Educator Spotlight

Elaine Mills
Kirsty’s Place Early Learning Center

How many years have you worked with children?
I have been working with children since my daughter was enrolled in a Mother’s Day Out program in San Antonio.  I helped in the classrooms when needed.

What brought you to work with children?  Have you always wanted to or did it just happen?
When my daughter started kindergarten in Maryland, there was no before or after-school program.  Although I worked part-time, I worried that there may be times when I could not get to the school to pick her up on time.  So, I offered to run a before and after school program through the recreation council.  It was very successful and I voluntarily ran the program until we moved to Fayetteville in 1999.

I had always worked in an office (Entertainment Attorney in London, Frost Bank in San Antonio, to name a few) and never planned on owning a child care center, but I knew I wanted to try other adventures.

When we moved to Fayetteville I had planned on being a stay-at-home housewife!  I quickly realized I was bored! I missed the childcare environment. In January of 2000, I opened Kirsty’s Place Early Learning Center and I love it!

What are some of your hobbies?
I have been a Washington County Master Gardener for the past 8 years and my garden has recently been on two garden tours. I love the digging and creativity of gardening.

I also love to decorate (my daughter is an Interior Designer) and having ten classrooms now (we just expanded) gives me many opportunities.  However, it seems touching up paint and fixing equipment is the most pressing job here at the center!

What is your most treasured accomplishment?
I have one daughter, Kirsten, who is 35, married, and has two lovely children.  She has grown into an incredible person (serves on the board of the Children’s Safety Center) and owns a number of very successful businesses. She was on the Forbes 30 under 30 list when she was 29.  She makes me very proud.

What is your favorite thing about working with children?
Running a child care center (especially over the past two years) is a very stressful and busy job.  We find ourselves working long hours and working at a fast pace. If I stop, go to a classroom, and just hang for a while I get all the hugs and love needed to keep going!

What has been the most significant or memorable moment in your job?
Around ten years ago, I sat in a conference session where Geania Dickey presented the Program Administrator Scale workbook.  It was overwhelming and seemed unattainable! My competitive side kicked in!  Slowly over the next four years, with the help of my co-director Harmony, we worked on the policies, procedures, room arrangements, and staff requirements involved and we achieved our Level 3 Better Beginnings rating.  Today, six years later, we continue to score high and have created a quality environment for staff and families.

Do you have any dreams or aspirations you want to share?
I have been running this center for over 20 years now and have just turned 65 years of age.  My goal over the next few years is to spend less time at the center and more time with my grandchildren and my garden. 

If you are an educator and want to share your story, contact Deborah at!
If you're a member of AECA, don't forget to check out this month's edition of AECA's Update!  

Spoiler Alert: Curricula Concepts and our very own Jamie Ward is highlighted!  Click below to see more!
Wellness Corner
July is Social Wellness Month!  Healthy relationships are an important part of health and well-being. Research shows that:
  • People who have a strong social network tend to live longer.
  • The heart and blood pressure of people with healthy relationships respond better to stress.
  • Strong social networks are associated with a healthier endocrine system and healthier cardiovascular functioning.
  • Healthy social networks enhance the immune system's ability to fight off infectious diseases.

How can you grow your social network? Here are a few tips:
  • Volunteer your time.  You may meet others with a similar passion.
  • Find others who share your hobbies.
  • Take a walk in your neighborhood. You'll get some exercise and have a chance to meet others in your community.
  • Nurture your relationships by practicing gratitude and empathy.

To find more ways to grow your social network and nurture your relationships, check out the resources below!


When: August 3rd at 12:30 pm
Where: Facebook Live!
Topic: Stress Awareness

Join us for Well-Being Wednesday next month hosted by Susanna Creed!  For more details and the event itself, be sure to like and follow our Facebook page!

Need training for an in-service?  Do your staff need professional development hours?  Curricula Concepts can provide that!  Our trainings are all registered through PDR and are offered both in person and virtually!  

If you're interested in scheduling a training, contact us at, on our website, or message us on Facebook!

Curricula Concepts Inc. is offering trainings online via Zoom for families and educators.  

Go to our TRAINING CALENDAR to sign up!   

Pre-registration is required.  If the participant must cancel for any reason, please let us know as soon as possible. Spots are limited and there may be a waiting list.

Training is provided at no cost to the participants and PDR credit is available.
Information to consider:
  • Credit for the training cannot be guaranteed for late arrivals or for participants who leave early.
  • This is an online training and the expectation is that participants will have the capability to interact and participate using video as well as audio.

Have questions or problems with registering for trainings?
Please contact Deborah at!

Highlights from the DCCECE Provider Call
July 5, 2022
If you missed the Provider Call on July 5th, here are a few of the highlights that were covered:
Empowerment Minimum Licensing Intent Training:
  • Thursday, July 21, 2022 (6:30 pm-8:30 pm)
  • Programs should contact their licensing specialist to pre-register and receive the Zoom link. PDR credit provided.
Monthly Background Check Training:

Update Bank Information/Set Up Bank Information with DCCECE to Receive Payments:

  • If a provider is not receiving payments, please check with DCCECE to ensure the bank information is correct.
  • Ensure the address is correct if receiving paper checks. Ensure that all program staff are communicating about the funding being distributed. Laura Webb (DCCECE Finance) is receiving several calls from providers asking about the payments. Let the finance person/team in your agency know about the payments ahead of time.
COVID Surge:
  • As a state, DCCECE is not implementing a public health emergency in regard to licensing standards. Providers should follow minimum licensing requirements. Section: 1100 (General Heath Requirements).
  • Call 501-526-8714 to speak to someone about infectious disease information.
NEW Enterprise Licensing System (ELS):
Better Beginnings:
  • 161 providers are still in the process of moving from level 1 to level 2. If a provider has passed the ERS but has not been moved to level 2, call the appropriate Better Beginnings specialist. The training requirements must also be completed prior to approval. Trainings opened today (July 5) for registration. Trainings must be completed in July to meet the August 31st deadline.
  • Contacts: Kaila Smith, 501-5.34-6053, and Marasha Grimes, 501-910-6417,

ARPA Grants:
  • Contact- Paige Cox, (DCCECE must obligate all ARPA funding by September 30, 2022. Meaning, DCCECE must award the funding to providers or send it back to the federal government.)
    • Sustainability Grant: Open July 7, 2022
      • To help sustain facility operations and continue quality improvement enhancements
      • Providers must have been in operation on or before March 11, 2021, to qualify
      • Based on capacity in the application system
      • Bonuses will be awarded to providers who are participating in Better Beginnings levels 2 & 3
      • A bonus will be awarded to Child Care Development Fund (CCDF) voucher participants
      • Applications to apply for Better Beginnings (level 2 or 3) or to be a CCDF voucher participant were due by June 17, 2022, to be eligible for these bonuses.
      • If a program is participating in Better Beginnings or the program has at least applied to be level 2 (even if the program has not heard from DCCECE about the level 2 application) the program will receive the Sustainability Grant bonus for participating in Better Beginnings.
    • Expansion and Supply Building:
      • To increase the number of infants, toddlers, and school-agers served in quality care settings in communities with an identified need
      • Partnership with businesses to serve essential workers
      • Funding can NOT be used for new construction, major renovations, or to purchase a building
      • Providers must have been in operation on or before March 11, 2021, to qualify
      • Expansion- Due July 31, 2022
      • Supply Building, Round 2- Due August 5, 2022
    • Expansion Grant Data (to date):
      • Increased Infant capacity by 662
      • Increased Toddler capacity by 713
      • School-age- 633
      • Family Child Care- 24

The next DCCECE Provider Call is on August 2, 2022.

If you'd like to learn more, you can watch the meeting on the DCCECE DHS Youtube Channel.

Disclaimer: Curricula Concepts does not work for the Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education or the Department of Human Services. We are simply providing a summary overview of what was covered in this month's Provider Call.

To provide you with information about the COVID-19 public health crisis and to answer child care questions, join the informational Zoom meetings occurring on the first Tuesday of the month at 12:00 pm.

  • Join via phone: 301-715-8592   ID: 959 5436 3354
  • Join by computer: Click Here    ID: 959 5436 3354

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time." — John Lubbock

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