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The Nevada Department of Education (NDE or Department) recognizes two Washoe County educators as the inaugural recipients of the Nevada Early Childhood Educator of the Year AwardKaitlin Farley Cortes, a Pre-Kindergarten teacher, and Avis Moore, an Infant and Toddler teacher, have been selected as recipients of this honor.

“Early childhood educators are integral to not only our education system, but our community as a whole,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jhone Ebert. “These teachers serve in fundamental roles, supporting Nevada’s youngest learners during critical stages of development. I am grateful for this opportunity to celebrate the outstanding work of Avis Moore and Kaitlin Farley Cortes, and to use this opportunity to shine a well-deserved spotlight on every early childhood educator in our State!”

Kaitlin Farley Cortes is a Pre-Kindergarten teacher at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Child and Family Resource Center (CFRC). Ms. Cortes has worked with Pre-K students for 12 years and is currently pursuing her graduate degree in the Human Development and Family Science program at the University of Nevada, Reno. Ms. Cortes was selected for recognition due to her passion for continuous learning and commitment to elevating the early childhood field. In addition, Ms. Cortes works with university staff to develop curriculum that prioritizes diversity and advocates for quality access to care for young children through a stronger teacher pipeline.

“I have always believed that every child is a complete person worthy of respect and love,” said Ms. Cortes. “I look forward to participating in research and work that allows me to encourage future early childhood teachers, both in my current program and throughout the field.”

Avis Moore is an Infant and Toddler educator at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Early Head Start Program. Ms. Moore has served as an early childhood teacher for both Head Start and Early Head Start for more than 30 years, and she was selected due to her unwavering commitment to the field of early childhood education and passion for nurturing young children as they grow and flourish. Ms. Moore consistently places emphasis on partnering and building relationships with families, which supports her students to success in and out of the classroom.

“Working at Early Head Start opened my eyes to the potential impact I could make in the life of not only a child, but an entire family,” said Ms. Moore. “I love what I do, and I feel grateful that families trust me to help them maneuver through the early years of their child’s life.”

“The importance of early childhood educators cannot be overstated,” said Dr. Donald Easton-Brooks, Dean of the UNR College of Education & Human Development. “We are elated that Kaitlin Farley Cortes and Avis Moore have earned this recognition, as both have shown a deep dedication to the field of early childhood education and a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.”

The Nevada Early Childhood Educator of the Year award was spearheaded by the NDE Office of Early Learning and Development to recognize, elevate, and celebrate the important work done by early childhood educators in the State. This is the inaugural year that NDE has recognized teachers for this honor.

Any Nevada educator who is employed as a full-time lead teacher serving in an early childhood classroom, defined as serving children between the ages of zero and five, is eligible to be recognized for this honor. Educators must have served in this capacity during the 2020-21 school year and plan to serve in a similar role during the 2021-22 school year.

From the pool of applicants, eight finalists were selected and interviewed in August 2021. The six other outstanding finalists for Nevada 2021 Early Childhood Educator of the Year were:

  • Marybel Arreguin-Lopez, Early Head Start Infant and Toddler Teacher at Acelero Learning, Clark County
  • Isabella Cryder, Pre-K Teacher at Aleph Academy, Washoe County
  • Emilia Gonzales, Pre-K Teacher at Rita Cannan Elementary School, Washoe County School District
  • Samantha Russel, Pre-K Teacher at Sun Valley Elementary School, Washoe County School District
  • Turia Stewart, Pre-K Teacher at Consolidated Students of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV/CSUN) Preschool, Clark County
  • Chandra Waner, Early Childhood Special Education Teacher at Grass Valley Elementary School/Early Learning Center, Humboldt County School District

Ms. Cortes and Ms. Moore were celebrated with a surprise visit to their classrooms by NDE and UNR staff on September 14. Both awardees will receive generous donations from Lakeshore Learning and The Children’s Cabinet and will represent early childhood education in Nevada as ambassadors and thought leaders throughout the 2021-22 school year.