WOODRIDGE – For almost six years, Maryella Bifano has spent her days sculpting the young minds at Woodridge’s North KinderCare.
As the pre-kindergarten teacher at the center, 7040 N. Woodward Ave., Bifano said it’s the children that keep her coming back year after year.
“I love when we’ve been working on something and then they finally do it,” she said. “They give me so much more than I give them.”
One day at the end of October, what seemed to be a regular day turned into a humbling surprise for the teacher.
“They told me someone was coming from corporate and wanted me to read a story [to the class],” said Bifano, who has been in the field for 41 years.
Instead, KinderCare District Manager Rachel Weber surprised Bifano with the Knowledge University’s Early Childhood Educator Award. The award also came with a $10,000 check in her name – she can spend it how she pleases – and a trip to Washington D.C. with other award winners.
Looking back, Bifano said she was overwhelmed, humbled and quite surprised.
“To get this after all these years, I don’t have words to describe it,” Bifano said. “My reward is just how the parents feel comfortable leaving their kids here.”
Knowledge Universe, KinderCare’s parent company, awards educators based on their classroom conduct and ability to make learning interesting.
Bifano said she’s both excited and nervous for the experience in D.C.
“I’ll be meeting with other recipients and hearing their feedback,” she said. “It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for me.
“I’m interested to see and hear what the other teachers are doing and to try different approaches and activities,” Bifano added. “Teaching is so much different than when I started. I’m always trying to reinvent myself.”
Bifano said she feels so lucky to have a job she loves.
“It’s my passion, it’s my heart and I can’t imagine doing anything other than this,” Bifano said. “I can’t imagine not having these kids be a part of my everyday life.”