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!