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Q&A with Sheriann Chaw, Youth Development Director at the Peninsula Family YMCA

Building A Strong Foundation through Early Childhood Education

Meet Sheriann!

Q: How long have you been working in the Youth Development field?
A: I have been working in the Youth Development field for 34 years. I started as a young Preschool Teacher’s Aide but prior to that I had worked as a Summer Camp Counselor from the eighth grade through high school. Since the young age of twelve, I knew there was important work to be done in this field.

Q: What are you most passionate about in Youth Development?
A: Being able to provide a strong foundation for youth and families so they can reach their fullest potential. Youth Development has so many facets from child development to youth leadership to family support programs. Stronger individuals and stronger families build stronger communities. Watching children reach their next milestone or watching a family overcome adversity fills my heart with joy.

Q: Can you explain the difference between childcare and early childhood education (ECE)?
A: Childcare is an old way of thinking representing a place where you sent your child when you went to work. Early childhood education (ECE) is much more than caretakers “watching” your children. The field of ECE is comprised of individuals who have knowledge of the stages of child development and who are trained to provide a safe, nurturing environment using intentional materials and activities for children to explore and master their skills. ECE also puts a lot of emphasis on the social-emotional development of the child because as children mature in this area, the other areas of development: cognitive, language, and physical development fall into place.

Q: During this pandemic, what is the Gateway Child Development Center doing to protect the children and the staff?
A:  We keep up with the latest COVID health and safety protocols and adjust our practices accordingly. For example, we have smaller, stable cohorts of children and teachers so there is no co-mingling between groups. Materials are used by one child at a time and they are given their own “art bucket” so they don’t have to share with others. We are also getting creative in our interactions and activities, so although our interactions may look different, we don’t compromise on quality curriculum.

Q: Our main priority will always be making a child feel safe and welcomed at the YMCA, what are ways you show youth and their families that they are safe and belong at the YMCA?
A: First and foremost is developing a partnership with the family from day one which is the inquiry about our center. When a family has questions, we strive to answer it thoroughly so they can make the best decision for their own family. They get to know us and we get to know them so we can bridge home, school, and work together to support their child in their development. The pandemic has made in person tours, meetings, and daily contact almost impossible, so we use video and virtual tours, Zoom, and FaceTime conferences, as well as newsletters and social distanced events to keep families connected. At Gateway, we are also rolling out a communication app developed by one of our alumni parents called Swaddo. For the children, providing them a safe, clean environment with routines they can count on gives them a sense of belonging and boundaries they can depend on. Helping them navigate their learning path and social situations with caring teachers gives them confidence and builds their self-esteem. We feel that children are the initiators of their own learning, so we follow their lead.

Q: What helpful information or tips would you share for parents who are thinking about preschool/ECE?
A: The foundations of a high-quality early childhood education center/preschool is one which provides a safe and healthy environment for your child to develop. Ask for a tour, or during COVID request a video or virtual tour. Feel free to ask questions that are important to you because a quality ECE educator would want to provide you all of the information you need to make the best decision for your family and to create a partnership with you from the beginning.

Questions about Peninsula Family YMCA's Early Childhood Education programs at Gateway Child Development Center? Contact Sheriann at