board of directors
It takes a village to raise a child
A special thanks to all our valued board members
Don Giesbrecht is CEO of the CCCF . Prior to adding the title of CEO, he was President of the CCCF since March 2006. He was appointed to the Federal Government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Child Care Spaces in September 2007.
I started my career in Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) by chance, not design. I graduated from the University of Manitoba with full intentions of becoming a police officer. Thanks to my wife and her friend who worked in ELCC, I landed a job as a substitute child care staff in an inner-city child care program at The Salvation Army Weston Child Care in Winnipeg. This was my first time ever setting foot in a child care program anywhere. I needed a job while I waited to be selected to what I hoped would be a career in the police force. That fall I was disheartened to learn that though I had made it to final selection interviews, did not make the final cut for the police force. As a 20-something I reluctantly decided to take an interim job in child care since I now had the experience and it was one of the few sectors hiring in the early 1990’s. Yes, my career in ELCC started out of necessity, not passion.
I applied to what was then Lord Roberts Preschool, in Winnipeg, and was hired on a three-month term as an ECE II, which turned into a full-time job, and lead to a promotion to Staff Supervisor, and finally landed me the Executive Director there. Along the way, I upgraded my ECE classification though the Province of Manitoba’s Competency Based Assessment (CBA) program and through the University of Manitoba, earned a diploma in non-profit management.
Throughout these early years in career advancement I grew to understand the power and value of early childhood education and care for children and families. My appreciation for the profession grew exponentially. More importantly, I evolved to see that we—society—needed to do so much better for children and how much quality is so intrinsically tied into a quality ELCC workforce. What started as a job quickly transformed into a career and a passion.
Seeing opportunity to better serve the Lord Roberts community in Winnipeg and working with our visionary board and community, we embarked on amalgamating Lord Roberts Preschool and Lord Roberts School Age Child Care programs, creating Lord Roberts Children’s Programs — a highlight of my career. From there, I moved on to be the Executive Director of Assiniboine Children’s Centre in Winnipeg. My wife, Racquel, still works in ELCC and is currently the Executive Director at Children at the Centre in Winnipeg.
I expanded this passion to become involved in our professional association, the Manitoba Child Care Association (MCCA). I was honored shortly into my volunteer time with MCCA to be elected to the role of President, diving deep into the politics and policies behind ELCC and working with my friend and mentor, Pat Wege, then Executive Director of the organization. The role at MCCA provided me with the opportunity to be a part of the CCCF, becoming the Manitoba representative to the organization.
I later ran for election to become the President of the CCCF when that position came open. Once elected to this role I further immersed myself in ELCC across Canada, motivated even more by the belief that quality matters for all of Canada’s children and families. Today, advocating for the importance of quality ELCC to Canada’s federal government in order to influence positive systemic change—for children and families keeps me going. I am razor focused on raising quality and supporting the ELCC workforce across Canada. My time on the CCCF board evolved into my current role as CEO since 2012.
I have had the privilege and sincere pleasure to work with some of the best people I have had the honor of knowing: the CCCF staff, dedicated, devoted and professional, believing that they make a difference each and every day; the CCCF board(s) that I have had the pleasure of working with through the years — volunteers that are tasked with the governance, fiduciary responsibility and vision of the organization and who are all leaders as passionate about ELCC as anyone you will ever meet; the CCCF affiliates, their representatives to the CCCF, staff and volunteers who are so essential to the viability and value of the work that CCCF does.
There are countless ECE’s that I have met through the years, who regularly ask me for inspiration, but in fact inspire and motivate me — professionals who work each and every day, making such a positive difference in the lives of children and supporting families and communities. These unsung heroes are not recognized or valued nearly enough for their education and passionate contributions. But they will be. And I won’t rest until they are.
Professional Career of Don Giesbrecht:
Prior to his current role as CEO, he was President of the CCCF Board of Directors from 2006-2012. His is currently a member of the federal government’s Expert Panel on Early Learning and Child Care Data and Research, the Province of BC’s Childcare Sector Labour Market Partnership and of the Vanier Institute for the Family Canadian Military and Veteran Family Leadership Circle. He was the Chair of the Alberta Resource Centre for Quality Enhancement, an expert panel member of the B.C. Universal Child Care Prototype Sites Selection Committee and a member of the Province of Manitoba’s Early Learning and Child Care Commission. He is a past Board Executive Committee Member of the Child Care Human Resources Sector Council, served as the President of the Manitoba Child Care Association and was a member of the Federal Ministerial Advisory Committee on the Child Care Spaces Initiative. He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his service on behalf of Canadian families in 2013. In 2018 he was honored to be awarded the Early Childhood Educators of BC’s Gayle Davies Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Care and Education.
Before working as the CEO of the CCCF, Don was the Executive Director of a non-profit, multi-age early learning and child care program in Winnipeg.
Don and his wife have two amazing children, who are attending university.
Marni Flaherty is the C.E.O. of Today’s Family Early Learning and Child Care, a child care agency serving 4,000 families in Hamilton, Burlington and Haldimand Norfolk and employing more than 300 caregivers, support staff and licensed home childcare providers.
Marni is a graduate of the ECE program at Mohawk College and a Registered Early Childhood Educator. She joined the agency in 1988 and became the CEO in 1995.
Marni is a recipient of the Ontario Premier’s Award for her work in the social services and received the Hamilton Woman of Distinction Award for Education. She is known provincially and nationally for her deep knowledge of, and passion for, early learning and child care.
Marni is an active participant in numerous community initiatives designed to improve the lives of children. Her many professional and voluntary community activities include: Board President of the Canadian Child Care Federation, Chair of the Parent and Children’s Charter Committee for the City of Hamilton, member of the Ontario Early Years Provincial Network, and member of the Quality Early Learning Network. As well, Flaherty is a board member of The Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton. former member of the Hamilton Best Start Network, board president of the Home Child Care Association of Ontario (HCCAO), board member of the United Way of Greater Burlington and Hamilton, Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Hamilton and McMaster Children’s Hospital Family Advisory Committee.
Marni lives in Hamilton with her husband and three children. Over more than 30 years, Flaherty has fashioned a remarkable career and a lasting legacy for families and children.
Christie Scarlett officially began her career in Early Childhood over 25 years ago. She has received her Early Childhood training and on-going learning through Mount Royal University as well as MacEwan University.
Her passion for children’s advocacy and leadership for ECE Practitioners continues as she is in her 6th year of volunteering as a board director/treasurer for the Canadian Child Care Federation and approaching her 2nd year volunteering as a board director on the Association of Early Childhood Educators of Alberta. She has been honoured to work alongside children and families in a variety of capacities as well as serve on several community initiatives and local association groups.
For the past year, Christie has been striving to strengthen the standard for ECE and School Age training by providing professional development opportunities and empowering Early childhood educators and agencies to advocate for their profession by connecting with the ECE community.
As much as Christie is actively involved in the Early Childhood community in Alberta, she enjoys nothing more than spending time with her 2 beautiful daughters and husband where they are engaged in their community, schooling, activities, and own child care arrangements.
Taya Whitehead has been an Early Childhood Educator for the past 20 years. She completed her initial ECE training in 1998 at Selkirk College in Castlegar, British Columbia. Following her ECE training, she completed a Diploma in Human Services, a BA in Child and Youth Care from the University of Victoria and a Master in Adult Education & Community Development from Athabasca University.
Her experience is broad, ranging from Group and Infant/Toddler Care to the Supported Child Development Program. Currently a Dean for the School of Health and Human Services at Selkirk College, Taya has been working in post-secondary for the past 12 years. She is the past-president of the Early Childhood Educators of British Columbia and volunteers her time in a variety of other capacities locally and provincially.
Taya is a wife and mother of three children, she lives in the rural Kootenay region of British Columbia. She feels that we are at a pivotal point in history where there is opportunity to make great strides in advancing our sector. Taya is a passionate, “big picture” thinker that commits herself wholly to projects that she is involved in.
April Kalyniuk is the Executive Director at Lord Roberts Children’s Programs a multi-site program located in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Graduating in 1980 from Red River College April has been active in the ECE field since that time.
April has served as the Chair of the CCCF and recently completed a second term as President of the Manitoba Child Care Association.
April was a founding member of the MCCA’s Ethics committee and was a active participant in the CCCF roll out of the National Code of Ethics for ECE’s that many of the CCCF members use in daily practice now. Currently, April sits on the MCCA Board of Directors as the chair of the Public Policy and Professionalism Committee and is excited to return to the Board of the CCCF.
Cathy has been working with children and families for more than 20 years. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts degree and both a undergraduate and master’s degree in Child and Youth Study from Mount Saint Vincent University. In her current employment role, she works to support regulated child care programs in Nova Scotia.
Her work experience in this amazing field of early learning has included working with all ages of children including children with diverse needs. She has worked as a front line early childhood educator and in administration as an Assistant Director; Program Coordinator and Centre Director with a lab school for the Nova Scotia College of Early Childhood Education. This organization has also supported Cathy as she worked previously as part-time faculty in the classroom and as a practicum supervisor working with students in their field placements. Currently, Cathy is an Early Childhood Development Consultant for the NS Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Her role includes supporting regulated child care programs in and around Halifax. This consultant support allows opportunities to work with Centre Directors, Early Childhood Educators and Families, with a variety of aspects of programming at their centres. There are also many opportunities to be a community collaborator with others sectors working with young children and this may include professional development for ECEs such as inclusion supports and child abuse training as well as PD for programs learning about The Pyramid model for Social Emotional Development as she is a trained Mastre Cadre.
Recently, Cathy has returned to teaching early learning at NSCECE using an online platform and allowing for different opportunities for supporting students of whom many are also practicing Early Childhood Educators.
Being very committed to supporting our sector, Cathy has served on volunteer boards in the past (Association of Early Childhood Educators of NS and The Non-Profit Directors Association of NS). In November of 2015, Cathy was elected to the board of the Canadian Child Care Federation where she currently continues to serve in her second term. This has been an amazing opportunity to learn about child care across our beautiful country and to meet and work with Early Childhood Educators and Friends who share a passion and commitment to supporting our youngest citizens.
Cathy and her husband, Reg, live in Halifax with their two sons Daniel and Diego.
Cathy is a true advocate for children and families and is committed to working towards ensuring that children and families have access to quality, affordable and accessible childcare. She is also very passionate about professional development and believes that lifelong learning and exploring interests and passions is the key to staying current and excited about working in the child care sector.
Graduating from SIAST Kelsey Campus in 2001 with my ECE Diploma., Angie has been a part of the Saskatchewan ELCC sector since then. She is currently the Executive Director of a 74 space child care program in the rural town of St. Brieux, SK, a job she has had since 2006.
She has been a member of the Saskatchewan Early Childhood Association board since 2008 and the Chairperson since 2014. She is also the Chairperson of the North East Daycare Director’s Co-operative and a member of the CCCF’s Saskatchewan Early Learning Leader’s Caucus.
Angie is proud to be a member of the CCCF board, working towards ELCC policy change with the federal government, knowing that it will impact policy and programs at the provincial level in Saskatchewan and across Canada.–building strength, capacity and quality for all children.
After working over 25 years “on the floor” as an ECE, Charlene has expanded her Leadership and Advocacy roles in the Province of BC. . She served 9 years on the Board of Directors of ECEBC, became an Ethical Journey Guide and was an original member of the $10 a Day Advisory Committee.
She is also a member of the Coalition of Child Care Advocates of BC and sits on the Leadership Team of the Comox Valley Early Years Collaborative. Currently Charlene is a member of the BC Provincial Child Care Council. In all of her work, Charlene is mindful to ensure that changes made at the policy level positively influence the day to day lives of children, families and educators in the field. Charlene’s joy in life is her family including her 5 beautiful grandchildren and her passion outside of the field is nature photography.
Lea Blust stumbled into the field of Early Childhood Education more than 12 years ago and found her passion!
After working in a variety of roles supporting young children’s play, development and resilience, she now focuses her efforts on advocacy for children and the field of ELCC, as well as teaching new ECE’s in post-secondary programs. She is passionate about ensuring that the rights of children are at the forefront of all decisions we make about them, and brings this voice to her work with the Alberta Early Childhood Leader’s Caucus and AECEA. Lea also loves colours, crafting, nature and her family.
Mandy has been a front line early childhood educator for just over 20 years. She graduated with her diploma in Early Childhood Care and Education from Holland College in 2000 after discovering her passion for working with children and families in high school. Since then she has worked various front line positions from kindergarten educator to inclusion support. Her passion lies in working with infants and young toddlers. She currently works at Milestones Early Years Centre.
During the course of her career Mandy has many opportunities to grow, learn and foster her work as well as support the sector and fellow educators from a variety of experiences that took her outside of the work she does at her centre daily. In 2010 she was part of the team that created the Infant Care Profile as part of the Canadian Occupational Standards for Early Childhood Educators. This experience furthered her drive to recognize the important work that front line infant care ECEs do.
Her passion to learn more about infant mental health and well being led her to become a certified Handle with Care facilitator in 2017. This exceptional program has allowed her to connect with families and educators from many different walks of life, who all have the same goal; to help support the healthy grown and develop of the mental health of children from birth to age 6.
From 2014 to 2020 Mandy served on the Early Childhood Development Association Board of Directors. She believes her time there has given her some of the tools needed to help better serve the Early Years Sector as a whole. Being a voice for educators, children and families in her province has helped her gain deeper knowledge of the challenges the early years sector is facing, as well as helping to create opportunities for the sector to grow.
Mandy lives in Charlottetown with her husband Alex and their two cats. She is an avid crafter, who also likes to take pictures in her spare time.