The $1,000 grant she and Shea won will be used to run a toy-lending library, designed to promote exchange of educational toys among child-care providers in Santa Clarita. “It lets them try out what works for their kids,” Gregory said. And for Gregory, the win is symbolic of family child care providers getting more recognition for their valuable work. “Our mission in applying for the grant was to promote quality in licensed family child care,” Gregory said. “I am not bashing on centers; this is just another option (for) … quality child care.” Katie Gentry, 20, says growing up in a day-care environment – as the daughter of a day-care provider – was not only fun but also educational. VALENCIA – More than 25 years after she started her career as a family child care provider, Valencia resident Mary Gregory finally feels like her chosen profession is getting the credit it deserves. A member of the Family Day Care Association of the Santa Clarita Valley, Gregory was ecstatic last week when she and colleague Kathleen Shea won the Betty Brady teacher grant from the Southern California Kindergarten Conference – the first time it has been won by family child care providers. A credentialed preschool teacher, Gregory said her decision to care for kids at home has broad benefits and was a conscious choice. “I like the smaller family environment,” Gregory said. Now Gentry is helping Gregory in her home and said she sees how much work child-care providers do. “I already know a lot of what my classes are teaching me,” Gentry said. Gentry added that the close-knit family environment child care provides can be a better option for many families. “All the kids here go to each other’s birthday parties,” Gentry said. “We are like one big family.” In the past, family child care providers often have been viewed as more like baby sitters than educators. But for preschool teacher Wendy Crann, mother of 2-year-old Hayden, who attends Gregory’s day care, family child care was the best decision. “There is more love and attention there,” Crann said. “I would love my son to be at a center but at such a young age, being in a smaller environment with the nurturing he is getting is more important. “As he gets older and needs more academics, then I can move him there.” On Friday morning, Gregory’s small group of about six toddlers was calling out the letters of each alphabet block Gregory held up; they’re some of the items the grant helps pay for. As 5-year-old Anders Edson yelled out the letters, he also proudly bragged about how well he could count. “I can count to 2,000,” the freckled boy said. Gregory is proud that her children will leave her care not just academically well-tended, but emotionally prepared for educational careers. “My children leave me knowing their state standards and and very prepared for kindergarten,” Gregory said. [email protected] (661) 257-5254160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!