QUALITYstarsNY joined the Leadership Initiative in inviting its participants to reflect on different aspects of leadership, bringing to light unique pathways, approaches, challenges and lessons learned. TLC hopes that through this series you get to know these diverse individuals and take away an appreciation for their journeys and leadership skills and its impact on the lives of children, families, their staff and communities.
Jennifer D’Ambrosio – Owner/Director
I am a New York State Certified Teacher and have been in the field of education for the past 18 years. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Psychology as well as a Master’s Degree in Education, with a concentration in Language and Literacy. In 2012, I opened a NYS Licensed Group Family Daycare and cared for 12 children each day in my home in East Islip. The business quickly grew and soon enough my husband Louis and I opened Tiny Treasures Child Care, a licensed daycare center, in the Sunrise Business Center. I attribute our success to being able to relate to each parent that walks through the door. Being a parent myself, I fully understand how difficult it is to place your child in someone else’s care. As a child care director, I vow to provide a facility where each family will receive the best care possible each and every day.
1. What has been a significant factor, moment, person, etc. in shaping your leadership?
I have 10 years’ experience teaching in the Catholic School system prior to becoming a daycare owner/director and I have had multiple Principals who have had multiple different styles of leadership. One of the principals was a leader who was very clear in their expectations, was a personable leader who was very approachable, knowledgeable, and most of all, led with her heart. You could tell from the moment she took the position of principal that she was emotionally invested in her leadership role. All of the traits I mentioned made me feel that she was the type of leader I aspired to be and inspires me to be the type of leader I am and hopefully inspire others.
2. What is the biggest or most significant challenge you face in your leadership?
The most significant challenge I face as a leader is the “unknown” of COVID-19. I live in constant fear and panic wondering the following questions….Are we doing enough? Are we cleaning enough? Are the children social distancing enough? When a child should be excluded from the program due to illness vs just a runny nose due to allergies?
3. Tell us how you are integrating School-Age Care into your program during the pandemic?
Due to the pandemic, we had 2 open classrooms (a toddler and an infant classroom) because of low enrollment. We have used these two classrooms to open a School-Age care program for children in districts that are using the hybrid learning model. For the 2-3 days per week the school age children are not attending school in person, they bring their devices (Chromebooks), headphones and chargers and are able to complete their virtual learning here at Tiny Treasures.
4. Tell us how you are dealing with different school districts and schools plans during the pandemic?
Right now we have children from 4 different school districts in our school age program. For the most part, 3 of the school districts are using Google Classroom but the other school district is using Microsoft Teams. Luckily for us, the teachers are familiar with both applications. We have seen a significant difference not only in each school district but more so in the individual teachers, regardless of their home district.
5. What is a current successes you are celebrating?
We have celebrated how dedicated our staff members are during this difficult time. We had staff members who jumped into action back in May when we first re-opened. They have taken on more responsibility in their classrooms, such as cleaning more in depth (more so than prior to COVID), cleaning individual toys more frequently throughout the day, adjusting their daily routines to allow for social distancing, etc. We consider ourselves very lucky to have such great support from our wonderful staff.
6. What are you doing to care for yourself and your staff during these incredibly stressful times?
I have been trying to take things one day at a time and try to remember that we are doing everything in our power to keep our children safe during this stressful time. I have leaned on my colleagues (other directors/owners) to hear what they are doing and the stresses they are facing to make the best decisions possible and alleviate my concerns.
Andrea Bruno is an Institute coach serving QUALITYstarsNY programs.