Saturday, January 22, 2022

Apple Blossom Awards Honor Early Childhood Teachers

Submitted Photos | Jack Levine will speak on the topic “Wise Investments in our Children and our Future.”

Collier Child Care Resources (CCCR) invites the public to the annual Apple Blossom Awards on Saturday, April 14th from 11 AM – 1:30 PM at the Vineyards Country Club, located at 400 Vineyards Boulevard in Naples. The Apple Blossom Awards honor early childhood teachers who educate and care for children birth to age five. In addition to the awards ceremony, the event includes lunch and a keynote address by renowned child advocate, Jack Levine.

Jack Levine will be speaking on the topic “Wise Investments in our Children and our Future.” Levine served a 25-year tenure as president of Voices for Florida’s Children, a statewide advocacy network. Jack Levine says, “We have to find ways of recognizing and honoring those who have made the choice professionally to be quality caregivers and educators of our young children. They are more than caregivers, more than teachers; they are a connector to the family that wants to do all they can for a positive future for their child.”

A very special part of the ceremony is honoring the annual recipient of the “Myra Shapiro Early Childhood Leadership Award.” This year, Barbara Mainster will receive this prestigious award for decades of advocacy and activism on behalf of Collier County’s children, particularly farmworkers and their families. Barbara Mainster recently retired from Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA), where she served as its executive director for more than 28 years.

Eighteen nominees were selected and observed in the classroom by members of the Apple Blossom Awards Committee. Nominees were evaluated based on eleven criteria, including principles such as “sees strengths in each child” and “manages children on the basis of cooperation, reason, and mutual respect.” The 2018 nominees are Silvia Magaly Arias, Linessa Barnhart, Soila Conde, Edith Galan, Sonia Garcia, Elena Hardy, Crystal Lanier, Elma Mejeune, Debra Moran, Keshia Parris, Lina Patino, Rachel Perez-Drawdy, Martha Posada, Marcelina Rodriguez, Mollie Skidmore, Ana Solis, Carmen Starkweather, and Gemma Tobey. Three awardees will be recognized: an “Infant/Toddler Teacher of the Year,” a “Preschool Teacher of the Year” and a “CCCR Teacher of the Year.”

Barbara Mainster will receive the Myra Shapiro Early Childhood Leadership Award for decades of advocacy and activism on behalf of Collier County’s children.

Niccole Howard, Executive Director of Collier Child Care Resources, said, “We must strive to understand the importance of high-quality care and education for the children of Collier County. It is a privilege for CCCR to host the Apple Blossom Awards, which recognizes early childhood teachers whose skills are an integral part of the child’s development and instilling in each child a life-long love of learning.”

Tickets are $40 per person and include lunch and refreshments. To reserve tickets or for more information call 239-643-3908 or visit

About Barbara Mainster, Recipient of the Myra Shapiro Early Childhood Leadership Award

An advocate for farm workers and their families, Barbara Mainster devoted more than forty years to the Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) and served as its Executive Director for more 28 years. Mainster has often testified before congressional and legislative committees and is a frequent visitor to legislative halls in Washington and Tallahassee. Ms. Mainster also went door-to-door to several Florida lawmakers urging defeat of bills that would have unintended negative consequences for farmworker families. Locally, Mainster is considered a powerful advocate for early childhood education and the vulnerable children of migrant farm workers.

About Collier Child Care Resources

Collier Child Care Resources (CCCR) is a non-profit organization that provides high-quality education and child care to children ages birth to five years. CCCR‘s focus is on giving partial tuition assistance to low-income, working families that are at or below 200% of federal poverty level. These families cannot afford child care without assistance, much less the high quality early education their children need.  Decades of research show that economically disadvantaged children, who do not receive a high-quality early education, are 25% more likely to drop out of school and 40% more likely to become a teen parent. CCCR’s mission is to provide high quality early childhood care, education and resources to children, families early learning professionals in Collier County. To learn more about Collier Child Care Resources, visit or call 239-643-3908.

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