Five-Star Child Care Center At UH Parma Honors Graduates

The 31 children who proudly marched up the red carpet and onto the stage at Pre-Kindergarten graduation weren’t the only stars shining recently at UH Parma’s Child Care Center. One by one, these beaming 5-year-olds shook hands with their teachers and received their diplomas as “Pomp and Circumstance” played.

These teachers and their charges are part of a four-decade legacy of excellence, reinforced once again with another Five-Star rating in the State of Ohio’s Step Up to Quality program. With approximately 150 students enrolled and 100 children there on any given day, the children are taught in classrooms arranged by age, from younger and older infants, toddlers, preschoolers and pre-Kindergarten. They learn from certified teachers, receive hot lunches and structured days with detailed reports daily for each child. They play outside, take first steps and form their first friendships.

For more than 41 years, UH Parma’s Child Care Center has been the first school for thousands of children and grandchildren of hospital caregivers. And this Center, which received a pandemic exemption from the State of Ohio to remain open for the children of essential workers when many of these graduates were infants, has taught them resilience and adaptability in an ever-changing world.

“I remember many of these graduates when they were in the infant room just learning to walk,” said Manager Leah Anastasakis, M.Ed., addressing the families at commencement. “The teachers have worked tirelessly to maintain stable and nurturing classrooms so that their students could thrive despite experiencing very scary world events. The teachers have helped to develop a love of learning and encouraged students to practice being a good friend. 

“We are forever grateful you allowed us to be part of your journey.”

The longevity of its staff is a testament to the quality of the program. Three teachers – Jennifer Garczynski, Infant Lead Teacher; Debbie O’Connell, Infant Teacher’s Assistant; and Maria Armeni, Preschool Lead Teacher – have more than 30 years of experience, caring for countless siblings and even generations of families. Pre-K Lead Teacher Maria Karlak has more than 20 years. Degreed teachers and detailed lesson plans are among the reasons the Child Care Center earns the top rating in Step Up to Quality, a quality program established by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Ohio Department of Education.

“At UH Parma Medical Center, quality care by compassionate caregivers who embrace our community calling is our hallmark,” said Chief Operating Officer James Hill, MD, MBA. “So it should come as no surprise that this approach extends to the precious children and grandchildren of our caregivers.”

The Child Care Center is also in the final stages of a renovation to consolidate Child Care classrooms on the north end of the UH Parma Health Education Center. Infants and Toddlers will be in the same hallway, with new Infant rooms in the former Home Health Care area and new Preschool rooms in the area once occupied by ElderCenter. Toddlers will move into the former Preschool rooms. This restructuring also allows the Center to enhance security with one point of entry for parents dropping off and picking up children.

“The Foundation has been so wonderful in helping us to accomplish our goals,” said Leah. “Their contribution means the world to us. Our employees and families are looking forward to the updated spaces with increased safety and security. Moving the infant and toddlers to the hallway with the older children will make oversight easier as well.  We are very thankful to the Foundation for all their support!”

CJ Sheppard

Communications Manager, UH Parma Medical Center

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Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 7:28 AM, 07.01.2024