Childcare providers are a shining example of indispensable professionals. They care for our children so parents can work. They create stimulating, educational, and memorable learning experiences for children during the most critical times of their lives. And unfortunately, they are often overlooked, under-compensated, and left in the dark.
Nebraska Children and Families Foundation and partners like Auburn Sixpence help families thrive. Sixpence, one of our early childhood initiatives, aims to promote this mission, especially for children 0-3.
First, we’d like to give you some background on Sixpence. Sixpence Child Care Partnerships (CCP) leverages Federal Child Care Development Funds to create quality early childhood development and education.
Partnerships between Sixpence CCP, the public school system, local childcare centers and family childcare home providers, maximize Nebraska’s early programs’ quality. The proof is in the program’s offerings, along with the uplifting stories we hear daily surrounding local providers and programs.
Sixpence’s resources include training, coaching, and support for early childhood providers to partake in the Nebraska Department of Education’s (NDE) Step Up to Quality (SUTQ). This program supports early childhood directors and educators in creating and maintaining high-quality childcare.
Today, we asked Auburn Sixpence Program Coordinator Tyson Wessels and Sixpence CCP Coach Anne Bennett to fill us in on all the great work they’re doing to support Auburn, Nebraska’s childcare providers!
Auburn has worked carefully over the past several years to create lasting bonds with area childcare providers, regardless of whether they participate in the program. These efforts have paid off immensely, as evidenced by the incredible stories that the team shared.
Penny Gerking, the owner of Little Gerkin’s Childcare, has some particularly excellent news. Anne said that Penny’s background has contributed to her accomplishments.
“Penny does a lot of things!” said Anne. “She has a Special Education degree and was a teacher,” Anne said that Penny participated in one particularly transformative Sixpence CCP training session. What followed was a cause for celebration!
“She got her [Step Up to Quality] Step 5 rating – the first in our community!” said Anne.
This rating is no easy feat. SUTQ aims to support early childhood directors and educators to create and maintain high-quality childcare. All the while, the participants make their way up the steps with Step 5 being the highest level.
Still, Anne and Tyson shine a light on many other local providers.
Fittingly, Tyson said that Auburn Sixpence Child Care Partnerships is doing a provider spotlight for all program participants in the county.
“We came up with ten questions. ‘Why do you do what you do? What are your gaps and barriers? What do you want the community to know?’ We want the community to know them as people. We will spotlight Penny, too,” he said.
Anne said that Penny has become an advocate for Sixpence CCP.
“She’s in every group there is! She’s getting her Early Childhood degree from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. There is nothing she hasn’t done!”
Best of all, Anne said that Penny emerged from some dark times filled with plenty of light.
“She came through COVID as a much stronger provider,” said Anne.
Meanwhile, Anne shared that Stacey Cook, the owner of Milk and Cookies childcare, has shown gratitude and growth as a Sixpence CCP participant.
“She does such a good job. When she needs extra support, [what helps is having] an adult who talks to her.”
Anne said that forming bonds with providers is her priority, as sometimes, they’re understandably skeptical of the program.
“I visited and got to know her,” said Anne. “Now, she tells us all the time, ‘This is too good to be true.’ This morning, she said, ‘When I first met you, and you began talking about [Sixpence CCP], I keep asking myself, ‘Why didn’t I do this sooner?’ In the first month, she’s bought in!” said Anne.
Anne said that although sometimes providers can feel vulnerable when the coach visits, she can quickly reassure them.
“We [help]! We say, ‘Don’t worry, we’re going to make you the best provider possible.’” said Anne.
Meanwhile, Anne said that another provider, Julie Clark, obtained her Step 4 status in the first year of undertaking SUTQ.
“She took 50-plus hours of training a year!” said Anne. “She has an Early Childhood degree; she implements everything from the trainings,” she said.
Anne said that Julie is an emblem of shining strength.
“[Julie] has a lot of [things going on]; she is such a strong person. With all the challenges, she makes her childcare a priority,” said Anne. “Kids make her feel better; she takes excellent care. Her [childcare business] went from just her living room to two bedrooms! She implemented a visual schedule just one week after I suggested that!” said Anne.
Tyson said the real challenge is a good one to have. Since so many of Auburn’s providers continue to dazzle the families they serve, picking one accomplishment is impossible.
“It would not be hard for us to find success in everyone,” said Tyson. “The things we’re most proud of include the SUTQ work. It’s exciting to see their hard work.”
Tyson said he’s pretty straightforward in showing providers Sixpence CCP’s benefits.
“I generally explain Sixpence CCP as [concisely] as possible,” he said. “Overall, I explain Sixpence as a resource for communities to support families, young children, and the providers who care for them. [Sixpence CCP] can look like home visits, creating family goals for children, inside and outside the home, educational goals, training, professional development for providers to ensure kids are safe and engaged,” he said.
Anne said many Sixpence CCP participants are obtaining their Child Development Associate (CDA) credentials.
“We support that [endeavor] and pay them for their time. They’ve all gotten scholarships. Anne said that Julie earned her degree through a T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® NEBRASKA scholarship.
Tyson said, “With the T.E.A.C.H scholarship, we brought someone to talk about it and do a presentation. Now, we keep [encouraging] that [award] as an option. We talked recently about having someone do another presentation.”
Tyson said he’s glad that Sixpence CCP funds support their CDA pursuits and pay providers for their study time. Once again, the enrollees achieved great things.
“One of the providers is a director; one’s a lead teacher,” he said.
Anne said, “We have one provider graduating from high school and will need support. It’s a way for her to get a degree and get credentials. I am excited!” she said.
Tyson said Sixpence CCP works with Anne Meeker, who leads the SING.PLAY.LOVE.® program. The workshop teaches how implementing music in early childhood programs enhances kindergarten readiness.
“We’ve been working with her for several years. She did trainings for providers, and they loved it. She came back and did coaching throughout this year,” he said. “We’ve found some unique ways to engage providers. Our work to connect communities to the program is the thing we are most proud of,” said Tyson.
Nebraska Children wholeheartedly agrees.
We’re glad to show you how, thanks to your support, we continue to work with partners like Auburn Sixpence, all the while supporting our most essential professionals and their families.
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