend of Young Children Award

The Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children will grant an annual award to an Iowa AEYC member who has made a significant contribution to improving the quality of care and education of young children and/or the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children.

2017 Teacher (Provider) of the Year Award

The Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children will grant an annual award to an Iowa AEYC member who has made a significant contribution to improving the quality of care and education of young children in his/her role as a teacher, teaching assistant, or child development home provider, working directly with young children, ages birth to age eight.

Leadership Fellowships

The Iowa AEYC Leadership Fellowship will enable the successful participant to develop their leadership skills through attendance at state or national professional development opportunities, and in turn they will be expected to provide leadership to the early childhood field in our state.

2017 Iowa AEYC's Tony Lacy Memorial Membership Scholarship

The Tony Lacy Memorial Membership Scholarship pays for individual Iowa AEYC membership, including her/his membership into the local chapter of Iowa AEYC and the National Association for the Education of Young Children. 

The funds for the Tony Lacy Memorial Scholarship are raised during the Early Care and Education Fall Institute each year through raffle baskets donated by the local chapters, the Iowa AEYC Governing Board, and the Iowa AEYC staff.

Tony Lacy was the ultimate early childhood professional. As a long-time early childhood teacher at Iowa Health Systems Child Development Center, he was a role model for hundreds of us. He walked the talk in the classroom following best practices. He taught hundreds of children to follow his own learning guidelines: do your personal best, no put-downs, be trustworthy, use active listening, and be truthful. Tony was a trainer for CCR&R and also had his own training company. He was not afraid to challenge practitioners to move outside their own boxes and follow Developmentally Appropriate Practices. He advocated for support and resources for early childhood professionals. Tony's biggest commitment was to the goal of moving our profession forward. As a long-time member of the Iowa AEYC Governing Board, he was a strong advocate for NAEYC membership. He recruited and endowed dozens of individuals to not only become AEYC members, but to get involved and truly make a difference in the lives of early childhood professionals, children, and families.

Name Position City Chapter
Alondra Bales Child Development Home Provider Cedar Rapids Cedar Rapids
Elisha Biehn Teacher Newton Mid Iowa
Sheena Bouzek Director Monona Dubuque
Rachel Christensen Child Development Home Provider Harlan Southwest
Kathleen Frana EC Spec. Ed. Consultant Clinton Quad Cities
Lois Freiburger Lead Teacher Dubuque Dubuque
Jillian Green Associate Teacher Waterloo Black Hawk
Becky Hagen Child Development Home Provider Creston Green Hills
Denyse Harbacheck Lead Teacher Des Moines Mid Iowa
Carlee Jensen Lead Teacher Fairfield Rolling Prairie
Katherine Miller Child Development Home Provider Kiron West Central
Sheri Miller Director/Teacher Cedar Rapids Cedar Rapids
Judy Riffel Para Educator Burlington Southeast
Robyn Robbins EC School Psychologist Cedar Rapids Iowa City
Martha Rowe Chidl Development Home Provider Indianola Mid Iowa
Megan Stiltz Child Development Home Provider Eagle Grove Fort Dodge
Jessica Wilson Teacher Bedford Green Valley


2016 Iowa AEYC Award, Grant, and Scholarship Recipients

Leadership Fellowships

The Iowa AEYC Leadership Fellowship will enable the successful participants to develop their leadership skills through attendance at state or national professional development opportunities, and in turn they will be expected to provide leadership to the early childhood field in our state.

Kelly Donnelly
Kelly's Fellowship Award will allow her to work on her goal based around nature, nutrition, play, and early learning. Included in her Fellowship is a plan to visit Pattee Canyon Outdoor School, a Waldkindergarten based program in Montana, for a week in August and also visit the Children's Museum of Missoula, which has a variety of parenting classes.
She will then submit an article to NAEYC's Young Children publication, presenting her experiences at both Simpson College and the Iowa AEYC Fall Institute, and continue to enhance her program's outdoor learning at Grace Preschool as well as incorporate parenting classes based on nutrition, play, and natural learning for her community.
Pictures above are from Grace Preschool's outdoor play kitchen that was added to their playground with part of Kelly's leadership grant.
Amanda Winslow
Amanda is using her Fellowship Award to finish her Masters of Education in Teaching and Learning in Early Childhood at Northwestern College in order to further her goals to further support young learners and other early childhood professionals in early care and education systems. She will be presenting about her experience at the 2017 Iowa AEYC Fall Institute.

Children's Champion Award  2016

Kelli Soyer

The Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children recognizes one worthy Iowan as Children’s Champion every year, recognizing significant public impact on behalf of young children in our state. This year we are pleased to announce Kelli Soyer as the worthy recipient of this year’s Children’s Champion Award.

Kelli received her Master’s in Social Work from the University of Iowa at the Des Moines Center in 2003. Upon earning her Master’s Degree, Soyer joined the Child and Family Policy Center (CFPC) in Des Moines, advocating for children and families with the Iowa Legislature. After two years with CFPC, she accepted the position of Executive Director at the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), Iowa Chapter, where she spent the next seven years. Her experience at NASW was a great opportunity to advocate on behalf of the social work profession and the clients served. During her time, her work focused on Social Work Reinvestment and identifying opportunities to grow the social work profession. She left NASW in 2013 to pursue an opportunity in the private sector, to help Iowans enroll in qualified health plans under the Affordable Care Act. This position ended in January 2015.

In March 2015, Kelli joined Every Child Matters in Iowa (ECM). ECM is a non-profit, non-partisan organization seeking to make children’s issues a national priority with candidates and elected officials. In her current role, she manages operations in Iowa, specific to the 2016 elections.

As someone eloquently put it, “Kelli has been influential in my own growth as an advocate. She explained to me what Every Child Matter’s mission was and asked me to serve on their Advisory Committee. Kelli has invited me to several presidential candidate events. She has offered several times to help coordinate house parties both for myself as well as for the Lincoln Way AEYC Chapter. Kelli has spoken with the NAC course participants on two occasions to help raise their awareness and interest in advocacy. I was able to participate as a panelist for Every Child Matters’ viewing of Raising of America. Without Kelli’s modeling and gentle guidance, I would not have felt comfortable learning more about and communicating what I believe children and families in Iowa need and deserve.”


Friend of Young Children Award 2016

Penny Milburn

The Board of the Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children annually select a recipient for the Friend of Young children award from among our membership. This person typically has exemplified our vision and mission throughout a career, truly impacting the lives of young children in our state as a result of their efforts. The award often goes to someone who also has had a profound impact on the work of the Association as well.

This year the Iowa AEYC Board is honoring Penny Milburn with the 2016 Friend of Young Children Award.

Penny serves as a leader in early childhood at the Iowa Department of education until her retirement from that role earlier this year. In her role she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of the Statewide Voluntary Preschool Program and Iowa's Quality Preschool Program Standards. She previously facilitated the development of the Every Child Reads professional development, supporting teaching staff and child care providers. She was instrumental in the development of the first Iowa Early Learning Standards in 2004 and led a year-long effort to create Iowa's competencies for those in early childhood teaching roles.

Penny is a past President of the National Association of Early Childhood Specialist in State Departments of Education and worked to co-facilitate the policy committee. This national organization focuses on programs and services provided by states to advance the life success of yourn children birth through age eight in education and care settings of all types.

Prior to her position at the Iowa Department of Education, Penny worked as a specialist for Iowa State University Extension, as a group home coordinator for individuals with disabilities in and out of state, and as an Area Education Agency early childhood specialist. She began her career teaching early childhood special and general education for more than 20 years.

Penny is a wife, mother, grandmother, and a community volunteer, and continues to work to make a difference in these roles as well. Currently, Penny is consulting at the state and national level on a variety of early childhood initiatives. Iowa's children have benefitted from Penny[s efforts, and will for years to come. We are proud to name her this year's Friend of Young Children.


Teacher (Provider) of the Year Award 2016

Ann Ryan

The Iowa Association for the Education of Young Children Governing Board is pleased to announce this year's recipient of the Teacher of the Year award. Award winners are selected from nominations received in the spring and our winner is an Iowa AEYC member who directly teaches children in a child care program, preschool, kindergarten - grade three classroom, or a child development home. This teacher has demonstrated extraordinary skills as an early childhood educator.

Ann Ryan is our 2016 Teacher of the Year recipient. Ann is the Lead Teacher of the infant team at UnityPoint. She has over 20 years of experience working with young children, nearly sixteen of which has been at UnityPoint. She not only has the role of classroom teacher, she also is responsible for monitoring and supporting the infant teachers. She is a role model for best proactice and provides leadership in continual program improvement.

Ann is the quintessential infant caregiver. She is in tune with the babies in her care, individualizing to meet each of their needs and boilding strong, secure relationships with each child. In addition, she recognizes that infants come with families, and she embraces their families just as she embraces the babies. Recently, Ann met a family who was visiting the center with their very young baby. She asked in a quiet, humble voice if she could hold the baby. The family gave permission, and she gently held the baby in her arms, gazing at him and talking with him. She told him how special he was, and how she would be so lucky to get to know him. The family was sold!

Ann has a bachelor's degree but her education did not end there. She is a life-long learner. She is continually working on her skills. What distinguishes her from others is her ability to reflect. She is continually adjusting to meet the needs of her children and families. She is able to process the situation and make changes where needed. She seeks resources to find answers. She is continually working on her skills as a teacher as well as interpersonal skills for mentoring peers.