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Team Spotlight: Kelly Hernandez


GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your life growing up?

I was born in Lima, Peru and moved to New Jersey one month shy of my 6th birthday. New country, new home, new school, new faces and new language. Needless to say, I struggled through the first grade. I do consider myself lucky though, because I had incredible bilingual teachers in elementary school who guided me every step of the way. Before I knew it, I was not only caught up but I was excelling in all subjects. A big part of that was also my supportive parents who taught me from a very young age the value of education.

GC: When did you know that you wanted to go into the education field?

I have always loved school and dreamt of having my own classroom someday. After 8th grade I had the opportunity to attend Passaic County Technical Institute, a vocational high school, where I chose to focus on Child Development. I was 14 years old and indecisive of whether I wanted to branch out into psychology or social work; all I knew for sure was that I wanted to work with children. I wanted to make a difference. Ultimately ECE was the right fit for me and I followed it through college. I attended William Paterson University where I graduated cum laude with a double major in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. I also minored in Liberal Studies with a double focus on English and Anthropology.

GC: How did you come to work at Guidecraft? 

I was hired as a first-grade teacher right after I graduated college. As I was setting up my classroom I received a phone call about a toy company looking for a recent education graduate to write activities and curriculum for their toys. At first I was hesitant. I already had the job I worked hard for, the classroom I had dreamt of and I was ready to make a difference. However, I realized that if I truly wanted to make an impact in the lives of children on a global scale, it would be by joining the Guidecraft family as their ECE Advisor.

GC: How would you describe your position?

I develop games, activities, and higher order thinking questions that stimulate cognitive development, as well as reinforce social-emotional interactions. I work with the designers to bring in an educational point of view for the different products Guidecraft has to offer. I am also the link between Guidecraft and schools. I currently work with William Paterson University sponsoring workshops and professional development opportunities for teachers in STEM

GC: What has been your favorite experience working at Guidecraft?

My favorite experience (so far!) has been bringing my niece and nephew to the office for Gary’s birthday. Their eyes lit up with excitement as they explored the office, and they even claimed that I have the coolest job ever! With everyone laughing and having fun together, you truly get a sense of family here at Guidecraft.

GC: Are there any rules or techniques that you follow as an educator?

My rule is to always put the children first. Their safety is a priority. I’m always asking myself if what I design is developmentally appropriate. I also do a lot of research to keep up with the latest educational strategies and trends. I find that I learn a lot from fellow teachers and other experts.

GC: What is some advice you would give someone who wants to go into a similar field?

Push yourself. It’s nice to be in a comfortable place doing something you know, but you don’t truly see the extent of your potential until you push yourself into something new. The best adventures always come from taking a leap of faith.

GC: Is there anything else you would like to add or share?

I love learning as much as I love teaching. I guess that is why I enjoy reading and traveling. I also love nature, music, and dancing.

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Team Spotlight: Nidhi Sehgal

This month’s featured Guidecraft team member is our Director of Sales in India, Nidhi Sehgal. She is a wonderful addition to our Guidecraft team and we’d love for you to get to know more about her!

img_0499GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your life growing up?

NS: I am originally from Meerut, a city in the state of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. After high school, I moved to New Delhi to pursue my graduate degree from Lady Irwin College (Delhi University). During my graduate program I became very interested in Child Development, Psychology, and Early Childhood Care & Education. So, I went forward with my master’s degree in Human Development from SNDT Women’s University and was very lucky to spend most of my time on field work. I gained life-enriching experiences during this program working with people from various age groups and socio-economic status. I then started my professional journey with one of the most popular franchisee preschool chains in India.

GC: How did you come to be involved in both the educational and marketing fields?

NS: I got an opportunity to fill in during the absence of the marketing manager for the opening of one of our preschools. It was a success and I accomplished far more than what we expected. This experience fostered my interest into marketing; which prompted me to pursue my second Master’s degree in Marketing Management. I then got into product development building and collaborated with a variety of teams from warehouses to academic fields.

GC: How did you come to work at Guidecraft? 
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Team Spotlight- Yongai Zheng

This month’s featured Guidecraft team member is Zigler’s Director of Education, Yongai Zheng, in our Beijing office. She has been a wonderful addition to our Guidecraft team and we’d love for you to get to know more about her!

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Yongai Zheng, Director of Education at Zigler.

GC: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your life growing up?

YZ: I was born in HeBei province, which is very close to Beijing. I grew up with a lot of recognition and support from my family, because I performed very well in school and was admitted into Beijing Normal University without having to take the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (which was a first for BNU).

GC: Tell us a little about your family.

YZ: I have a happy and lovely family with my husband and 8-year-old daughter. My husband has a very good job as a public officer in the financial department in the Beijing municipal level government. Aside from his work, he is responsible for taking care of our family, which is what I like about him most. He is popular among family and friends because he is always thinking more about others than himself. My daughter is a pretty, smart and sensitive girl. When we came back from United States last September it only took her two months to catch up in her classes. Now she not only performs excellently in school but also takes charge of some duties as a class committee member. I am so happy for her rapid progress.

GC: I heard you spent a year at Yale, how was your experience and what did you do?
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Vote Today! IO Blocks® Vehicles and Grippies® Builders Nominated for Toy of the Year!

Between now and January 15, 2017, toy lovers of all ages can visit www.toyawards.org to vote for favorite toys, including IO Blocks Vehicles and Grippies!

On November 21st, the Toy Industry Association (TIA) announced the Finalists for the prestigious 2017 Toy of the Year Awards (TOTY) – also known as the “Oscars” of the toy industry and we are proud to announce that both IO Blocks® Vehicles and Grippies® Builders are in! With 700 entrees from over 250 toy companies, both IO Blocks Vehicles and Grippies are among the seven finalists for their categories. This year, Guidecraft is represented in the TOTYs by IO Blocks Vehicles in the Preschool Category and Grippies Builders in the Construction Category.

IO Blocks Vehicles includes 12 vehicle parts to create an unlimited array of vehicles and expands the award-winning building toy system of IO Blocks. This large set of 96 pieces comes with fins, wings, bumpers, cabins, wheels and more. With pixelated, digital world roots, the high-quality design of IO Blocks Vehicles, and its open-ended building possibilities and puzzle-like qualities, makes it a great fit for educators and parents interested in STEM skill development.

In addition to becoming a TOTY Award finalist in the Preschool Category, IO Blocks Vehicles has received the 2016 Tillywig Toy and Media Brain Child Award and the 2016 Play Advances Learning (PAL) award.
The STEM building toy system for toddlers, Grippies Builders combines tactile exploration, magnetic play and an introduction to the basic principles of engineering and geometry. Unique in concept and design, Grippies provide a fun, safe and exploratory experience for toddlers. Watch for Guidecraft to add four new magnetic toys to the Grippies system in 2017 – all of which encourage STEM skill development in toddlers through original designs and the addition of new and exciting features.

Grippies Builders has received accolades from several leading toy industry experts such as the 2016 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Platinum Award, the National Parenting Seal of Approval, and the 2016 Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award. See all of the independent Grippies Builders awards and reviews here.

Between now and January 15, 2017, toy lovers of all ages can visit www.toyawards.org to vote for favorite toys (including IO Blocks Vehicles and Grippies!), games and properties across 14 categories and enter to win exclusive prize packages. Winners will be announced at the TOTY gala on February 17th (the day before Toy Fair begins) at the Intrepid Air and Space Museum.

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Better Builders Emotions Wins 2016 PAL Top 10 Award

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Play On Words, the award-winning speech therapy company, announced that Guidecraft’s Better Builders® Emotions received their 2016 PAL Top 10 Award for School Age Toys. The PAL Awards were established to identify unique toys, games and books that through their design, quality and character, encourage play that advances language. Robert Artemenko, CMO of Play On Words, said that Better Builders Emotions “was exemplary among this year’s PAL Winners, advancing language in the context of great play.”

Sherry Artemenko M.A., C.C.C., founder of Play On Words and well-respected speech pathologist, assesses and reviews toys and books with input from parents, kids and educators. Observing play in action, combined with her critical eye for language potential, Sherry awards products and writes insightful reviews offering practical tips on how to maximize the educational value in each PAL winner. She had this to say about Better Builders Emotions,

“With Emotional Intelligence or EQ being a hot topic right now and the knowledge that we can increase a child’s EQ by helping them name, identify, and regulate their emotions, this building set is a great tool to further those language and social skills. My social worker friend tells me that sometimes kids talk more about their feelings when they have some object to work with, like a stuffed animal or Better Builders Emotions figure that they can express their thoughts through. As a language therapist, I see the opportunity for kids to express themselves, and even use the different faced figures to explain what to do or not do in certain situations, or talk about how others must feel, allowing them to grow in their social skills too!”

Better Builders Emotions encourages dramatic play with faces expressing 6 distinct emotions to which children can relate: happy, sad, angry, surprised, confused, and scared. Interchangeable friction-fit hairstyles, 3 male and 3 female, create new personalities and allow for personal connection to the characters. They are designed to assist in understanding feelings, encouraging positive expression, and verbal and nonverbal communication. Additional dramatic play sets that are a part of the Better Builders magnetic building toy system are Better Builders Career People and Better Builders Community People.

Guidecraft is honored that Better Builders Emotions has received this recognition from such a highly-regarded speech expert. Be sure to check out the 2016 PAL Top 10 Award press release and watch Sherry Artemenko on Fox 6 Milwaukee News as she reviews Better Builders Emotions here (featured at 3:27)!

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