The Teaching Tree: Sixpence CCP and Stephanie Allen Grow the Good Life for Toddlers

A Growing Experience: Why a Child’s First Three Years are Crucial to their Future Success 

Imagine a sapling growing up from the ground. It has to be strong enough to endure the thrashing of the wind, the weight of the snow, and the harshness of the sun.  

For a young tree to thrive and to grow into one of the majestic oaks we see today, first it must be rooted deeply within the ground. The sapling must be watered, nurtured, and securely embedded in the soil. Finally, its root structure must first draw the nutrients to grow up healthy and strong.  

As you’ve probably guessed, this is a metaphor which expands far beyond nature. When it comes to our infants and toddlers, their first three years are crucial to their future success. To spring up like a maple, quality care, education, and relationships are akin to sunlight, water, and nutrients – they are essential to growth.  

Here at Nebraska Children and Families Foundation, we think our ourselves as the watering can which feeds and nurtures a number of organizations so that all children, youth, and families can thrive, no matter how rocky the road or how dry the soil. Sixpence, one of our early childhood initiatives, specifically focuses on setting infants and toddlers up for success during those first three years of their life.  

We’ll also spend some time talking with Stephanie Allen, a licensed childcare provider, about how her Sixpence Child Care Partnership (Sixpence CCP) has helped her to thrive as she sows the seeds for healthy development for her young attendees.  

Sixpence CCP creates quality for providers like Stephanie Allen, and the toddlers and infants in her care (pictured above).
Sixpence CCP creates quality for providers like Stephanie Allen, and the toddlers and infants in her care (pictured above).

These metaphors are not accidental. Like a tree, the importance of a child’s first three years is rooted within research. Quality early childhood programs, moreover, are related to later successes in children’s lives.  

During these early developmental years, the relationships that children form with caregivers and friends will pave the way for their future.

Sixpence CCP, one of our early childhood programs, supports vulnerable infants and toddlers so they can lead a successful life. Sixpence utilizes Federal Child Care Development Funds to promote high-quality early childhood development and education.   

A child's first few years are important to their future success. Just ask Stephanie Allen, the director of  The Teaching Tree, and her young attendees!
A child’s first few years are important to their future success. Just ask Stephanie Allen the director of The Teaching Tree, and her young attendees!

Back to Our Roots: How Did Sixpence Begin?  

Sixpence launched in 2006 when major state agencies and private philanthropy sectors came together to create a public and private endowment. This initiative’s goal was to deliver ongoing funding for school districts to oversee or team up with early care and education in-home or center-based programs.  

This partnership was not accidental. As when one waters a tiny sprout until it springs up and blossoms, this collaborative relationship was created to form high-quality early childhood initiatives geared toward our state’s most vulnerable children.  

A governor-appointed Board of Trustees represents the public and private sector’s interests. Through a competitive grant procedure, the Board awards the endowment’s investment earnings and appropriated state and federal funds to community-based early learning partnerships. We manage the grant process and enhance and help maximize these early programs’ and centers’ quality.  

Breaking into Bloom: How Did Sixpence CCP Continue to Grow 

Like a tree that’s strong and stable, Sixpence eventually sprouted limbs in the form of different initiatives. Created in 2015, Sixpence (CCP) is a collaborative effort between school districts and early childhood programs for infants and toddlers up to age 3.  

This initiative makes the most of federal Child Care Development Funds and seeks to enhance local early childhood programs’ quality.   

Sixpence CCP’s benefits include trainings, coaching, and financial support for childcare providers to progress in Step Up to Quality, Nebraska’s quality rating and improvement system which assists, leverages, and sustains high-quality care for providers and educators.  

Today, we caught up with Stephanie Allen, an early care provider in Grand Island, Nebraska and the director of The Teaching Tree, to hear all about how Sixpence CCP helped her and her program thrive and bloom.  

Stephanie Allen of Grand Island, Nebraska, is the director of The Teaching Tree childcare center.
Stephanie Allen of Grand Island, Nebraska, is the director of The Teaching Tree childcare center.

In what community is your Sixpence CCP program? Grand Island  

What Step (in Step Up to Quality) are you currently at? 1  

How has the Sixpence CCP program supported you?  

So many ways! Training for our teachers, classroom coaching, age-appropriate materials for the classrooms, as well as age-appropriate classroom furnishings. Not to mention my questions answered as a new Director/Owner. Our teachers all love when April comes to coach.  

Katie is lead teacher in The Teaching Tree Baby Birds room (6 weeks-12 months).
Katie is lead teacher in The Teaching Tree Baby Birds room (6 weeks-12 months). 
Andrea is lead teacher in the Chipmunk room (12-18 months).
Andrea is lead teacher in the Chipmunk room (12-18 months).
Shellea is lead teacher in the Fox room (3-year-old classroom).
Shellea is lead teacher in the Fox room (3-year-old classroom).

What do you like about the Sixpence CCP program? Everything! I love the training/coaching it offers for my teachers. It helps them become even better Early Childhood educators. It changed several staff’s mindsets that we are not daycare, we are an early childhood center. I love to see them run with the ideas and goals that they set with April. Some have even set goals in mind to help me as a new director.   

What are the benefits you have seen for your program? My center is beautifully furnished with safe, age-appropriate items, my staff is skilled for the age they work with, and that they look forward to setting new goals for their classrooms [and] for their students.   

Thanks to Stephanie's efforts and Sixpence CCP, the Teaching Tree is furnished with quality, age-appropriate items.
Thanks to Stephanie’s efforts and Sixpence CCP, the Teaching Tree is furnished with quality, age-appropriate items.

What are your key takeaways from your time with Sixpence CCP? That more programs should be a part of Sixpence CCP. It’s great to have such a huge support system for my staff in ways I cannot provide, as well as myself. I am forever grateful as a new center owner/director that I have been able to be a part of this program.   

Stephanie said, "More [early care and education] programs should be a part of Sixpence CCP."
Stephanie said, “More [early care and education] programs should be a part of Sixpence CCP.”

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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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