Early Childhood Educators Shine During Pandemic, Playing Critical Role for Children, Families, and Economy


© Joseph Michael Photography


When people think of essential frontline workers during the pandemic, doctors and nurses deservedly top the list. But for parents of young children, including health care workers, another profession quickly comes to mind: early childhood educators.

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged early childhood educators and highlighted their critical role in facilitating children’s development and making it possible for parents to pursue their career aspirations.

The YMCA of Greater Toronto started offering child care more than 50 years ago. Since then, the charity has become the largest not-for-profit licensed child care provider in Ontario. It operates more than 300 locations across the region run by over 3,000 child care professionals.

“Our experience and expertise have allowed us to step up throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, wave after wave,” says the charity’s Senior Vice President of Child and Family Development, Linda Cottes. “I’m so proud of how our educators continue to navigate a rapidly evolving landscape by providing child care and before and after school programs to families struggling with the pandemic. Importantly, our staff also stepped up with emergency child care to make it possible for people in essential frontline roles to continue working.”

In fact, child care proved essential in keeping economies operating throughout the pandemic. January’s Ontario government decision to accelerate COVID-19 booster vaccinations for early childhood educators underscored their importance to both families and Ontario’s economy.

With children under five years of age still not eligible for vaccinations, child care remains on the frontlines of the pandemic today. Over the past two years, educators have made safety adjustments from screening and donning masks and face shields to finding creative ways for children to still connect and have fun.

Throughout the pandemic, the Y has remained focused on providing safe, reliable, and accessible child care. And as providers of licensed care, the Y’s child care team continues to deliver YMCA Playing to Learn™—a curriculum that gives children a strong developmental start to help them reach their full potential in life.

“Children are so resilient, especially when they have access to familiar faces, albeit covered by a mask, and a curriculum that supports their learning and development,” Cottes says. “Our highly qualified early childhood educators are truly helping our community shine because the spark that each employee lights in children today will brighten over time for generations to come.”

With opportunities for meaningful career growth, the future for early childhood educators themselves also looks bright. “I started in this profession as a young woman and the Y has nurtured my personal development, allowing me to develop in my career,” says Cottes. “Now I find joy supporting the development of the bright young educators who will lead our sector for future generations.”

To learn more about joining the Y’s child care team and a life-long positive impact on children and families, visit ymcagta.org/child-care/join-our-child-care-team

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Everyone deserves a chance to shine. That’s why the YMCA of Greater Toronto works to promote equity and boost well-being in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Across our network of 400 locations, we are a leading charity that helps everyone from all walks of life, including our most vulnerable community members.


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