Meet our Montrealer of the Month: Alia Jaafar
Parents say longtime daycare director treats every child as her own
Suleen Raad says when she drops her daughter off at the CPE Les Petits Explorateurs in downtown Montreal, she knows she's leaving her in a safe, fun environment.
"We don't walk. I have to run after her in the morning," Raad told CBC Montreal's Let's Go.
Her daughter's excitement at going to her daycare and Raad's confidence that her "most precious thing in life" will be secure for the day, is thanks to Alia Jaafar, who for 23 years has been the daycare's director.
Jaafar's dedication and warmth is why Raad nominated her to be our Montrealer of the Month for December.
"You have been doing a phenomenal job, especially this year," Raad told Jaafar by phone when Let's Go announced this month's winner.
"I couldn't think of a better way to let you know how appreciated you are by your staff and kids and parents. Everyone loves you."
When daycares reopened during the first wave of the pandemic, Jaafar sent a video showing daycare workers smiling before putting on their masks, to help make them more comfortable with the transition.
She would drive far and wide to ensure there were enough gloves and masks, and even set up a backyard apple-picking station when the pandemic meant their annual fall activity would not be possible.
Jaafar says it's "my passion and my love for the kids" that drives her to do the best she can every day she is at the daycare, often from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"We believe kids can do a lot, we just have to give them the good environment, the healthy environment and a creative one," she said.
"For us, it's a home away from home philosophy."
She said it's been a team effort between staff, board members and parents to ensure that kids can still learn and have fun without feeling the stresses of the pandemic.
Raad says that work has translated into her daughter wanting to go to the daycare each morning — even on weekends.
"She knows she's safe," she said.
After 38 years working in early childhood education, Jaafar says it's still her dream job.
"It's warmed my heart," she said of being recognized for that work by the parents and her co-workers.
With files from CBC Montreal's Let's Go