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Director of Hensley child care center named Arkansas Outstanding Early Childhood Professional


Amber Riddle, right, poses for a photo with Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education Director Tonya Williams.

(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — The director of the Grace Discovery Center in Hensley has been named the 2022 Arkansas Outstanding Early Childhood Professional, the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS) announced today.

Amber Riddle was surprised with the award Wednesday at the child care center for infant to school-age children, where she has served as director since last August. 

[PHOTOS: Click here for photos of Riddle being presented with the award]

The DHS Division of Child Care and Early Childhood Education (DCCECE) has selected a winner for this honor each year since 1988 as a way to recognize individuals who make a significant contribution to the early care and education field in Arkansas. The winner is announced each year before Arkansas Children’s Week (ACW), a celebration of children of all ages and their educators and families. This year, ACW runs April 2-8.

Riddle was honored for her work at the Grace Discovery Center, which has achieved a Better Beginnings Level 3 rating while serving approximately 70 children. Before becoming director, Riddle spent more than three years as a classroom teacher at the facility.

“Amber understands the importance of instilling a love of learning in every child she serves,” said DCCECE Director Tonya Williams, who was on hand to surprise Riddle with the award. “Her work in the classroom and now leading the Grace Discovery Center exemplifies how to care for young children to best prepare them for success in school and in life.”

Riddle has been working in early childhood education since she was 19, and she wrote in her nomination form that she views it as her responsibility to show children at the center love, happiness, fun, and grace. 

“I will always put the family and child first,” Riddle wrote. “I will not let a behavior dictate how I feel about a child – if anything that behavior will make me wrap around that child and family even more.”

Riddle also wrote that her desire to serve young children started long before her first job in the field.

“From an early age, I knew I wanted to be around children,” she wrote. “I was in and out of foster homes as a child and had no constant person. I knew I wanted to be that for someone. Little did I know it would be hundreds of someones. The need to show young children love, support, and consistency was what influenced me.” 

In addition to her work at the center, Riddle leads a volunteer team that provides food and other necessities to people experiencing homelessness in downtown Little Rock. And she is active in the safe Families for Children organization, which provides support to keep children safe and families intact.

As the recipient of this year’s award, Riddle will have the opportunity to serve as an early childhood ambassador on DCCECE committees. She may also be featured as an early childhood education spokesperson in the media and on DHS and DCCECE social media channels.

More information on the importance of quality child care is available on the Better Beginnings website at Additional details about Arkansas Children’s Week are available at


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