A Cochrane childcare professional has been honoured with a provincial award for her passionate and dedicated approach to the care and development of children.
Jessica Walker, who operates a day home through Play Days Family Day Home Agency, was recognized with a Child Development Professional Award of Excellence earlier this month.
Each year, the province recognizes individuals, teams and programs that demonstrated professional excellence in the area of innovation, inclusion, collaboration, leadership, best practice, family support, community building and improvement. Walker was one of three individuals from a field of 31 to receive the award during a ceremony earlier this month.
“What I find most special about Jessica beyond her exceptional ability when it comes to programming, is her genuine adoration and love for the children in her care. Seeing Jessica interact with her day home kids is simply heartwarming,” Maureen Topp, the agency’s program director, stated in Walker’s nomination letter.
“I have been in the field of education and early learning for many years and Jessica is one of the most gifted individuals I have had the pleasure of knowing and working with.”
Walker, 25, who has worked in childcare for three years, discovered her passion for early childhood development while attending Lethbridge College with the goal of becoming an elementary school teacher.
“Seeing a child accomplish a goal they were working so hard to achieve brings me so much joy, the child's face lights up and their excitement and enthusiasm is contagious, I cannot get enough of that feeling,” she said.
Walker works with six children in her home, which she refers to as a team, and describes the environment as full of love, respect and positive energy – facts that make it easy to wake up for work every day.
Her program, which is called Wholesome Living and Learning, fosters physical, mental, emotional, social and creative growth by emphasizing a healthy, balanced lifestyle where children have the ability to learn at their own pace in a natural environment.
Walker says she strives to encourage independence develop children’s confidence through hands-on learning while developing a respect for others and the environment.
“I am dedicated to facilitating a meaningful connection to the natural world by getting the children outside no matter what the weather is doing. Even if we last five minutes in the cold, it was still good practice putting on our outdoor gear,” she said.
Walker attributes much of her personal philosophy to her upbringing. Although she has only lived in Cochrane for four years, the area served as her second home while growing up.
“Most of my family is here. They have a cattle ranch just south west of Cochrane – Quarter Circle X Ranch, Harvey and Margaret Buckley, John and Tracey Buckley,” said Walker. That's where I developed such a driven and strong work ethic – working there each summer since junior high school. Ranch work is hard work, I admire my aunt and uncle so much for what they do each day.”
Walker said she was honoured to be recognized by the province adding it has also been a privilege to have so much support from Play Days Family Day Home Agency.
“I am just deeply honoured and shocked that my program was noticed and accepted by past nominees and human services for the award,” said Walker. “I was surprised because there is so many wonderful childcare programs out there. Maureen Topp from Play Days mentioned to me that she was nominating me … when I read her nomination letter it brought tears of joy to my eyes.”