By Natalie Anderson
Published April 18, 2021
SALISBURY — Norma Honeycutt was met with tears and cheers from teachers and staff at Partners in Learning at Novant Health Saturday after she delivered news that long-awaited national accreditation had finally been granted.
Partners in Learning began operating its Novant Health site on Best Road four years ago. Honeycutt, executive director of the program, said the center has worked on receiving national accreditation ever since.
To become accredited, child care centers must score at least 80% for each criteria. Partners in Learning scored 100% in all but three categories, with 94% being the lowest score received. Additionally, each class scored above average with its portfolio and observation.
Another reason to celebrate the accomplishment is the new elite status the center holds as less than 10% of child care centers across the U.S. have received accreditation, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
“We are very elite and it shows we know what we’re doing,” Honeycutt said.
The news was delivered as a surprise nearly an hour after teachers and staff gathered for a staff development day. More cheers erupted when each teacher and staff member received an envelope with $100 to spend on themselves.
“Spend some money on you,” Honeycutt said. “Because I know you immediately thought, ‘what bill can I pay?’ or ‘what can I get for my children?’ Today is not a day to work. Today is a day to celebrate.”
Staff and teachers gathered on a trolley to travel downtown and spend a few hours shopping before lunch at Partners in Learning at Catawba College. Honeycutt said everyone was granted the rest of the day off with pay to celebrate the accomplishment.
Mary Short, a teacher for Partners in Learning, said she’s worked there for 21 years, but Saturday’s gesture to the staff is another reason she’s stayed for so long.
“I’ve stayed here because they give you the pat on the back you need when you need it,” she said.
Ryan Stykes, another teacher, said he was excited to see years of hard work pay, both as a teacher and the parent of a son who attends the child care center.
“This helps remind us to take a little time for ourselves,” he added.
With tears in her eyes, Leah Thompson gave herself a pat on the back, beaming with pride that her infant class received a 100% score on its portfolio.
“I’m so proud of myself,” Thompson said. “I’ve been working here for over four years and I’ve been working on this ever since. We’re a family and we support each other. It’s amazing we did this after a pandemic.”
Beth Jones, director of the Novant site, said she was so proud of her team, but not surprised.
Partners in Learning at Novant is now the second center in Rowan County to receive the national accolade, with the Partners in Learning site at Catawba College holding the other designation. Honeycutt told staff they should feel good that Rowan stands out from the surrounding counties.