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Staying Connected During Uncertain Times

Wednesday, March 25, 2020  
Posted by: Lara Richardson
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At our Annual State Conference in January, we were thrilled to present awards to 5 outstanding individuals within the early childhood and afterschool fields whose positive impact is far reaching. We know how difficult these times are, and hope you find inspiration in these words from your colleagues.

Thank you for all you are doing to support children and their families during these uncertain times.

MnAEYC-MnSACA Emerging Leader Award

Recipient: Sheng Xiong, Assistant Site Supervisor, Robbinsdale Adventure Club

What does this award mean to you?

Receiving this award means a lot to me and it shows others how much I love what I do. It’s easy to view this position as just a job and these kids as just part of the job, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes into making the job enjoyable for everyone. So it’s nice to be recognized for the hard work and dedication in the field, and it’s definitely a motivating factor for me to further my leadership in school-age care.

What is one thing you are most grateful for in your afterschool career so far?

One thing I am most grateful for in my afterschool career is the chance to be creative in my job. As trained professionals, we plan enriching activities and educational curriculum for the children that enroll in our program. I get to be creative in creating things that the kids will enjoy learning. I am also grateful to have a job working with an amazing team that supports and encourages all that I do. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the people who have supported me through this whole process. I am grateful that this job will help open more doors for me in the future.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to those who are looking for some motivation or new ways to get involved in their profession?

My one piece of advice would be to have courage. You have worked so hard and have come so far to back out now. Don’t be afraid to do what you know is best and will better yourself in the long run. Change is scary, but when you are getting too comfortable, it’s time to change things up. Have the courage to change to become a better you.   

MnAEYC Distinguished Service Award

Recipient: Cindy Croft, Founder of the Center for Inclusive Child Care (CICC)

What does this award mean to you?

It was a great honor for me to receive this award, knowing that our field is full of dedicated and passionate professionals. I felt humbled to be honored by peers with whom I have worked side-by-side for many years. 

What is one thing you are most grateful for in your early childhood career?

It is hard to think of only one thing in a career as long and as fulfilling as mine has been (and still is). I have been very grateful for the opportunities I was given by mentors and leaders to step beyond what I thought I was capable of, to do more. I have always had people who supported me and taught me. None of us do any of this work alone; none of us achieve something only on our own; it is all done either with others or through the earlier work of someone else which we build on. I was lucky to have so many wonderful professionals around me for many years.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to those who are looking for some motivation or new ways to get involved in their profession?

I would tell people to look for someone to mentor them and look for opportunities to mentor someone else. Our field needs all of us, with the diverse skills and backgrounds we have, in order to make early childhood a robust profession. In giving back, we always get more. In my speech I said, “Walk long enough and we all trade places.” I believe we are always becoming, growing, giving. 

MnSACA Award of Excellence

Recipient: Monika Helmen, Manager, Anoka-Hennepin Adventures Plus

What does this award mean to you?

Receiving the Award of Excellence as I step into retirement has put a cherry on the top of a 45 year long, exciting, exhilarating, enriching and at times plain maddening career. I feel incredibly humbled and honored.

What is one thing you are most grateful for in your afterschool career?

I am most grateful for having had the opportunity to meet, work with and lead numerous highly-talented, committed, passionate and dedicated people. These are my unsung heroes – despite split shifts, low wages, and at times lack of recognition and respect, these teachers perform miracles with our children every day. Watching them work has been my fuel to work on improving and enhancing the experiences for our children, families and staff every day.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to those who are looking for some motivation or new ways to get involved in their profession?

As educators and caregivers, we know how to advocate for others, but don’t always feel comfortable advocating for ourselves. I challenge everyone to step up and step out of their comfort zone and find a new arena to make their voice be heard. If you work in a school district, get on a committee or advisory group in your building and make sure that school-age care and SAC staff are part of every discussion and consideration. Get involved in your professional organizations like MnSACA or MCEA and ensure their professional development offerings are relevant to you. Join their policy groups and make sure the policies are reflective of the needs of your children, families and peers.

MnAEYC Evelyn House Award

Recipient: Cory Woosley, Director of Workforce Development, Child Care Aware of MN

What does this award mean to you?

I am beyond humbled to be recognized by THREE people as someone who makes a difference in the lives of Early Childhood. For me it has always been one play day after another.

What is one thing you are most grateful for in your early childhood career so far?

Many things but teaching at the colleges where I have the opportunity to help others become involved in our profession and to pay my passion forward.

What is one piece of advice you would offer to those who are looking for some motivation or new ways to get involved in their profession?

You have to believe, you have to be patient, and you are the only one that can advocate for you.

MnSACA Yvonne Schneider Award

Recipient: Marty Elmquist, Site Supervisor, Robbinsdale Adventure Club

What does this award mean to you?

I am honored to be recognized by my fellow colleagues for the work I have done with the MnAEYC-MnSACA organization through my role on the State Conference Committee and the MAAP Accreditation Advisory Group. It shows me that the time and work I have given to these committees has not gone unnoticed. I am proud to be a part of the MnAEYC-MnSACA organization and commend all the collaboration and hard work of all the people behind the scenes that volunteer their time to make the MnAEYC-MnSACA conference and the MAAP accreditation process successful.

What is one thing you are most grateful for in your afterschool career so far?

The decision I made many years ago to not become a classroom teacher, but to become a Child Care Professional. The relationships that I have developed with the children, families and staff are much more meaningful than I think they would have been if I were in a classroom. I am grateful for all my staff that work with me at Zachary Lane and my fellow supervisors. I truly enjoy working with them all. I am also grateful to all 4 directors that we have had as leaders of our program. I have learned from them all and continue to learn every day. 

What is one piece of advice you would offer to those who are looking for some motivation or new ways to get involved in their profession?

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him…We need not wait to see what others do.” ~Mahatma Gandhi

If you want to see change in the child care profession for the benefit of all children, be part of it. Join a MnAEYC-MnSACA committee, become a board member, join policy and advocacy, the state conference committee, professional development, etc. Sitting on the sideline isn't going to help make things change.


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