The Scientific Cause of Sudden Toddler Meltdowns

We’ve all been caught up in the ever-changing whirlwind of our toddler’s emotions. Meltdowns can happen over the smallest – and strangest – things. It can be difficult to know what’s happening in their little, rapidly evolving brains but Elizabeth Preston’s article, The Scientific Cause of Sudden Toddler Meltdowns does a wonderful job explaining the three-year old meltdown.

She writes, “As much as it may feel like your toddler is the world’s least rational human, there are scientific reasons for this unpredictability. Understanding what’s going on in your kid’s head can help you teach them to handle their feelings—or, at the very least, keep you from ending up crying on the floor yourself.”

Scientific reasons? We know, it can be hard believe there’s much science behind a child crying and screaming hysterically over being handed a sippy cup of the wrong color. But there is and understanding what that reasoning is, can be beneficial to parents in those helpless moments.

” Kids are born with different temperaments—some are highly reactive, while others are more mellow and can go with the flow. No matter where your child falls on the meltdown meter, there are ways you can deal with overwhelming emotions.”

If you have a three-year old at home who’s hot and cold behavior baffles you or even a soon-to-be three year old with a flourishing personality, or simply an interest in learning more about child development we recommend reading the full article here.

Getting to Know Ms. Marilyn

Getting to Know… is part of our new Teacher and Staff Spotlight series. Each week we will shine the spotlight one of our classroom teachers, allowing them to share some of their stories, their interests and their favorites with us. We hope our teacher spotlights will help our Morning Star parents and families further engage with our teachers, as well as give them a more personal idea of who is teaching and caring for their children during their days with us. This week we are getting to know Ms. Marilyn!

For the last 13 years, Ms. Marilyn has been teaching and nurturing our littlest students as well leading by strong example what it really means to be a teacher and a caregiver. As the Infant Program Coordinator for all children age birth through 20 months, Ms. Marilyn creates weekly lesson plans that meet the Nebraska department of education early learning guidelines.

She understands the importance of brain growth during these important formative first months of a baby’s life and is an active champion for baby sign language, inspiring her team of nine teachers to give all of our babies 110%. Around here, she is known as the baby whisperer, guiding parents through Getting to Know You meetings and the important (and often difficult for parents) transition from mama’s arms to caregiver.

She was one of the first certified, state of Nebraska Safe with You instructors, a 6-hour mandatory state regulation class that is required by all licensed child care centers. And this year, Marilyn has also taken on the important role of staffing, making sure everyday there are consistent and caring teachers placed in our classrooms. This means, Marilyn has added excel to her list of accomplishments!

What would we do without her?!

Ms. Marilyn, proud to call herself an “air force brat”, spent her early childhood moving to a new city or town about every 18 months. When she was in 7th grade, her and her family settled in Carroll, IA for good. As a young girl, Marilyn looked forward to “Sunday Night Wrestling” when she’d grapple with her dad and her brothers. She dreamed of being a teacher or an administrative assistant/secretary and later went on to receive her AA in Early Childhood Education from Des Moines Community College (DMACC)

Having been with Morning Star for so long, it’s hard for Ms. Marilyn to pick just one or two memories to call her favorite. We can’t blame her, she must have hundreds she’d like to share! When asked why she chose to teach, the answer was simple: “It is what I am!” And when asked what it is about Morning Star that’s kept her around so long, her answer is familiar but one we never tire of and can’t stress enough. “Sounds cliche but the families are great to interact with; they’re alway so supportive.”

Her advice for our students and her life motto go hand in hand. She urges our children to be how they are while living by a simple and sound motto: I am who I am, don’t try to change me. And though she’s been teaching here for 13 years, she too has learned a couple lessons along the way. A good general lesson she’s learned is that just because someone does something differently, doesn’t mean they’re doing something wrong. The more personal lesson she learned made us chuckle. “Never thought I was a ‘baby person’ until I started at Morning Star and discovered I was!”

If she could be anything, Ms. Marilyn says she would be organized, “like I used to be…I lost that when my kids moved out.” In her free time outside of work, you can find Marilyn spending time with her grandkids, trying new crafts and failing at knitting and crocheting.

We are incredibly lucky and so happy to truly call Ms. Marilyn family.

Getting to Know Ms. Dawn

Getting to Know… is part of our new Teacher and Staff Spotlight series. Each week we will shine the spotlight one of our classroom teachers, allowing them to share some of their stories, their interests and their favorites with us. We hope our teacher spotlights will help our Morning Star parents and families further engage with our teachers, as well as give them a more personal idea of who is teaching and caring for their children during their days with us. This week we are getting to know Ms. Dawn!

Ms. Dawn has welcomed our students and parents with a smiling face for the last four and half years. As Morning Star’s Office Manager and Administrative Assistant Ms. Dawn is a big part of the glue that keeps our center running, from handling billing and enrollments to training staff and organizing our popular Kids Escape event and even caring for all of our beautiful fish, she is our jack of all trades. And fun fact: Ms. Dawn used to teach Spanish for us and her daughter, Abigail, is a Morning Star Alum.

Ms. Dawn is an Omaha native who grew up calling South Omaha home. Her favorite childhood memories recall afternoons at her grandmother’s house, watching Knot’s Landing and Dynasty while drinking Tang along with trips to the Henry Doorly Zoo, the Aksarben Aquarium, Elephant Hills and the pumpkin patch with her mom and siblings.

Growing up, Ms. Dawn dreamed of becoming a teacher. She went on to graduate from the Omaha College of Health Careers as a Psych Tech and later attended Bellevue University to attain a Bachelor’s in Health and Human Sciences Management. Currently, Ms. Dawn is working to get her Child Development Associate (CDA) credentialing and is looking forward to completing that in April.

When asked why she chooses to do what she does, it’s evident how much passion Ms. Dawn has for education and our students. “I love knowing what we teach the kids at this age will make a difference in their life, and start them down the path to success.” When asked what she loves most about working at Morning Star, Ms. Dawn credits our families and staff. “I love our families and kiddos. They truly are the BEST.  They are very kind and caring; once you talk to them, you can just tell they appreciate us and what we do. As for my coworkers, they really are more like extended family. A lot of them were even at my wedding!”

As both a staff member and parent, Dawn’s favorite Morning Star memory is a special one. “When I first started, my daughter Abigail was placed in the Red Star Bears with Mr. Brian and Ms. Hilary. One day at home she began playing school with her babies, it was nap time and she covered them up, began rubbing their backs and was so compassionate toward them. I asked where she had seen or heard the things she was doing and she said her teachers do it to her. I loved it and knew I was in the right place because beforehand she had been really mean to her babies at naptime. I am so glad I switched jobs and preschools for her!”

While working at Morning Star, Dawn says she’s learned to always strive to b someone’s marigold! She admires our students’ honesty and sincerity. “They are constantly showing you that they do care about you as much as you do care about them.” And if she could give them one piece of advice it would be to always believe in yourself and know you CAN do hard things!”

Outside of Morning Star, you can find Ms. Dawn studying, attending trainings and doing homework for her CDA or enjoying family time with her husband and kids.

We’re so proud of all of Dawn’s hard work and incredibly lucky she landed at Morning Star four and half years ago.

Getting to Know Ms. Kathy

Getting to Know… is part of our new Teacher and Staff Spotlight series. Each week we will shine the spotlight one of our classroom teachers, allowing them to share some of their stories, their interests and their favorites with us. We hope our teacher spotlights will help our Morning Star parents and families further engage with our teachers, as well as give them a more personal idea of who is teaching and caring for their children during their days with us. This week we are getting to know Ms. Kathy G!

Ms. Kathy has been part of the Morning Star family for seven years working primarily with our younger students. This year, Kathy is our Green Star Butterflies Assistant teacher. Aren’t our Green Stars so lucky?

Ms. Kathy was born in Omaha but spent her early childhood growing up in Texas. Her early memories are laced with sunny summers in southern Texas, days spent playing on the beaches of Padre Island and visits to her Grandma’s Mexican restaurant. Today, she calls Texas – where her father and extended family still reside – her second home, visiting annually.

As a little girl Ms. Kathy dreamed of becoming a teacher on an Indian Reservation and while it’s not quite the same, we’re happy Kathy landed at Morning Star teaching our students. When asked what she loves most about working at Morning Star, Ms. Kathy praises the kids and families, as well as our program. “The whole program is so geared towards them both in such a positive way.” Being a teacher is ingrained in Ms. Kathy. “I love, LOVE the children. It is such a true joy to be with them.”

Her favorite Morning Star memory ranks up there with so many of ours. “Working with miss CiCi. She taught me a lot in every sense of the way. She made me a much better teacher and oh, the laughs!” We couldn’t agree more.

With our teacher spotlights, we always like to ask our teachers what they have learned while working at Morning Star. Ms. Kathy has learned it really does take a village. And when it comes to what she’s learned about herself she says, “I have great stamina! I have stamina because I don’t tire being with the children and I really enjoy what I do” adding, “I might never retire!”

As for what advice she’d give her students, Ms. Kathy would tell the students to strive to be happy. “Look for the good in all situations. Laugh at yourself. And remember, God loves you.” Her advice isn’t far from her life motto, “Smile – Pray – Roll (with it)”. “Whenever my husband and I are in a funky situation, we will look at each other, take an arm and making a waving motion. Roll with it.”

Outside of work, you can find Kathy tending to her flower gardens or riding co-captain with her husband, Chuck, on their Harley. Kathy and Chuck are members of Bikers for Christ (BFC) and Chuck is their chapter President.

We are so happy and lucky to have Ms. Kathy as part of our Morning Star family.

Getting to Know Ms. April

Getting to Know… is part of our new Teacher and Staff Spotlight series. Each week we will shine the spotlight one of our classroom teachers, allowing them to share some of their stories, their interests and their favorites with us. We hope our teacher spotlights will help our Morning Star parents and families further engage with our teachers, as well as give them a more personal idea of who is teaching and caring for their children during their days with us. This week we are getting to know Ms. April!

Ms. April has been in Morning Star family for almost one year but it feels like much longer! As our Toddler and Preschool Coordinator, Ms. April has the unique opportunity to be in touch with most of our parents on a weekly basis via emails, while working behind the scenes to assist our teachers with lesson planning.

As the Toddler and Preschool Coordinator Ms. April uses the Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines along with her knowledge of each teacher’s personality to design all Green Star, Purple Star, Red Star and Orange Star lesson plans. Each week, Ms. April meets with our lead teachers to plan and each day, she sets up all of our Green, Purple, Red and Orange Star classrooms with the children’s daily materials. She really is our teachers’ go-to person for every day needs and requests and our teachers who have nothing but great things to say about her addition to the Morning Star Family.

Ms. April is the fourth generation within her family to grow up in Bellevue, Nebraska. She is one of two children raised by a single mother and she’s still very close to her family. Growing up she loved taking family road trips and her favorite place to visit was the Black Hills. As a little girl, April dreamed of someday becoming President. Now, she can’t stand politics.

After high school, Ms. April received her Associate’s Degree in early childhood education from Metro and then attended Bellevue University. There, she earned her Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Program Management as well as a Bachelor’s in Behavioral Science. When asked why she chooses to teach, April says, “I love the moment when children finally get a concept. That light bulb moment.” That’s one of our favorites, too.

We’re so lucky to have Ms. April, not only because of the education and experience she brings but the love she brings to work. When asked what she loves about Morning star, she credits the children — as most of our teachers do. “The bright smiles from the kids.” And even though she hasn’t been with us long, she does have a favorite memory. “Experiencing my first preschool graduation. It was a proud moment.”

Ms. April says being at Morning Star has taught her to be more flexible. “There are lots of different personalities to juggle.” But when asked what she admires most in her students, she says they all have one thing in common. “Their willingness to explore new things.” If she could give our students any advice she’d tell them to have no regrets, to take risks in life. And if she had to pick one motto she lives by, it’d be one day at a time.

In her spare time, you can find April scrapbooking, reading, taking trips to the dog park with her three fur babies or binge watching Netflix. And outside of teaching, if she could do anything now, April would love to open an animal rescue just to play with dogs all day. That’s not a day dream we can argue with!

We’re so lucky to have Ms. April as part of our staff and we can’t wait to watch her grow!

Getting to Know Ms. Taylor

Getting to Know… is part of our new Teacher and Staff Spotlight series. Each week we will shine the spotlight one of our classroom teachers, allowing them to share some of their stories, their interests and their favorites with us. We hope our teacher spotlights will help our Morning Star parents and families further engage with our teachers, as well as give them a more personal idea of who is teaching and caring for their children during their days with us.

This week we are getting to know Ms. Taylor!

Ms. Taylor has been a friendly face in our hallways for the past four years. This school year, Taylor is excited to be leading the Red Star Adventurers!

Taylor is an Omaha native. She earned her high school diploma at Millard West and her bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Peru State College and we’re so happy she found her way into our classrooms. As an only child, Ms. Taylor spent her childhood wanting to be a veterinarian, spending her summers with her family at Lake of the Ozarks and playing card games at family gatherings (her favorite childhood memory). Growing up has really taught her how big of a role family plays and she’s so grateful to have had hers. And we’re so grateful she joined ours.

There are a lot of reasons to love Morning Star but when we asked what she loves about working here, Ms. Taylor said the kids and the activities make it fun. “I love that there are a lot of activities from waterplay, VBS, art and others that are brought in – like magicians. Waterplay is my favorite, when all of the kids and the teachers get wet and play together.” In teaching, we often learn our fair share of lessons as well. “I’ve learned children will be children by being silly, wanting to be praised at what they make but also wanting to be loved by hugs.” The kids have also taught her to be more carefree and patient — a lesson they’re very good at teaching.

Going beyond just Morning Star, we also asked Taylor why she chose to teach: “I want to help children grow and learn. Seeing the smiles on their faces when learning something new is great.” And if she could give the students one piece of advice to live by, she’d keep it simple: “Sharing is caring. It’s always nice to share.” But she’s not sure they’re the ones who need the advice, they have so many qualities to admire. “No matter what, they always get back up again.”

In her free time outside of Morning Star you can find Ms. Taylor traveling. She recently went to Italy and has trips to the Bahamas and Costa Rica on the docket. She also has plans to attend UNO for school psychology. When she’s staying local, she enjoys a fun card game, hanging out with her friends, catching up on her television shows and going shopping.

We’re so lucky to have Ms. Taylor as part of the Morning Star family and can’t wait to watch her grow!

Getting to Know Ms. Alex

Getting to Know… is part of our Teacher and Staff Spotlight series. Each week we will shine the spotlight one of our classroom teachers, allowing them to share some of their stories, their interests and their favorites with us. We hope our teacher spotlights will help our Morning Star parents and families further engage with our teachers, as well as give them a more personal idea of who is teaching and caring for their children during their days with us.

This week we are getting to know Mrs. Alex!

If you have a little in the Green Star room, this week’s teacher in the spotlight is a familiar, always-smiling face. Ms. Alex, previously one of our fabulous teachers in the Green Star caterpillars room, is now joining the Red Star room with Ms. Courtney. 

Ms. Alex is an Omaha native and like many people we know, her favorite childhood memory is baking with her Grandma, who also raised her to be the woman she is today. As a small child, Alex recalls wanting to be a teacher, a nurse and Scar from The Lion King. Boy are we happy teaching won out!

Alex will receive her Child Development Association license this year and then plans to finish up her associate’s degree. When asked why she chose to teach, she says, “Early childhood is very important to me. This is the foundation of every kid’s learning.” We couldn’t agree more. We’re so lucky to have her as part of the Morning Star family.

Ms. Alex’s favorite Morning Star memory was playing Star Wars with the Caterpillars and having epic play battles with the kids. If she could give her students any piece of advice to live by she would tell them “mistakes happen – it’s what you learn from them”. We’d like to think that’s a byproduct of a lesson Ms. Alex says she learned here at Morning Star, “to go with the flow”.

When she’s not studying or working, you can find Alex watching anime and kdramas, sewing or exploring cool places to eat. And at all times, she’s living by one motto: You don’t always get what you want but if you try sometimes, you get what you need. We didn’t ask if she’s a Rolling Stones fan but something tells us she might be.

We’re so happy to have Alex as part of our Morning Star family and can’t wait to watch her grow!

Getting to Know Ms. Cindy

Getting to Know… is part of our new Teacher and Staff Spotlight series. Each week we will shine the spotlight one of our classroom teachers, allowing them to share some of their stories, their interests and their favorites with us. We hope our teacher spotlights will help our Morning Star parents and families further engage with our teachers, as well as give them a more personal idea of who is teaching and caring for their children during their days with us.

This week we are getting to know Ms. Cindy as she says goodbye and heads into retirement.

Ms. Cindy, or as some call her, Ms. CiCi, is retiring this week.  Every child, every staff member’s life has been touched by this amazing woman. 

Cindy has blessed our hallways with her positivity, her bright smile and recognizable laughter for 12 years. Many of our current families know her as the Program Coordinator for the Green Star Caterpillars.  But, she has been a Blue Star, Red Star and Green Star teacher over the years.

Ms. Cindy is an Omaha native, growing up in the Holy Name area. When asked about her favorite childhood memory, it’s impossible to pick just one so she settles on the holidays – all of them. Her mom decorated for each and every one and her father was right there with her, they had a way of making every holiday special. This love of family has extended over to her love of the Morning Star families.  Growing up Cindy always loved babies, dancing and gymnastics and as you’ll learn, she was very blessed to have a life filled with all three.

Cindy began attending Holy Name when she was in first grade and remained there until graduation. Along the way she met her now husband, Marty, to whom she’s been married for 44 years! After graduation she went on to obtain her CDA in Education and then opened and owned her own dance studio for 25+ years. Later, after selling her business, CiCi nannied for her nieces and nephew (Mrs. Carmen, who was also part of the Morning Star family, Maria and Shane) and then, thankfully, joined our Morning Star family.

When asked why she chose to teach, she says, “It is so rewarding! I want children to know how to learn through play and love and be respectful to everyone.” And when asked ‘why morningstar?’, she adds, “I love that we can spread God’s word here. I have met so many wonderful people here and so many of my former dance students come each day with their children. I also get to see so many of my children’s friends now as parents. And most of all watching these infants grow and learn and become so loving as older children.”

Being part of our family for 12 years, Cindy has handfuls of memories she will cherish for a long time and too many to tell in one sitting but she specifically mentioned her early mornings with Marilyn and then told her funniest staff story. “The funniest staff memory was, we were open on Christmas Eve, but had minimal children and infants, so the staff did half-day shifts. Mine was the morning shift and I was in the Green Star room. Everyone came down to visit us, infants through school-age and staff, and my replacement was coming so we had all of the staff hide in the diaper changing room to make it look like I had 25+ children all by myself. Ms. Jessie, a former teacher, kept saying, ‘you can’t leave me like this. I can’t do this!’ I told her I couldn’t stay because I had company coming. Then finally the staff jumped out and yelled, ‘SURPRISE!’ Jessie was crying and laughing at the same time!”

She’s also learned a thing or two in her time with us. “This was the first job I have worked with co-workers since college. Before Morning Star, I owned my own business and then was a nanny, so I learned to work with people and understand many different personalities. It has been wonderful and I’ve made so many friends! … Ms. Susan has taught me that I can adapt to changes. It was very hard for me to move from one room to another. I also had trouble letting children do things for themselves, instead of me wanting to help them. Ironically, I think I may hold the record for moving the most time in twelve years!”

Ms. Cindy is to miss our students and she’s going to be missed sorely. When asked what she admires most in the children, she says, “I love their honesty, their independence, their energy and their quest for learning more and more!” If she could leave our students with one piece of advice, Cindy would tell them to always put God first and treat people the way you would like to be treated. The life motto she lives by is similar. “I thank God every morning for letting me be ‘alive and able’ – I want Him to know that I’m thankful for ALL of my blessings!”

In her 44 years of marriage, her and Marty have raised four children and been blessed with six grandchildren with one on the way. They have large families on both sides and are fortunate to have wonderful siblings and many nieces and nephews and greats. She plans to spend more time with her family during her retirement and doesn’t have any plans on slowing down. “I’m entering a new phase in my life because I will be retiring. I hope that I can always be a good wife, mother, grandmother, aunt and friend to as many people as possible. I also hope to do more volunteer work for people in need. … I’ve done a lot of ‘easy’ sewing in the past and I hope to get back to that hobby. I love to watch my sons play hockey or any hockey game, especially the Penguins, and I love to cook. And of course being with my grandchildren is my #1 favorite!”

Ms. Cici’s last day with Morning Star is tomorrow and while we are so sad we won’t get to see her giant smile every day, we are excited and so happy for her as she transitions into this next chapter of her life.

WE LOVE YOU, MS. CINDY!

Looking Ahead in 2018

We wrapped up 2017 in the best way possible, by becoming the first and ONLY child care center, infant through PreK, to qualify for a 5 rating by the Nebraska initiative Step Up to Quality. Where do you go when you’re a 5? Good question.

As we look ahead into 2018, the pressure is on but we have a lot of exciting plans and goals on the horizon. And we’re ready to embrace the challenge of being at the top.

This year, we will work to continue and improve upon the countless hours of hard work, additional training and attention to detail that went into obtaining a five. We will strive to maintain and build upon our close connections and relationships with our students, as well as aim to bring in more on-site learning experiences.

This year will also bring some wonderful building improvements from Morning Star Lutheran Church. We will be getting new windows, new electronic HV systems and a new roof! We are anxiously looking forward to these improvements since they  will without a doubt increase the quality and stability of our learning environment.

One of our goals in 2018 is to focus on the attributes that make Morning Star unique and determine how these could be stronger. One of those attributes is the fact that we design and create our own curriculum. Currently, our curriculum is individually designed for each classroom by our program coordinators (Marilyn, infants; Cindy, toddlers; April, PreSchool). As many of you know, our beloved Cindy will be retiring at the end of this month. As soon as she announced this last year we started looking for someone to carry the torch and later last year we hired April Mather.

Since April started with us she has been successfully designing and writing our curriculum. This month she began working with the Green Stars. She has a strong background with Westside Early Childhood and holds three different Early Childhood Degrees. April, while maybe not a familiar face yet, has been doing a great job and, as you may have noticed, been busy engaging with our parents via email. Communication is very important within our program. When it comes to teaching, recognizing individual interests, learning styles and effective methods of engagement are immensely important. It is now April’s job is to make sure we’re gauging these and implementing curriculum that successfully takes into account all three.

2018 is already underway and we’re excited to see where it takes us and our Morning Star families!

Getting to Know Ms. Susan

Getting to Know… is part of our new Teacher and Staff Spotlight series. Each week we will shine the spotlight one of our classroom teachers, allowing them to share some of their stories, their interests and their favorites with us. We hope our teacher spotlights will help our Morning Star parents and families further engage with our teachers, as well as give them a more personal idea of who is teaching and caring for their children during their days with us.

This week we are getting to know Ms. Susan!

Everyone knows Ms. Susan and everyone loves her.

Ms. Susan started at Morning Star in 2005 as a sub for her daughter, Liz. In 2012, she became the Green Star lead teacher alongside Ms. Kathy Widdershoven. Then in 2013, Susan was named the interim Director of Morning Star and eventually Director. And as they say, the rest is history!

Early childhood education runs in Ms. Susan’s blood as she is the daughter of the first person to open a licensed child care center in Bellevue, Nebraska in 1962. Times were different then and watching her mother enter the workforce and encourage other women to do the same, despite the opposing efforts of the Bellevue City Council, left a strong impression on Susan. As a little girl Susan says, “I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be everything.”

In her eyes, anything was possible. It shows in her educational journey as well as throughout the duration of her professional life. When it came to pursuing an education, Susan first obtained a BSA in Art as a painter followed by a Graphic Communications degree, and then later, an associate’s degree in Early Childhood and a master’s degree in Education with an emphasis in Early Childhood. When it came to pursuing a career, she’s built an impressive and eclectic resume.

By the time Susan had reached college, her mother was running three centers and Susan worked for her throughout high school and during college breaks and summer. After Susan’s first year of college, the FBI Director, J Edgar Hoover, died and the FBI began recruiting female agents. It was then that our very own Ms. Susan was selected to be part of the 2nd female agent class and moved to Washington D.C. to work the the beginning of the “Missing and Exploited” program. Susan resided in D.C. and worked for the bureau for three years, including during Watergate!

When Ms. Susan’s brother passed away she moved back to Omaha to help her mom with the centers. Susan was a teacher and a director until her mother retirement, when she became the executive Director for all three centers and remained as such until her second daughter was born. Even after resigning from her position as Executive Director, Susan remained on the board until the centers were sold in 1984 and continued working as a consultant with the DHHS writing State Regulations and advising other centers.

After this endeavor and throughout her journey of motherhood, Susan was a graphic designer for a catalog, the owner of a design company that created fabric items for special events (including a linen selected for a Martha Stewart wedding catalog and wedding!), an artist painting murals in Hawai’i and then a graphic design teacher at Metropolitan Community College, which eventually lead her back to early childhood education.

She started her life in the influence of a teacher, a leader and a Director and now with her tenure at Morning Star, her story comes full circle. When asking why she chose to teach, she says, “Because it is something I feel good about. I understand Child Care from so many levels – as a child of a child care teacher, as a teacher, as a parent and as a Director. It’s important to me that each child receive 100% of our love and care.”

These words ring especially true in relation to the efforts and initiatives she’s accomplished in her time here at Morning Star. In 2015, Susan’s proactive approach to life and her desire to make a lasting impact helped Morning Star become the first child care center to qualify for the Nebraska State Initiative, Step Up to Quality, two years ago. And this year, Morning Star became the first and ONLY childcare center, birth through preK, in Nebraska to qualify for a five, the highest rating an early childhood program can obtain.

In 2017, her knowledge and experience gave Susan the ability to lobby on behalf of her teachers and staff when she was asked to testify at a Senate hearing in Lincoln, representing Child Care Centers’ needs for a QRS (Quality Ratings System) and incentives for quality programs and staff. Thanks to her testimony, tax incentives for qualifying staff was included in the state budget. Susan said, “a consistent, quality staff is essential to an effective early childhood program.” Adding, Our teachers are the best, they motivate me daily.”

When asked what she loves most about Morning Star, she says,  “The people, the love and especially the hugs. … when former students come back to visit, or even send a Christmas Card.  It validates the significance that we played in a child’s life.”

If she could give all of her kids one piece of advice, she says “be happy and believe in yourself.”  And when asked what
she’d be if she could be anything, her answer reiterates that advice. “If I could be anything, I’d be me. I’m content being me.  It’s taken me a long time to establish my personal contentment.” Be happy, believe in yourself and be happy with yourself.

In her free time, you can find Ms. Susan painting and spending time with her three daughters and four grandchildren. We are so lucky to have such a creative and versatile director and we’re so excited to see what we can accomplish in 2018 with her continued leadership!