Early learning center earns the gold

Jan 27, 2023
Cherryann Ramoutar, left, who serves as assistant director and teacher at St. Mary Magdalen Early Learning Center, and fellow teacher Dania Castellom play with the children at the center. The educational facility recently earned the designation of being a Gold Seal Quality Care Program. COURTESY

ALTAMONTE SPRINGS  |  Nery Naya understands the anxiety experienced when people drop their children off at an early learning center. They might be worried the care offered by the facility is not top notch or that the children won’t get what they need.

It was that anxiety that spurred Naya to become a teacher and eventually director of an early learning center — specifically St. Mary Magdalen’s Early Learning Center. And as its director she pursued the Gold Seal Certification to assure other parents their children were receiving the best care available.

“Being part of the Gold Seal Quality Care Program shows parents that as an early learning center we strive for and achieve going above and beyond the minimum licensing standards,” Naya said. “Choosing a place to care, educate and love your child is one of the most important and difficult decisions a parent has to make. It is my hope that when they see that St. Mary Magdalen ELC is a gold seal provider, it helps them feel at ease.”

In 1996, the Florida legislature established the Gold Seal Quality Care Program to recognize childcare facilities and family day care homes that have exceeded required minimum licensing standards. The program’s website states the Gold Seal Quality Care Program is not an accreditation, but a designation.

Naya began at St. Mary Magdalen in January 2023, but her previous experience of earning the Gold Seal certification at Sts. Peter and Paul Early Learning Center offers an edge. When Sts. Peter and Paul’s center in Winter Park closed in October 2022, she began working with Elise Steiner, then director of the center at St. Mary Magdalen. Steiner served as a staff member for more than 35 years, including as director for the last 15 years.

Despite being there for a short time, Naya said “it was evident that this program is one of excellence.” Upon seeing the level of care, safety, hygiene and education there, she reached out to the Florida Catholic Conference Catholic schools’ accreditation agency, and began the process of pursuing the Gold Seal designation for St. Mary Magdalen.

“(Steiner) along with the amazing staff of teachers did a great job of serving their students and their community,” Naya added. “It is my job now to build on the great program they created and continue to provide a quality foundation for our students both academically and spiritually.”


By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic staff, January 27, 2023