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!