Getting to Know Ms. Stephanie

Getting to Know… is part of our new weekly Teacher and Staff Spotlight series. Each week we will shine the spotlight on one of our classroom teachers, allowing them to share some of their stories, their interests and their favorites. 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. Stephanie!

Ms. Stephanie is a well-known figure in our halls! She’s been part of the Morning Star family for four years and, as of this year, she is the Red Star Master team leader.

Ms. Stephanie has always called Omaha home – in fact, her parents still live in the house they moved into six months before she was born! As one of two children, her very favorite childhood memories revolve around Thanksgiving with the family, always a 4-5-day event. She says there are too many beautiful memories to pick just one but her Grandma’s special cookies always stand out. She remembers how her grandma would make hundreds of cookies for the holiday, hide a stash for the grandkids and then let Ms. Stephanie, her sister and her cousins sneak them without their parents knowing. Even though her grandma has since passed, Ms. Stephanie carries on the tradition every holiday, sneaking treats away and giving them to all of her cousins’ kids without their parents knowing.

Growing up, Ms. Stephanie’s aspirations did not wane. In 3rd grade, she did a school project and said she wanted to be a lawyer so she could get paid to argue with people; her teacher made her change the reason. Later, she went through a phase where she wanted to be an archeologist (dinosaur week is her favorite preschool theme) and then later, after she saw the movie Twister, she wanted to chase tornados for a living! When asked today what she’d be if she could be anything, she says she’d be a writer or a bookstore owner. Or Batman.

Today, Ms. Stephanie loves books and baking from scratch; she says it’s especially fulfilling to put love into creating something you can then share with others. 

Stephanie received both her Bachelors and Masters degrees in Social Work from University of Nebraska – Omaha. At the beginning of her social work career, she volunteered at an ESL class for Sudanese refugee women. For her it was such an impactful and rewarding experience – no other job ever made her feel as challenged or as whole as she did during that time. She decided to pursue education. What better way to change the world than to be a teacher? And so today, Ms. Stephanie is in the midst of finishing a degree in Early Childhood Education through the TEACH program at Metro. TEACH is a program in which Morning Star Preschool and Child Care sponsors an employee, partially pays for their education and books and gives them four hours a week to study.

Stephanie has been such a great addition to Morning Star and an invaluable asset to our students. Stephanie says being at Morning Star has been equally as great for her. She loves that she’s given freedom to be creative and surrounded by creative people, she loves the amount of fridge art that comes home from work with her and the amount of jokes her former Orange Star class taught her. And, like all of us, she loves pajama days. Pajama days are the greatest.

She has two favorite memories from her time here at Morning Star:

“I sometimes like to play games during transitions, especially as we walk past the office. My first summer at Morningstar, we were playing a transition game where the kids were pretending they were knights sneaking past dragons that lived in the office. Susan happened to be standing in the office door as we were walking past and I was saying, “We have to be quiet so the dragons won’t know we’re here!” Susan paused for a second, then began to flap her arms like a flying dragon, and started saying, “I’m a big dragon, and I’m looking for kids!” That class spent the rest of the summer asking me if we could play dragons if Susan was in the office.

On a more serious note, after last year’s nativity, my sweet little friend that played our Angel met me in the hallway after the play and just ran at me to give me the biggest hug. It was a pretty wonderful to see him feel so proud of himself for his accomplishment (he had the speaking part, and delivered his line like a pro), and to get to see him take pride in that after how hard he practiced and knowing he felt how proud I was of him was a great moment. And his Mom snapped a photo of it, so I get to keep that memory forever.”

If she had to choose one life motto, she’d choose an excerpt from Baz Luhrmann’s Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen, “Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and in the end it’s only with yourself.” Ms. Stephanie loves her students and is always amazed by their persistence and determination, as well as their ability to look at everything with wonder and excitement. If she could give her students any advice, she says it would be to define their own journeys. She says, “There is no doubt in my mind that these kids can grow up to move mountains and shatter ceilings, and I would hate for the world or anyone in it to make them believe that they are anything less than extraordinary.

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

Our Focus on Empathy

Over the past few weeks we’ve really been pushing our staff to think more about empathy – what it is, how to identify it, how to express it and its value. Empathy, generally defined as the ability to sense other people’s emotions and imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling, is especially important within our line of work and field of service. But we believe it’s an important quality everyone should strive to, in the least, understand.

Regardless of how straight-forward it may seem, sometimes empathy can be tricky to grasp. So when one of our teachers brought Dr. Brené Brown’s RSA short on empathy to our attention, we knew we had to share.

The video beautifully explains the difference between empathy and sympathy, and when our teachers were done watching it so many of them warmly said, “I want to be the bear!

Don’t we all want to be the bear?!

 

 

Fit Kids at Morning Star

This week we kicked off the new Fit Kids program. Although cooking class has been part of Morning Star for the past 10 years – I am so excited to be taking this program to the next level by adding a weekly fitness class for your children!! This program is all about promoting healthy habits in a fun and exciting way – encouraging positive views of healthy movement and nutrition!

Monday’s Fit Kids: Play Hard class we will be using songs and games to teach your children that exercise is not only an important part of life but a FUN part of life!!

Thursday’s class, Fit Kids: Eat Smart, is a cooking class with a health-based curriculum. Each week will focus on important healthy lifestyle subjects as your children get to have a great time participating as “chefs” creating the recipe. This week’s lesson revolved around the kids still learning skills to become healthy chefs! They were presented with pictures of the USDA’s MyPlate – featuring the five food groups. We then played a game and tried a snack involving foods from all of the five groups! We talked about how the five food groups need to work together as a team. Your body needs you to eat food from each group daily to be as healthy as it can be!

This week your children brought a home the MyPlate coloring sheet. I asked them to share it with their family and to pay attention while they had dinner that evening to how many food groups they were eating from.

Each Thursday, Fit Kids: Eat Smart participants will be going home with something. Sometimes it will just be a worksheet we used at class -other times it may be a sample of what we made at class or what I call a “recipe starter”. This will be an ingredient we discussed  and then a copy of the recipe we used. I hope these take aways are an exciting way to share what we are working on in Fit Kids with all of you!!

Thanks for letting me help your kids become FIT KIDS!

Ms. Liz

 

To learn more about Ms. Liz and how Fit Kids came to be, click here!

A Few Notes on AmazonSmile

First, THANK YOU to everyone who has already chosen to support Morning Star and given back through AmazonSmile. As you know, every cent counts and to date, you’ve helped us raise $1.67!

We’ve been getting quite a few questions and comments about our AmazonSmile and our charity listing, so I wanted to follow up with a few notes to make shopping and donating a bit easier:

  1. Shopping on AmazonSmile is slightly different than shopping on Amazon.com as it is a different URL. To shop AmazonSmile, simply go to smile.amazon.com.
  2. We are listed as Morning Star Lutheran Church and Morning Star Preschool & Child Care Center. There are a lot of charities and we know we may be hard to find, so just note we are in conjunction with the church and we use an ampersand (&).
  3. If you aren’t having luck finding us in the list of organizations, you can always visit our homepage and click on the AmazonSmile banner. That will take you directly to AmazonSmile with us as your charity of choice.
  4. Every item available on Amazon.com is available on smile.amazon.com but not every item is eligible for a Smile donation. To know whether an items is eligible, look on the product’s details page to see if it is marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation”.

Again, thank you for your continued support and donations – we are SO lucky to have the best support system and family.

The Importance of Social and Emotional Learning

The National Education Association states, “Social readiness is as important as academic readiness. Being able to get along with other children, follow directions, take turns, and say “good-bye” to parents are skills that kindergarten teachers hope to see from incoming children.”
At Morning Star, we know the importance of developing social and emotional skills in children. Success in self-management skills gives a child the ability to complete a task or succeed in a new or challenging situation. As such, we work hard to incorporate the teaching of these skills into our lesson plans, but we don’t stop there.

We also work diligently with our staff in identifying and demonstrating social and emotional skills within their classrooms and throughout the day. This gives our teachers the confidence and knowledge to take advantage or “real world” situations and encourage the children to respond appropriately to the feelings of others, show concern for them and learn how to problem solve with other children through negotiation.

As social awareness skills are taught, a child increases their capacity to interact with others with respect for their ideas and behaviors. Beyond knowing their numbers or their letters, equipping our students with these skills gives them the ability to successfully navigate through some of life’s toughest challenges.

Kathy Widdershoven, Assistant Director and Preschool Program Coordinator; Kathy is a S.T.E.M. specialist with 24 years of experience as an educational provider in Early Childhood and has been with Morning Star since 1999. Kathy can be found bouncing between the office and our preschool classrooms working hands-on with our teachers, leading S.T.E.M lessons or problem-solving to make Morning Star the best it can be! 

 

Back to School!

Another new school year is upon us! We know all too well how stressful preparing for a new school year can be for our parents. There are new teachers, new routines, new developmental goals and an entirely new set of concerns. As we roll into the new year, we wanted to share some back-to-school tips and news to make the transition as easy as possible and the year run as smoothly as it can for both our staff and our parents.

Take advantage of back-to-school sales

This one might seem like a no-brainer but usually we don’t get our supply lists to our families in time for our parents to take advantage of those great back-to-school sales. This year, we changed that and emailed our classroom supply lists out with our 2017 handbooks. If you missed them, here’s what you’ll need for your child’s upcoming school year! Take advantage of those sales! Supplies can be dropped off in the office at anytime.

Orange Star Families, please bring:

  • Back Pack or Bag (with your child’s name inside)
  • 4 Boxes of Kleenex
  • 2 Packs of Crayola Washable Markers
  • 1 Box of Crayons – 24pk
  • 1 Pair of Blunt-Tip Scissors
  • 1 12-pk of No. 2 pencils
  • 2 Packages of Scotch Tape
  • 2 Boxes of Ziploc Sandwich Bags
  • 1 Roll of Paper Towels
  • 2 Boxes of Kid-Friendly Band-Aids
  • “AA” Batteries
  • 1 Durable “1” White Binder with See-Through Plastic front/back Cover 

Purple/Red Star Families, please bring:

  • Back Pack or Bag (with your child’s name inside)
  • 4 Boxes of Kleenex
  • 2 Packs of Crayola Washable Markers
  • 2 Bottles of Elmer’s Glue
  • 2 Packages of Small Glue Stick
  • 2 Boxes of Ziploc Gallon Bags
  • 1 Pop-Up Disinfecting Wipes
  • 2 Packages of Baby Wipes
  • 1 Package of Expo Dry-Erase Markers
  • “AAA” Batteries
  • 1 Durable “1” White Binder with See-through
  • Plastic front/back Cover 

Green Star Families, please bring:

  • 4 Boxes of Kleenex
  • 2 Boxes of Ziploc Gallon Bags
  • 2 Boxes of Kid Friendly Band-Aids
  • 2 Packages of Small Glue Sticks
  • 1 Box of Crayons – 24pk
  • 1 Pop-Up Disinfecting Wipes
  • Play-Doh
  • 1 Roll of Paper Towels
  • 1 Pack of Black Sharpie Markers
  • “AA” Batteries
  • 1 Durable “1” White Binder with See-Through Plastic front/back Cover 

Meet and greet your new teachers!

This year we are hosting two Meet the Teachers events, August 29th and August 30th 5pm – 6pm. On Tuesday the 29th, we encourage all white star, green caterpillar and red explorer families to join us in meeting and greeting their new teachers. On Wednesday the 30th, we encourage all of our blue star, green butterfly, purple star and red adventurer families to join us in meeting and greeting their new teachers. Both events will run as open houses, so families are welcome to come as they are able and go as they need. Our staff is looking forward to the new school year and we’re very excited about our new teaching groups, so come in and say hi!

Label EVERYTHING!

Every year we have a certain amount of issues and complications with children’s personal belongings getting misplaced, being mistakenly identified as someone else’s or things getting lost. We cannot stress enough how important and valuable labeling your children’s belongings is in the long run. Throughout the duration of a week or a couple of weeks or even a day, it’s extremely easy for items to be accidentally misplaced or accidentally taken in the shuffle. By labeling EVERYTHING you could spare your teachers, your child and yourself a headache and even possibly some heartache. They don’t need to be fancy, they just need to be durable and legible. If you’re looking for labels to buy, we always recommend Oliver’s Labels.

Let us take that off your hands!

Have you ever thought to yourself, I wish I had somewhere to donate these? Or I wonder if Morning Star could use this? If you have, look no further and ponder no longer – we will (probably) take it and our kids are interested in SO MANY THINGS! If you have old baby or toddler clothes you’re looking to give away, we’ll take them! If you recycle and have some empty paper towel rolls, scrap paper, plastic bags, egg cartons, old books in good condition, donate your time, reading, coffee filters, plastic cups, paper plates, fabric scraps, ribbon, sponges, paint brushes etc., we’ll probably take them! Keep us in mind. If you ever find yourself with an excess of something, feel free to ask if we can find a use for it – odds are we can come up with something!

Stop by and stay a while

In the hustle and bustle of preparing for the new year, it’s easy for us to forget that this is your school, too. If you have a special skill you’d like to share or time you’d like to “donate” (aka spend time with your child in the classroom – who doesn’t want to do that?!) or a few minutes to pop in and read to your child’s class, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do! We love when our parents get involved and spend time with us and it’s SO special for our students to share their day-to-day with you – the door is always open and our invite always stands. Talk to your child’s teacher any time you are interested in sharing your time!

Shop AmazonSmile and Support Morning Star

Morning Star Lutheran Church and Preschool & Child Care Center is now on AmazonSmile!

Over the past year, we’ve had a quite a few parents suggest we get listed as a non-profit on AmazonSmile. As you know or can probably tell, we’re not a necessarily the most tech-savvy group of individuals but we’re happy to announce we finally got it figured out!

For those of you who don’t know about AmazonSmile, AmazonSmile makes it super easy for you to support your favorite charitable organization every time you shop, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to your favorite charitable organization. There are hundreds of great and amazing organizations to choose from and now Morning Star is one of them.

To help, all you have to do is shop at smile.amazon.com, select Morning Star as your charity and we’ll receive a donation of .5% of your purchase from AmazonSmile.

If you’re ready to shop but need some more help, we’re here to help with an easy step-by-step.

  1. Type smile.amazon.com into your browser.
  2. If you’re not logged in, Amazon will prompt you to login in to your Amazon account.
  3. Once you’re logged in, you will a screen that looks identical to the Amazon homepage but right under the search bar you will see a callout “Supporting:” in bright orange, followed by an organization name. This where we’d like to see Morning Star Church and Preschool and Child Care Center.
  4. To change your charity, hover on the down arrow next to the charity name. A box will appear with a blurb on your current selected charity, your overall contribution and the total amount donated to date. You’ll want to locate and click on “change” next to the organization name at the top of the box.
  5. Clicking on Change will redirect you to a new screen. On this screen, scroll to the bottom until you see the option to pick your own organization, in the text box type inMorning Star Lutheran Church and Preschool & Child Care Center and click Search.
  6. On the next screen, you’ll be able to select us by clicking on the yellow Select button. Once you hit the Select button you will see your organization has changed and you’re ready to shop!

We’re so grateful for all of our families and the tremendous amount of support they all give us, thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

2017: Parent Partnerships and the “Digital Age”

As you’ve probably noticed with the roll out of this year’s handbook, annual forms and social resume, we’re making a concerted effort to meet our parents and families where they are, in the digital age.

In 2016, we started to put a lot of thought into “going digital” – where we’d like to be, our options to getting us there and what that might look like. We started last year by equipping our classrooms with Kindles. By doing so we gave our teachers the tools they needed to communicate with parents via email without having to spend time away from their classes. With the Kindles we were also able to replace our cameras we had been using for years. Using the Kindles to take pictures of our students and their class activities have allowed us to share more of the kids’ day-to-day as well as our teachers’ hard work with our parents and families. Since integrating the Kindles into our classrooms, we’ve posted photos weekly to our Facebook page and have noticed a substantial increase in parent and family engagement, which we love!

The partnerships and relationships we have with our parents are valuable to everyone involved and it’s important to us that we do everything we can to foster those relationships, to build that trust and grow that partnership. By going digital and meeting our families where they are, we’re hoping to offer more convenient ways for parents to get involved, remain involved and not only be abreast of what’s going on within our hallways here but be invested in it.

As a part of this goal, we’ve updated our website transforming it into a go-to resource for our parents, prospective parents and even our staff. Before this year, our website didn’t offer any valuable information for our current parents and didn’t really paint a full picture of our values or goals, let alone the magic that makes Morning Star so special. Now, as a current parent, when you go to our website, you can access Parent Resources which includes a calendar of our upcoming events, an area for you to submit ideas/feedback or questions, refer to FAQs or follow and interact with us on our new blog!

As a prospective parent, users can submit Tour Request Forms, read up on our curriculum, learn more about our mission, our goals and explore parent testimonials. We’ve even added a password-protected area for our staff to access their resources. Our new website reflects our goals for increased engagement and stronger parent partnerships and we hope you will take us up on our invitation to get more involved, ask more questions and be more open with any concerns you might have.

Our journey into the “new age” is just beginning and our list of goals and to-dos is never ending but we are optimistic that we’ll get there. We hope you’re as excited for this new chapter as we are.

In the meantime, feel free to reach out with any suggestions or ideas – we always love to hear from our parents!

The Impact of High Quality Child Care

Did you know students who participate in early learning programs are 29% more likely to graduate from high school? Did you know that only about 8% of Nebraska’s at-risk youth have access to high-quality early learning programs? These numbers tell an important story about the strong effects of quality child care and the dire need to increase access for a large population of our at-risk children.

Tonight WOWT did a story on Fight Crime: Invest in Kids an initiative aimed at finding solutions to help our kids steer away from crime.  The story was based on new findings from a recent study that found involvement in high quality early learning programs ultimately cuts down on crime. We urge everyone to get involved in any way you can whether it’s investing time or money. To learn more about the initiative or for more ideas on how you can help, visit the Fight Crime: Invest in Kids website.

To watch the video, visit WOWT here.