Darius Phelps, a first-year master's student in the department of language and literacy education, recently received the Child Caregiver of the Year award from the Georgia Association on Young Children (GAYC) for his exemplary work with children and commitment to the field of education.
Created in 1996, GAYC strives to increase the importance of early childhood education and the quality of programs for young children ages birth to 8 years old. The organization also provides professional development opportunities and financial aid for early childhood educators.
Phelps has been employed at the University of Georgia's Child Development Lab at the McPhaul Center since 2012. He received GAYC's large center award last September, which honors caregivers working with 50 or more children.
"This award is proof of how hard I've worked in order to stand where I am today," said Phelps, who plans to graduate in 2017 with a master's degree in reading education. "The accolade itself is one that I would have never fathomed being honored with so early on in my teaching career."
As the lead teacher of the McPhaul Center's infant classroom, Phelps provides enriching experiences for children as young as 8 weeks old. He finds inspiration in his everyday interactions and is proud to see his first group of infants transition into young toddlers.
"My responsibilities center around advocating and spreading newfound knowledge on developments in the fields of English and early childhood education," said Phelps, who graduated from UGA in 2015 with a bachelor's degree in human development and family studies. "Most importantly, I want to join together with others to make a difference in the education of young children in Georgia that will last a lifetime."
From field trips around UGA's campus to educational sensory activities, Phelps keeps his classroom fun, exciting and engaging. He puts countless hours into each child's progress report and regularly meets with parents to discuss developmental milestones and the progress the children are making.
Phelps is actively involved in numerous organizations, including the Future Educator's Association, the National Association of the Young Child, the Southern Early Childhood Association, the Children's Literature Assembly, the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of the NCTE and the Georgia Council of Teachers of English.
As a member of these associations, he submits proposals and presents them at various conferences. Phelps, along with his colleagues and other UGA alumni, has presented at GAYC's annual conference four times on various aspects of early childhood literacy practices.