Every year, the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta (AECEA) presents awards to recognize and highlight the work of educators and leaders in Alberta's early learning and child care community. 

Since 2014, AECEA has presented the Dr. Sherrill Brown Award of Distinction to an exemplary leader in early learning and child care in Alberta.

In 2021, AECEA added a new award, the Early Childhood Educator Award of Recognition, to an early childhood educator making outstanding contributions to Alberta's early learning and child care community.

Learn more about each award below.

AECEA's Dr. Sherrill Brown Award of Distinction

The Dr. Sherrill Brown Award of Distinction recognizes the outstanding historical contributions of an educator and leader in Alberta’s early learning and child care community. This award was established to honour those who have demonstrated excellence, leadership and advocacy in early learning and child care over a significant period of time.


Dr. Sherrill J. Brown began in child care in the 70s and would advance her teaching career as a Tenured Professor at Grant MacEwan University in the Early Childhood Program for 20 years. Her research focused on the early childhood community with a particular interest in the connection between play and learning and literacy, the role of empathy in children’s development and developing a cross-disciplinary model for play.

As well as bringing her passion for children and education to her students, she was a committed advocate for children and families, for child care, and for the early childhood profession, and a visionary leader. She was instrumental in developing Alberta’s accreditation model for child care in 2005. 

Dr. Sherrill Brown urged all of us to have a 'voice' and to bring our collective vision forward to create a "Canada fit for children, and an Alberta fit for children!".

Nominations for the 2024 Dr. Sherrill Brown Award of Distinction are now open!

Learn More

Past Recipients:


Dr. Susan Garrow-Oliver

Dr. Susan Garrow-Oliver exemplifies the commitment to children, families, educators and the child care profession that Dr. Sherrill deeply valued. She demonstrates a true concern for children and families and a commitment to advance the early learning and child care workforce through her advocacy work. Dr. Garrow-Oliver has highly supported and influenced the evolution of the early learning community by holding major leadership roles with AECEA, Accreditation of Early Learning and Care Services (AELCS), and Alberta Early Learning and Care Leaders Caucus (ALC). In these roles, Susan exerted influence and practical support to the child care community in moving toward professional recognition.

Dr. Garrow-Oliver has been instrumental in nurturing Mount Royal University students since 2014. She is dedicated to ensuring frontline practices are aligned with the advocacy work done behind the scenes where Dr. Garrow-Oliver actively drives policy change to strengthen the field. Dr. Garrow-Oliver is a valued member in the field through her many professional affiliations and memberships, publications and journals, community service, and curriculum development.

Dr. Garrow-Oliver stands out as a true leader in Alberta and Sherrill would be very pleased with her accomplishments.


Margaret Golberg

Margaret exemplifies the commitment to children, families, educators and the child care profession that Sherrill deeply valued. She demonstrates true concern for children and families and a commitment to advancing the Early Learning and Child Care workforce through her advocacy work and regional involvement for more than 35 years.

Margaret has been described as a “powerful force in Alberta’s Early Learning and Child Care Community.'' Her commitment is demonstrated through her research and advocacy roles. She was instrumental in establishing the growth of the Alberta Child Care Association (currently known as the Association for Early Childhood Educators of Alberta). She has had a long career supporting children and families including her role as the Executive Director with Community Options. Margaret also contributes by serving on numerous committees and boards, past, present, and future.

Margaret stands out as a true leader in Alberta and Sherrill would be very pleased with Margaret’s accomplishments.


Darlene Frith

Darlene demonstrates true concern for children and families and a commitment to advancing the early learning and child care workforce through her advocacy work and regional involvement for more than 25 years.  Darlene has been an integral member of Manning Regional Child Care Association since 1996.  She was instrumental in the creation of an Early Learning Child Care Center building, which meets the diverse learning needs of children, families and educators through innovative practices such as a community toy lending library, a preschool program within its daycare parameters, access to quality professional learning opportunities and an onsite lunch program for staff.  Darlene is a valued and active member of The Alliance of Early Learning Programs, a group of ELCC leaders who work together to advance the Early Learning and Child Care field in the Northwest as well as the province.    

Darlene stands out as a true leader in Northwestern Alberta and advocates for quality care for all children, and families in Alberta!


Karen Baretta

Over the years, she has made an impact on everybody who interacts with her. Her nomination letters had many comments on her work throughout the years, we would like to highlight a couple of them below:

  • Karen Baretta is first and foremost passionate about quality early learning and child care. I think you will hear/read that word, passionate, a lot about Karen. She brings her passion for high quality child care to everything she does in her current work as she did in her past endeavours. Karen has been the Executive Director of AELCS since November 2011 and has provided strong leadership to the entire AELCS team and to the early learning and child care field in Alberta.
  • I first met Karen several years ago when she was a Coach for ARCQE. In my work as an ARCQE mentor with her, I was always struck by her ability to connect with the people in the child care centres she was supporting in the Accreditation process. Her commitment to the field and quality was evident as she provided support, resources, encouragement, and advice to child care directors and owners. I have a high regard for her ability to create relationships with centres going through accreditation and her commitment to quality, child-staff interactions in particular.

Thank you for your commitment and dedication to the field, Karen!


Jasvinder Heron

Jasvinder Heron, executive director at the Intercultural Child and Family Centre (ICFC). Jazz exemplifies the commitment to children, families, educators and the child care profession that Sherrill deeply valued, and Sherrill would be very pleased with Jazz’s accomplishments.

Jazz has worked in child care, as an educator & then as a director, since 1980. She moved to the not-for-profit sector in 2013 when she was hired as Executive Director at ICFC. Since that time she has guided its development from a small, struggling centre to an organization that serves 83 children and their families at the Edmonton Intercultural Centre site (at McCauley school) and 56 children at the new 1000 Women demonstration site at NorQuest College. Both sites serve a large population of immigrant and Indigenous families and seek to employ child care educators from similar backgrounds. The original site was chosen to pilot the first offering of $25/day child care and the NorQuest site was included the following year. 

Under Jazz’s leadership, ICFC has become recognized for its work in developing and modeling exemplary intercultural child care practice. It has taken a leadership role in implementing Flight, the Alberta Early Learning and Child Care curriculum and thoughtfully exploring it in the context of practice with immigrant, refugee, and Indigenous families and staff. Jazz and their Educational Coordinator, Mary Lynn Matheson, are in high demand to offer guidance to other centres through visits, workshops and consultations. The Canadian Child Care Association (CCCF) solicited practical and theoretical articles describing the Centre’s journey to interculturalism.  Students from NorQuest College have practicums at each site on a regular basis, and the centres have also welcomed students from several other post- secondary institutions.

Jazz’s commitment to quality childcare led her to take on the challenges of a non-profit organization for vulnerable families operating in an old building and heavily dependent on income from grants. Her consistently positive, can-do attitude has carried staff through difficult times and inspired their deep loyalty. She treats everyone with respect and encourages ongoing learning. 

Parents are engaged through regular large and small group meetings and newsletters. One of the most effective strategies for collaborating with families has been through their involvement with Learning Stories. Parents are delighted to read about their children’s activities and to know that they are noticed and valued by the educators. In turn, their comments provide very useful information and build connections with educators. Their Learning Stories follow the children to school, helping teachers see the children’s strengths and understand the dispositions identified in the curriculum. Because English is an additional language for most of the educators, volunteer mentors work regularly with them to support their English skills and the production of the Learning Stories.

As Executive Director, Jazz is responsible for both the original site at McCauley and the 1000 Women site at NorQuest. She spent long hours for months coordinating the opening of the 1000 Women centre: ensuring the physical environment was completed and appropriate, hiring staff, and overseeing the orientation and training of new educators. As a result, the Centre was able to achieve accreditation and begin to host students within the first year.

Jazz’s actions and accomplishments demonstrate her deep commitment to children, families, and the professional community. Her contributions to the field, particularly in the area of intercultural child care, are invaluable. 


Liz Simmons

Liz personifies the qualities that this award is intended to recognize. She has demonstrated her commitment, integrity, knowledge, and experience over the decades and has made outstanding contributions to the ELCC field. Through her various employment and contract positions she has touched the lives of so many children, their parents and child care professionals. 

Liz has worked in the ELCC field since her graduation from Red River Community College (Winnipeg, Manitoba) in 1973 with a Child Care Services Diploma. Following her move to Calgary she worked in various child care settings as a staff member (e.g. Alberta Children’s Hospital and with the City of Calgary child care programs) and as an Executive Director (Thornhill Child Care Society). In 1988, Liz joined and helped develop Choices in Child Care, a non-profit organization that was funded through the federal government’s Child Care Initiatives to provide information and referral to parents and consultation to child care services. 

In 1993, she began to contract with Calgary Region Child and Family Services as a consultant to the Supported Child Care program. Inclusive Child Care might look very different if not for Liz – here in Calgary but also in other regions of Alberta. Liz began her contract with the Calgary Region when Brenda Rumpel was the manager of what was then called Integrated Child Care. Liz really helped form and implement a philosophy and way of practice that had an immense impact on child care services. She was instrumental in broadening the scope of Supported Child Care to include children without a diagnosis and to children attending Out of School Care programs. As a result of her work with the Calgary Region Liz was contracted to provide consultation and services regarding supported child care to the Child and Family Services Authorities for Edmonton region, East Central Alberta region and Central Alberta region. 

Liz has held contracts with several educational institutions over the years; as an instructor of Bow Valley College’s Day Care Orientation Course and as a tutor for Grant MacEwan’s distance delivery of the Day Care Orientation Course.

Most recently, up to her retirement in 2017, Liz has carried on her commitment to inclusive child care with a contract with Getting Ready for Inclusion Today (GRIT) as a coach in the ASaP  Continuum Project (Access, Supports and Participation), for the Pilot Project in Calgary (2015 to 2017).

Liz has volunteered countless hours on many committees and has attended many, many meetings. She is never one to take the spotlight, but is always there to do the work.  If you need something done and done competently, you call Liz. Years ago, she was a member and at one point the chair of the Calgary Regional Association for Quality Child Care (CRAQCC) in the 1980s.  During the recall of the Operating Allowance advances by the government of Alberta (quite a volatile time for child care in Alberta) she participated in the development of what became known as the Network which has evolved over the decades into AECEA. Liz has been an active participant in AECEA (formally ACCA) over several decades and was an ACCA Regional Rep (2012-14) and on the Board of ACCA/AECEA from 2014 to 2017.

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone with a stronger commitment to ensuring that children in child care settings experience quality.  Liz brought that sense of commitment to every aspect of her work; to each interaction with a director or child care professional in the child care programs she supported and to every committee and meeting she attended.

"Liz Simmons sees the best in people and strives to help them achieve the goal of providing quality child care. With her incredible work ethic, extensive knowledge and unswerving commitment she has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, a shining example and role model for child care professionals.  It was not difficult to find people to write letters of support; we received more than we can submit. Liz has earned the respect and affection of countless professionals and parents in our field and is most worthy to be considered and awarded this wonderful recognition – the AECEA 2018 Dr. Sherrill Brown Award of Distinction."

AECEA Early Childhood Educator Award of Recognition

The AECEA Early Childhood Educator Award of Recognition shines a light on an early childhood educator making outstanding contributions within Alberta’s early learning and child care community. 

Nominations for the 2024 AECEA Early Childhood Educator Award of Recognition are now open!

Learn More

Past Recipients:


Jonabel Cabasal

Jonabel was nominated by her colleague, Chona Delos Arcos for the AECEA Early Childhood Educator Award of Recognition. Chona shared Jonabel's dedication to ongoing learning.

"In a six month period, she attended 100 online courses in various topics."

She also commented on the quality of relationships that Jonabel developed with children.

"It was not a professional but rather personal relationship that ensued long after a child or family would graduate from the daycare. Jonabel’s love of children didn’t end on Friday afternoons as she is either sending gifts and doing fundraising projects to the Children’s Stollery or providing feeding programs and funds to underprivileged children abroad or purchasing learning aids for the daycare to assist us as her co-educators."


Tyra Richmond

Tyra dedicates her time to the field of Early Childhood as a program director at the Thornhill Child Care Society, Bowness Montgomery, an instructor at Bow Valley College and has recently joined the Alberta Resource Centre for Quality Enhancement (ARCQE)! She is an inspiration, coach, and mentor to the children in her program, families she connects with, students she teaches, and the professionals she works alongside. She ensures a strong sense of community in everything she does for the field. Connecting families to resources and creating a home away from home child care for the community of Bowness are her every day.  She supports quality care, she advocates for quality care, she delivers quality care.