A Retford woman was named in the Queen’s birthday honours list last weekend in recognition of decades of service to early years education.
Sarah Edwards, 64, was awarded the British Empire Medal after 32 years working in the sector, culminating in a position as volunteer engagement officer with the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY).
She said: “I cried when I opened the letter, it is an amazing honour. I have helped to nominate other people in the past, but I never imagined that I would be on the list too.
“I retired in 2017 to move back to Retford and look after my son when he was dying, so to get this news 18 months later is just an unbelievable surprise.”
Having started her career as a childminder in Bassetlaw, since 1986 Sarah has also volunteered her time to support others to grow their confidence, knowledge and skills.
She has since developed an expert understanding of practice and policy, which she has used in numerous national campaigns and recruited countless volunteers into the association.
Sarah said: “I fell into it really. We would meet up as a local group to share ideas and for how to improve outcomes for children and give them better learning experiences.
“I became very passionate about it and went on to work with the Nottingham and County Childminding Association, and then got a job in London with what was then the National Childminding Association.”
She added: “I feel a little guilty that I am the one getting a medal, because you’re only as good as the people you work with. I’ve met so many fantastic ones over the years.
“Thank you to everyone who has played a part in this, especially my family, my volunteers and all the parents whose children I cared for who became good friends.”
The Lord Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire will present the medal later this year and Sarah has also been invited to a party at Buckingham Palace.
She said: “It’s very exciting. Half my family want to come, but we’ll have to wait and see what’s possible.”
PACEY chief executive Liz Byram said: “We are delighted Sarah has been recognised. She has supported thousands of members over the years. We wholeheartedly congratulate her, it is well deserved.”