Early Childhood Initiative Sixpence Early Learning Fund, a Childcare Program, and Auburn Public Schools Form a Successful Partnership with Penny Gerking: A Penny for Her Thoughts?

Our Mission 

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation works toward our vision of a state where we create positive change through community engagement

The Sixpence Early Learning Fund, one of our early childhood programs, supports vulnerable infants and toddlers on their journey to success. Sixpence leverages private and public funds at federal, state, and local levels to promote high-quality early childhood development and education.  

Penny Gerking, director of Little Gerkin’s Family Childcare Center, a licensed childcare provider, and one of Sixpence’s Child Care Partners (Sixpence CCP), told us about the program’s benefits and takeaways. Before we dive in, we’d like to explain how Sixpence CCP works.  

Background on Sixpence Early Learning Fund  

Sixpence was created in 2006 when major state agencies and private philanthropy sectors united to form a public and private endowment that created sustainable funding so that school districts could either provide or partner. These partnerships were formed on behalf of high-quality home or center-based early learning opportunities that serve Nebraska’s youngest children.  

A governor-appointed Board of Trustees represent public and private sector interests. Through a competitive grant process, the Board awards the endowment’s investment earnings and appropriated state and federal funds to community-based early learning partnerships. The grant process is managed by Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, which also provides support to promote program quality. 

Created in 2015, Sixpence (CCP) is a collaboration between school districts and early childhood programs that serve infants and toddlers up to age 3. This effort leverages federal Child Care Development Funds and is propelled to increase the quality of community-based early childhood programs.  

Sixpence CCP’s resources include trainings, coaching, and financial support for childcare providers to advance in Step Up to Quality, Nebraska’s quality rating and improvement system, which assists early childhood providers and educators to promote and maintain high-quality childcare

In Penny’s case, Auburn Public Schools employs the “Coach,” a certified teacher, that works with childcare providers to achieve the sequential ratings in Step Up to Quality.  

Housed out of the Auburn Public Schools Central Offices, the coach holds trainings and networking opportunities, purchases quality-enhancing equipment and supplies scores, and regularly coaches to increase the provider’s quality.  

 According to recent research, Sixpence CCP has helped create success throughout our communities. On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like sharing success stories like that of Penny Gerking of Auburn, Nebraska.  

Penny said Sixpence CCP has assisted her with everything from discussing emotions with children to creating a virtual schedule to providing her with guidance to setting up a library! Read on for the full interview, in Penny’s own words. 

What community is your Sixpence CCP program?  

Auburn/Nemaha County  

What Step are you currently at?  

Step 2 and I’ve just applied for a rating! (Hoping for a Step 4) 

How has Sixpence CCP program supported you?  

They make sure I am able to attend the trainings I need, they pay for all my trainings, they hired subs and helpers for me to get to appointments and trainings without disrupting my business, they find answers to questions I have, they help me to purchase items I need to improve my program.  

With the help of her coach, Penny created a visual schedule of what a typical day looks like in her home childcare. 

My coach visits about once a week to see how I am doing, to do evaluations, and to spend time with the children I care for. They treat us to working meals and are there for us to help prepare for our next step (making copies, providing binders/tabs, looking over the files, answering questions).   

Anne Meeker Training: Sing, Play, Love. Sixpence CCP provided the training for area providers to learn how they can integrate music into learning social/emotional skills for infants and toddlers.  

What do you like about the Sixpence CCP program?    

There is so much that I love about this program. I love the resources provided (solution kits: my coach made several different copies for me to use in my program and send home with families), not having to worry about how I’m going to pay for trainings or materials I need, having someone I can ask for help when I am struggling with finding an answer. Without this program I would not be preparing for my Step 4 after less than 2 years.  

Penny Gerking, licensed childcare provider and owner of Little Gerkin’s Family Childcare, said regarding her partnership, “There is so much I love about this program.”   

What are the benefits you have seen for your program?   

One of the biggest benefits to Sixpence CCP is seen in my daycare children. They are so happy and learning so much faster than they used to do because I now have the tools to help them to solve problems, to make good choices, [and] I have plenty of materials for all the kids to share.  

With the help of her coach, Penny learned new ways to set up her environment. Sixpence CCP Funds provided Penny with board books to help set up a library for infants and toddlers. 

Watching two-year-olds ask nicely for a turn with a toy instead of snatching it from another child is just so amazing to see. Seeing how a 3-year-old gently shows an 18-month-old how to stack the blocks up and then says “you did a great job with that” makes my heart glow.  

Penny’s substitute, Amanda, helps to care for the children when Penny attends training. 

These things are possible because of the help I have been given from Sixpence CCP. My families have noticed this change in the children as well. Prior to CCP I felt like I was doing a good job with teaching the kids their basic manners, shapes/colors/counting, being responsible and a good friend. Now, I see how much more I can do with the kids and how much better the environment is for all of us and it’s truly a blessing.   

Sixpence CCP Funds provided Penny with board books to help set up a library for infants and toddlers. 

What are your key takeaways from your time with Sixpence CCP?  

  1. We could all use a little help and it’s perfectly okay to ask for it. But I can also be a part of that help as I share my new knowledge with others.  
Penny has learned the importance of talking about feelings and emotions with infants and toddlers.  
  1. We are all lifetime learners and as such the minimum required hours of training are just that…minimum, and I can do much better than the minimum for myself and my daycare.   
  1. There are so many amazing resources out there if we just look for them. Anne Meeker has been my most favorite resource and I wish I had known about her sooner.    

Find out more about the Sixpence CCP Program 

Subscribe to our Blog 

Read about another Sixpence CCP Success 

Learn about Step Up to Quality

Nebraska Children and Families Foundation supports children, young adults and families at risk with the overall goal of giving our state's most vulnerable kids what they need to reach their full potential. We do this by building strong communities that support families so their children can grow up to be thriving, productive adults.

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Posted in Early Childhood, News and Events
One comment on “Early Childhood Initiative Sixpence Early Learning Fund, a Childcare Program, and Auburn Public Schools Form a Successful Partnership with Penny Gerking: A Penny for Her Thoughts?
  1. […] we asked Stoney Straatmann, a licensed childcare provider and one of Sixpence Child Care Partnership Programs (Sixpence CCP) from Hastings, Nebraska to talk about her experiences and benefits of the partnership. Before […]

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