Local child care teacher, UI alumna wins award

BY ALLIE WRIGHT | MARCH 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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Brittney Sharp held a Dr. Seuss picture book between her thumb and pinky, reading aloud to her class.

A group of about 15 4- and 5-year-olds at the Apple Tree Children's Center stared and listened intently.

"I meant what I said and I said what I meant," Sharp said as she read from Horton Hatches the Egg. "An elephant's faithful, 100 percent."

Her students recited the story with her, gradually getting louder along with their teacher.

Sharp received the Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children's Tylenol National Childcare Teacher award for 2011, which will provide a $1,000 grant to fund a project she hopes will assist her students' reading comprehension.

"It makes learning to read more fun," the 25-year-old said.

Sharp pitched her idea for "Literacy Integration" in a letter to a panel from the Lokoff Foundation.

"We're going to use puppets and books on tapes to help act out stories to understand the different parts," said Sharp, who teaches 26 students at Apple Tree. "And make reading more relatable to kids who aren't able to read yet."

Sharp said her students are pretty excited about the project, something similar to an activity the class has done in the past.

"The children will practice interpreting and understanding stories, performing in front of an audience, and expressing themselves creatively," Sharp wrote in her application.

The class members recently produced three plays on their own — including making the costumes and writing the script.

"It's something my kids really enjoy doing, and we've found that it's very beneficial for them," said Sharp, who was also a top-10 finalist for the Helene Marks National Teacher of the Year award.

Sharp, a 2007 University of Iowa graduate, said she has wanted to be a teacher since she was in the second grade and she considers the award a "big honor."

Each year, the Lokoff Foundation receives several hundred applications for the award, said Allan Miller, the group's executive director.

"When we read applications, we can see that [the applicants] understand what their role is in aiding children's development and preparing them to succeed in school and in life," he said.

Eligible applicants need to be with their current childcare center for at least three years, and the program must be held every day, all day, all year around, Miller said.

The program has given away more than $600,000 since its inception in the Philadelphia area in 1987.

There are 50 recipients this year, including one teaching in Japan at a United States military base. Sharp was one of four Iowa residents selected for the award and one of seven from Apple Tree Children's Centers around the country.

Amber Seaton, whose 5-year-old son, Cale, is in Sharp's class, said she thinks the teacher is a very deserving recipient of the award.

She said her son continually shares facts about animals with his family that he learned that day at school. The class spends a lot of time working on the kids' letters and colors, and she said Sharp will soon teach her son about different kinds of buildings.

"She is really just full of life and energy," Seaton said.

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