Child care and early years professionals are a precious commodity and essential part of happy, healthy, and successful communities. Now, more than ever, we know how important it is to have caring adults supporting young children and families.
We are so proud to be a part of this vibrant community and this Professional Spotlight Series recognizes the outstanding efforts, innovations, and contributions of our treasured colleagues across the sector.
We are delighted to introduce you to Donna Flemming, RECE and EarlyON Facilitator for Middlesex. Donna is a nature enthusiast, admired by her colleagues and the families she supports for her kindness, creativity, and ability to foster genuine connections with those around her.
Keep reading to learn more about Donna!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Donna Fleming. I graduated from the Early Childhood Education program at Fanshawe College in 1985. I have had various roles with children throughout my career, from teaching Sunday School, to camp counsellor, child care teacher, to EarlyON Facilitator in Middlesex.
I am a mother of three, almost-grown boys, who are the light of my life. They make me laugh the loudest, cry the hardest, and stay true to myself.
What led you to a career in Early Childhood Education and Care?
I became an aunt when I was five years old and absolutely loved it! I have always had a genuine interest in the well-being of all children, so a career in Early Childhood Education was a no-brainer.
What is the best part of your role?
Nurturing children’s interest in the natural world and helping them to become more environmentally aware. I love to see them outdoors, noticing the sights, sounds, smells around them, and falling in love with nature.
I am so happy that Donna has been nominated . She is so deserving of recognition for her outstanding efforts!
I am a mother who attends Donna’s programming on a regular basis with my son, Cash. I have had the pleasure of knowing Donna for 4 years now. We first met at an EarlyON program. She works so hard does a fantastic job.
I know first-hand how much Donna enriches the lives of our children. She always goes above and beyond to make each child feel special and heard. She ask questions, and encourages the children to be creative and try new activities. Prior to Covid, we would attend Donna’s programs every Monday and Thursday. My son began to refer to the Ilderton library as “Donna’s house.” When the pandemic happened, Donna was such a light for us. Through her YouTube videos of nature hikes, cooking demonstrations, story times and singing songs, Donna kept us engaged and connected.
Donna also started up the nature series, where we go on hikes exploring the local woods and conservation areas. On these hikes, she encouraged the children to explore their surroundings, build tents out of sticks, make snowmen, journal findings, and identify plant, animal, and insect species. Donna’s enthusiasm and love for the outdoors is absolutely contagious and the kids love it.
Recently we attended her teddy bear picnic and had so much fun. She had even made a teddy bear version of the “corn hole” game, constructed out of wood which she had hand painted a bear on.
Donna creates such a safe, welcoming, open space for children and families and has been so supportive of my parenting journey. I admire her capacity for demonstrating patience, understanding, and positivity, which brings so much life to her programming. I really can’t say enough good things about Donna. Though I met her through the EarlyON, she has become a treasured friend.
Donna puts so much heart and soul into everything she does. She will forever leave a lasting impression for her kindness, enthusiasm, and ability to make us feel so special.
– Erica Riddell, EarlyON Family
What is something you’ve learned recently that you’re excited about?
With Autumn upon us, I have been discovering many types of mushrooms and fungi on my hikes. I have been familiarizing myself with various types and even found some that are tasty to eat!
What is something you’re unlearning?
I have been working on how I react to others and not trying to sway others’ perspectives or opinions. Realizing that I can’t control anyone else’s behaviour and instead looking inward, brings me a sense of freedom.
Donna started working with Ontario Early Years Centre in 2017 (known now as Middlesex EarlyON). Donna radiates enthusiasm, passion and positivity and that energy can be felt in every program she offers.
She has a profound love for nature and nature-based learning. This passion led her to develop an Outdoor Adventurers Club, a nature-based program where children can enjoy free play and adventures in learning in the great outdoors. Finding toads, salamanders or cicadas, all become an enthusiastic ‘show & tell’ by Donna with the children. This program has become extremely popular in our Middlesex communities, certainly in part due to Donna’s leadership.
Donna shows sincere interest in others. She is kind, compassionate and empathic. These characteristics have led to authentic connections with the families she works with.
It is evident that her work genuinely brings her joy. Her contributions to this community are very much appreciated and valued.
– Nadine Devin, Early Years Project Manager, County of Middlesex
What advice would you give someone considering pursuing a career in Early Childhood Education?
Keep an open mind and think outside the box. When I was in college, I thought working in a child care centre was my only option, but there are so many amazing roles and career options in this sector.
How has professional learning contributed to your practice?
I am constantly learning, growing, and modifying my approach to my practice. Learning from others’ knowledge has helped me to become a more effective Educator.
After moving to the Thorndale area, the first place I took my children to try and meet some new friends was to an EarlyON drop-in at our local library. We were instantly welcomed by the friendly facilitator, Donna.
Donna’s genuine passion for working with children was obvious. From her natural ability to quickly develop a bond with the kids, to sharing all of her creative and fun ideas with us, Donna soon became a special person in our lives. Some of our favourite activities with Donna include making smoothies at playgroup, zoom dance parties, following along the adventures of Nutsy the Squirrel, exploring nature on our Adventure Hikes and a very special Teddy Bear picnic!
Our relationship with Donna became even more appreciated during the Covid-19 pandemic. With all EarlyON programming switching to an online format, Donna went above and beyond to regularly check in on me and the kids. During a time where it was easy to feel isolated, Donna was able to foster a sense of community, even virtually. She was even able to make a couple of porch visits so she could still say hi to the kids in a safe way.
Donna is one of a kind! Although it may be her job, it is clear what joy it brings her to connect with all of her EarlyON families. My kids continue to light up whenever we get to attend a program with Donna. It is a privilege to know her and we will always be grateful for the wonderful impact she had on our family. She truly welcomed us to our new community and helped shape our experience living here.
– Jessica, EarlyON Family
Tell us about a recent professional learning experience that had a positive impact on you.
Recently I took a course called 4 Seasons of Reconciliation, a training opportunity to support respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples in the workplace. Through this course, I gained a greater understanding and appreciation of Indigenous peoples and cultures. We are currently looking for ways to bring Indigenous knowledges into our programming, to further foster an inclusive environment.
What inspires you?
The children in my programs inspire me every day! When I see how they respond to something that I have shared with them, I am encouraged to keep going and to learn more, so I can share more.
We were so fortunate to have met Donna at the EarlyON program just prior to the pandemic. We entered the pandemic with having our third baby, a toddler and our oldest, who was in SK at the time. As many well know, entertaining a toddler can be quite demanding, so we were really appreciative to have Donna play an important role in fostering our middle child’s learning and encouraging his confidence.
We are thankful to have Donna’s continued support through the EarlyON and can see the positive impact on child as he started JK this September.
We are we so happy can now see Donna’s bright smiling face in person as we attend her programs with our youngest. We especially love the hikes she leads and enjoy the positive energy she brings. She is always willing to get down to the children’s level and jump in the mud right with them! Her hard work and continued enthusiasm doesn’t go unnoticed. I know we, and many other families, truly value her dedication to our children. Donna, you are a bright light to our children and communities.
– Sara, EarlyON Family
Do you have a favourite quote?
“Today is a good day to have a good day!”
Tell us some things you enjoy doing in your spare time.
I love anything in the outdoors, gardening, camping, hiking, kayaking. I also love to read memoirs or fiction books.
Thank you, Donna, for everything you do for children, families, and other professionals in this community. We are incredibly proud to know you.
Join us in celebrating Donna by dropping her a comment below!
Do you know an outstanding early years professional that deserves to be recognized?
- takes an active leadership role within their community;
- has a demonstrated ability to build strong relationships;
- shows a loving and respectful commitment to children, families, and the ECEC profession;
- exudes professionalism and maintains enthusiasm for their continued commitment to ongoing professional learning.
Then nominate them to be our next Professional Spotlight!
Email your nominations to email@example.com