Amy joined Nebraska Children and Families Foundation on August 19, taking over the leadership role on early childhood programs, including the Sixpence Early Learning Fund. She comes to us from the Nebraska Department of Education’s Early Childhood Office, where she focused on school readiness, helping parents help their children prepared to have a successful kindergarten experience.
“I got to help schools realize that offering developmentally appropriate kindergarten was the best way to transition kids to school,” said Amy. “We couldn’t just have kindergarten be like a junior first grade. but had to really have those expectations in check.” She worked on community-based transition plans to help ensure that the experience that kids have with early care are seamless as they go into kindergarten. “Making sure that the early childhood education guidelines were aligned with kindergarten standards was a big part of my work there.”
One of the biggest challenges she confronted was a general misunderstanding of school readiness.
“People are talking about kindergarten boot camp, checklists, flash cards, worksheets, and by the time kids get to kindergarten, they hate school,” said Amy. “So we want to remind them that our goal is to get children to love to learn. That’s what school readiness really means.”
What’s she excited about at Nebraska Children and Family Foundation?
Amy’s work history hasn’t just been about early childhood. She’s worked with community learning centers and youth in foster care – even adopting her oldest daughter from the foster care system. In short, her resume reads like a list of the foundation’s impact areas.
That’s why I’m so excited to have the opportunity to work here,” said Amy. “It’s not just about early childhood. It’s about family engagement, foster care, getting children out of the system. I really felt that this was my home even before coming here.”
The Sixpence program, in particular, tackles an area that Amy believes needs to be address. “What makes Sixpence unique and special is that we focus the most resources on the families and children at the highest risk,” said Amy. “Where we’re making a difference is investing in communities and programs to make their programs as high-quality as possible and then help them maintain those quality standards.”
While Sixpence is one of the few programs in the nation that takes this approach, it aligns well with Amy’s own philosophy.
“Children are born ready to learn,” said Amy. “It’s just a matter of us as educators meeting families and children where they are and helping them to become successful lifelong learners.”