Nebraska educators stride to improve early childhood education

Local4 News at 5
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 9:51 PM CDT
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KEARNEY, Neb. (KSNB) - Educators gathered at Younes Conference Center to discuss how they can become better caregivers. The Thriving Children, Families, and Communities Conference was once again in person, after two years of COVID-19 restrictions forced them to hold the conference virtually. The state-wide meeting featured early education leaders discussing how they can improve “quality” early childhood education; with one their focuses being inclusion.

“We run about 14%, Spanish speaking kids in Adams County,” said Wendy Gwennap, Early Childhood Community Coordinator for Adams County. “And for a long time there hasn’t been any child care providers that are bridging that gap between English to Spanish for them, so that family members that speak Spanish have a place to take their kids to.”

At the conference educators shared ideas and strategies to help make schooling a better experience for younger kids.

“I think it’s more of the importance of what the education looks like. I think what I took this mourning was like we’re brain builders,” said Kristine Van Hoosen, Director of State Creek Child Development in Wood River. “We’re shaping the brains at most impactful time and figuring out how we can convey that message back to the community as well.”

The type of problems the early childhood education industry faces is unlike any other and one that is hard to strategize for.

“We are lacking in about 250 quality spots for children, and so it’s really important that we continue to educate our community and that we help other around us to understand how important it is,” Gwennap said. “It’s not just an early childhood problem, it’s a workforce issue as well.”

Families having access to consistent and reliable child care impact local workers and there is one major barrier that is throne in the industry’s side.

“It’s taking a background check,” Gwennap said. “Every early childhood employee is required to have a background check. That background check right now has a delay of between 21 to 30 days getting back. That is a huge barrier for our community.”

The wait process has lead to qualified applicants taking jobs in retail because the wages are better and background checks don’t take as long. Although the pipeline to more employees is a gradual process, those at the conference walked out feeling good about the future.

“The impact is so great,” Van Hoosen said. “This conference makes up feel like we can go back to our communities and we can implement change. We can take our networking we made over the weekend or over the week and implement these kinds of things. Looking at other storyboards and talking to other people. This conference means change. This conference means that this industry is important.”