Jill Corea’s pre-K 3 classroom at the F.M. Kirby Children’s Center of the Madison Area YMCA is a wonderland of colorful rainbows, bright sunshines and showers of happiness. Winner of a Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL® National Child Care Teacher Award, Jill’s classroom reflects her winning submission “Sunshine Day,” a weather-based project that will be spread out across the academic year.

“Preschoolers love weather,” says Jill, using rain as an example. “They love to look at rain, jump in rain, play in rain and talk about how rain helps plants. We include the weather in lots of classroom activities. The children take turns being meteorologists. We talk about how different weather patterns are happening at the same time all over the country and the world.”  

Part of Jill’s award includes money for materials to implement her project. She plans to purchase weather-related items such as digital forecasters and rain gauges that will be placed outdoors to track weather and rain accumulations, and rainbow prisms for the classroom windows to catch the colorful bows. “It will be an on-going theme through all the seasons that can have many projects and activities come out of it,” she says, adding that she has always been passionate about weather and enjoys bringing the discussion of weather to the preschool level. “Sometimes preschoolers get nervous about weather so it can be helpful to talk about it and assure them they are safe.”

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Jill explains that the project will extend to learning opportunities in areas such as math, literacy, vocabulary and STEM. Children will participate in hands-on experiences by building things.  

A teacher at the Kirby Center for 25 years, Jill couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. “I love it. It’s my home away from home,” says Jill, whose first full-time job after graduating from high school was at the Kirby Center. “We are a family at Kirby. We rely on each other and celebrate each other’s successes” she says, noting the sense of community she feels with the entire YMCA.” 

Jill also met her husband at the Kirby Center when they worked together after high school. The couple’s three daughters, who range from 13-24, grew up in the Y, having attended the Kirby Center and Y camp throughout their childhoods.

When Jill attends the award ceremony and reception in Philadelphia in May, she will also find out if she is the winner of the Helene Marks Award and receive the honor of being named the National Child Care Teacher of the Year. Of the 50 national winners of a Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children’s TYLENOL® National Child Care Teacher Award, Jill is a top 10 finalist.