When Edie Appel, 73, retired as Director of ChildSpace Day Care Center on Jan. 29, she left behind a legacy dedicated to the improvement of early childhood education in our community. What will she …
When Edie Appel, 73, retired as Director of ChildSpace Day Care Center on Jan. 29, she left behind a legacy dedicated to the improvement of early childhood education in our community. What will she miss most? “The children and their families,” said Appel.
Since 1999, Appel has overseen all aspects of ChildSpace’s Mt. Airy center, a nonprofit community resource that offers high-quality early learning for all young children, birth through age 8. She also served on the board as treasurer.
ChildSpace has been operating a center, accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), in Mt. Airy since 1988. Previously located in Mt. Airy Presbyterian Church, ChildSpace moved in 2011 to a larger space on the green campus of New Covenant Church at 7500 Germantown Ave. The pandemic was a challenge that Appel met by creating new policies to keep children and staff safe. “We normally have 105 children. Now we have 72,” she said.
Appel, who holds a BA in Psychology from Rutgers University, was part of the effort to bring special teachers into ChildSpace on a weekly rotation. This includes a musician who plays guitar and sings with the children, a yoga instructor who teaches children to find calm, a farmer to help the children learn how to grow and harvest their own fresh vegetables and flowers, and daily outdoor time on age-appropriate playgrounds.
Among her many achievements, Appel is proud of ChildSpace’s accreditation with the NAEYC since 2003 and its four-star rating, the highest rating possible in the state system, at both of its locations in Mt. Airy and Germantown. She credits ChildSpace’s success with its worker/owner structure in which employees share in the profits and make policy changes. As one of the country’s largest worker co-ops, now in its fourth decade of operation, ChildSpace is regularly asked to present on how to build successful job/quality care enterprises.
Appel plans to remain active in Mt Airy’s Parent Advisory Committee and the Positive Parenting series at both ChildSpace centers. “I will continue to facilitate the Positive Parenting program on Zoom because early childhood education is very important to me,” she said.
The ChildSpace philosophy is that children learn by experience. They provide opportunities for children at each developmental level to try new things, make new friends and have fun. ChildSpace is concerned with all aspects of children’s growth: social, emotional, cognitive and physical. The center encourages children to express themselves according to their own personalities.
Most importantly, ChildSpace teaches children to respect each other and introduce children to the diversity found in our community. “I would like to see ChildSpace continue to grow. In order to have a quality education, you need quality staff. Our TEACH Program allows staff to get their associate’s, bachelor’s or master's degree while only paying 10% tuition. They receive paid time during work hours to attend classes.”
In addition to her role as Director, Appel was known as someone who was always ready to roll up her sleeves and offer a family a tour, enroll a child or answer a question about bed-time routines or how worms help plants grow.
“I’m going to miss Edie,” said ChildSpace CEO Susan Kavchok. “We’ve been through a lot. She has amazing problem-solving skills.”
When the pandemic lifts, Appel has travel plans. “I want to be able to visit my children and grandchildren in Israel and New York City,” she said.
For more details, call 215-248-3080 or visit childspacedaycarecenters.org. Mt. Airy resident Stacia Friedman is an award-winning freelance writer and novelist focusing on art and architecture, food and wine, travel, culture, profiles and personal essays.