‘I am quality’: New campaign aims to inspire Nebraska’s early childhood educators

Step Up to Quality Coach Jo Smith says the campaign is about providers identifying where their quality is.
New building for early child care also helps educators grow.
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 3:59 PM CDT
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HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - It’s not just the new building that’s getting attention at Beginnings Early Development Center in Hastings.

Beginnings is part of the Step Up to Quality program and is participating in its latest campaign: displaying the word quality with a missing ‘I’.

“They’re the ones that are supposed to be able to stand behind that sign and be part of that quality and say ‘I am quality because I play with my children, I let my kids have child led activities, I’m a good teacher, I’m a good director,’” Smith said.

Step Up to Quality Coach Jo Smith says the campaign is about providers identifying where their quality is.

Kristi Oliver is the evening supervisor at Beginnings. She’s taken the message to heart.

“That means taking care of myself so that I can take care of the kids the best,” Oliver said. “Part of that is my education, furthering all of my trainings.”

Step Up to Quality is operated by Nebraska’s Departments of Education and Health and Human Services. Coaches like Smith are available to participating providers at no cost.

She’s been especially helpful since Beginnings moved to a bigger building three months ago. The center aims to triple its enrollment, which means adding lots of new teachers.

“Jo’s been here to come alongside them and say, ‘hey, how do we get you into classes? How do I get you into trainings to meet those goals?’ And to show them in the classroom exactly what’s expected,” Oliver said.

Smith says improved early childhood education could lead to fewer dropouts, less juvenile crime and even less abuse in adulthood. Much of the social and emotional side of brain development happens in early childhood.

“This all boils down to what we can do to what we can do to offer the best quality for these kids so they can grow up to be the best quality adults,” Smith said.

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