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For the Love of Movement

“I am very proud of my teachers. Being active has become a way of life in the classroom.”

– Liz Snyder, Director
Mary Linsmeier Schools, Milwaukee

When Liz Snyder became the Director of Mary Linsmeier Schools in Milwaukee, they were halfway into their participation in Active Early 2.0. Liz admits she was initially concerned about the additional equipment and time needed to continue incorporating Active Early 2.0 requirements into her program. But she was determined, with her teachers, to make it happen.

Guided by her Technical Consultant, Karen Narlow, and SFTA Early Childhood Program Specialist Abbe Braun, Liz worked with her staff to “revamp” the way they used their classroom and transition times to make them more active. With the $5,000 Active Early 2.0 grant they received the program purchased tools, materials, and equipment to make staying active more fun.

“Children love the movement areas,” emphasizes Liz, “They are some of our most popular spaces.”

They have yoga mats and posters illustrating poses children can try, multi-colored “stepping stones” for children to move, sort, and jump along, and a kid-sized bean bag toss. But staff goes beyond providing these tools for children to keep moving. Staff are now an active part of—well, staying active!

“I have seen a change in my teachers,” says Liz “They are more involved in being up and moving with the kiddos. They are being excellent role models.”

One of the program’s quality improvement goals for family engagement focused on a Halloween Health Fair Costume Party. Children and their families were invited for a healthy candy-alternative celebration of Halloween. Children “trick-or-treated” to each classroom to brush a giant set of teeth and win a toothbrush and toothpaste, complete an obstacle course, or learn to make hummus and homemade tortilla chips. Each activity promoted a healthy, active lifestyle.

“It was a great opportunity to show the parents how Active Early works,” says Liz. “And we had great participation with over 20 families that came.”

While earning her Early Childhood Administrator Credential, Liz even created a website about her program’s implementation of Active Early 2.0 and the Health Fair, for parents to explore. Liz plans to make the Health Fair an annual event as a way to sustain their efforts to stay active.

“We want to continue being good role models,” says Liz. “And it’s fun!”

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AE_Mary Linsmeier Schools (3)

 Funding for Active Early 2.0 was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

Why Being Active Early Matters

Establishing healthy habits at an early age is key to promoting life-long health. Movement benefits children’s:

  • Brain development
  • Vision and hearing
  • Muscle coordination

Activity benefits everyone. Children who are regularly active:

  • Have less behavioral problems
  • Sleep better at night
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Are more alert and ready to learn
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Early child care providers can improve child health and wellness by establishing policies for the expert recommended 120 minutes of physical activity each day. The Active Early guide gives providers concrete strategies to get kids active.

Learning the Work and Play of Child Care

“We tailor everything to the individual child. This philosophy is what we are governed by.”

– Jerry Klauck, Director
Children’s House Montessori School, Eau Claire

Jumping In

Jerry Klauck entered the child care field four years ago at Children’s House Montessori School with a strong business background and the will to succeed; but with no previous child care experience. “When I came on I had never heard of YoungStar to be honest with you,” said Jerry. “But it was a great learning experience.” In Jerry’s second year with Children’s House, they  started strong in YoungStar with a 3 Star rating. By their last review they had worked their way to a 5 Star rating. Jerry said that even as someone with a business background, entering the business of early childhood was somewhat unfamiliar. While he did have a previous understanding of the operational and financial side of how a business should function,  he pointed out that typically in a business, “you are just satisfying the customer and the tax person.” In child care, explained Jerry, there are a lot more people involved. There is licensing, YoungStar, The Registry, and many others to satisfy when you are working with young children. Overall, in child care you are held accountable for a lot more than in your typical business.

Beginning Challenges and Advantages

As a Montessori program, which entails a specific approach to programming and environment, there were some “initial advantages” said Jerry, “but also some initial challenges.” For instance, as a Montessori school they consider their program a single classroom of students who are of mixed ages, primarily from 2 to 5, which makes it more difficult to define and structure curriculum, environment, and similar things within YoungStar guidelines. However, the Montessori approach to meeting every child where they are at developmentally, emotionally, culturally, and otherwise, is very much in line with the individualized approach that YoungStar emphasizes. “We tailor everything to the individual child,” said Jerry. “This philosophy is what we are governed by.”

Steady Climb

As Children’s House Montessori School started out with YoungStar, one of the main things they focused on was updating business practices and policies that, according to Jerry, were “antiquated.” That meant getting important structural elements of the business standardized and into writing, such as program policies, rules, and staff guidelines. This included upping their pay scale to better meet the needs of staff, instituting PTO, and implementing staff evaluations as “a means for staff to look at themselves and create goals based on what they believed needed to be improved.” Jerry said that since starting YoungStar and making these changes, the program has seen a steady improvement over the years. They have met YoungStar requirements head on, and now more than half of the staff is certified in Montessori as well.   “You have heard the expression, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’” said Jerry. “Our approach [to child care] is, we want to be part of your village.”

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Read the Children's House Montessori's YoungStar Success Story!

A Leap of Faith Academy into YoungStar

“Our children, families, staff, administration, our business, and our community are all benefiting because of the process of YoungStar.”

– Jennifer Finch, Administrative Director
Faith Academy, Franklin

Jumping in from Day One

Jennifer Finch’s first day at the child care program Faith Academy, in March of 2012, happened to include a YoungStar visit. Jennifer met with her Technical Consultant Tracie Jarentowski that day, who walked her through everything that needed to happen for Faith Academy to grow through YoungStar, and for Jennifer to be knowledgeable enough to support that growth. “Tracie has a knack for coming into a center and getting to know you and your center at a personal level,” said Jennifer. From that point Jennifer could  start to evaluate what the next steps were for her and her staff to start their journey through the YoungStar rating scale, while Tracie provided the tools and resources to make that climb. Jennifer began by focusing on updating the program’s classroom curriculum in the most effective and cost efficient way. From there, she and her staff moved into other areas that needed improvement. Since that first visit, Jennifer said, Faith Academy “has grown leaps and bounds in all areas specific to the YoungStar rating system.”

Observe, Evaluate, Plan

This year, going strong with a 3 Star rating, Faith Academy is focusing on training and practice surrounding effective observations of the children in their care and using those observations to implement individual goal setting and activity planning for each child. Jennifer said her goal is to get every staff member to build their confidence as early educators, and to develop a strong sense of certainty and professionalism in what they do. She would like to see every one of her providers at the point where, “they are just able to look at a child in their care and tell you where that child is developmentally, and talk to that child’s family about their development.” To further encourage parent engagement in their children’s educational experience, Faith Academy hosts parent events throughout the year, such as a tea party during the Week of the Young Child, or having parents chaperone on field trips. Overall Faith Academy “feels more like a family than anything,” said Jennifer.

The Family that Plays Together…

Jennifer and her staff continue to access  the training and education opportunities offered through YoungStar, attending trainings like the Pyramid Model and the Wisconsin Model Learning Standards, and working towards their Infant and Toddler credentials. Bolstered by the knowledge they have gained, Faith Academy staff are applying it in practice by building portfolios  to help set and reinforce those individual goals for the children in their care, as a way to better support their development . “I want everyone to know that the YoungStar process has been a great help to some who might not know what those next steps in program improvement may be,” said Jennifer. “We are thankful every day for Tracie and for what YoungStar has given us.”

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Faith Academy

Creative Child

“I personally take a lot of pride in what we have accomplished…I actually made laminated stars when we got our 3 Star rating and took a group picture.”

– Nancy Volden, Director
Creative Child, Onlaska

Making a Difference

Creative Child child care program is in its third year since Director Nancy Volden first started it, and has a Star for each year. “We just got 3 Stars,” said Nancy. “Working with my Technical Consultant Nancy Meyers has been great. She has helped me every step of the way.” Creative Child is at full capacity with 40 children enrolled, ranging from 6 weeks old to 6 years old. With the support of a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship, Nancy is currently working towards her Associate’s Degree in early childhood and working alongside her staff on perfecting their program environments, and taking advantage of the training and education benefits of YoungStar. “What I am working on is to get teachers to the point where they feel that what they are doing makes a difference in the classroom,” said Nancy, “that they are not just quote unquote, ‘baby-sitters.’” Instead, said Nancy, she tries to impart to her staff the impact they have on the physical and emotional development of the children in their care, such as when doing portfolios and assessments. Through assessment and observation Nancy and her staff found that one 2-year-old child in their program had sensory issues. They were able to pinpoint what was going on and get this child assessed by a pediatrician so that the child and family could get the support they needed.

Parent Engagement

Creative Child staff also makes an effort to involve parents in the program, hosting four annual program-wide parent events, including a Spring picnic, plus several  smaller events at a classroom level. There is a parent committee with both parents of children attending Creative Child and staff members. This committee meets on a regular basis to plan events, projects, and other issues surrounding the program. One project this committee worked on was through a program called “Terra Cycle”  a company that donates money to schools and other entities for collecting and turning in their recyclables. Creative Child has families bring in their recyclables and regularly combines them to send in. The money they raised from this project thus far went towards purchasing new playground equipment for the program.

Future Plans

As they move forward, Creative Child has a lot in store. They are partnering with their school district to have a 4K in the fall, which is perhaps a first step forward in the growth and expansion that Nancy said she would like to see for the program. While she plans to maintain small class sizes to keep that one-on-one attention alive, Nancy would love to increase their enrollment capacity to serve more children. Meanwhile, though they are very proud of the rating they have achieved so far, they will also continue to reach higher, and go for a 4 Star rating. “YoungStar is a lot of hard work, “ said Nancy. “I tell my staff every day that this is not simple. But once you get it, it will all start to fall into place.”

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Creative Child

A Collaboration Through YoungStar

“One thing I really like about the YoungStar process is to work with Kari…it is ‘How can we help you,’ versus, ‘Here is what you are not doing right’… It is refreshing to have an outside perspective.”

– Darian Blattner, Executive Director
New Richmond Area Centre, New Richmond

New Richmond Area Centre

As Executive Director of the New Richmond Area Centre since it opened in 2009, Darian Blattner is very familiar with what makes quality child care. Darian manages not only the Centre, which offers services similar to a YMCA or community center, but the child care program within it, with 94 children from ages 3 to 8. Darian made sure the program participated in YoungStar from the time it began, to ensure it met state standards but also to see that “quality fit” into their daily routines.  Darian says there is a “huge benefit” to bringing in their Technical Consultant, Kari Stroede, who is a “trained veteran of the early childhood field,” and offers a fresh set of eyes to look at the program and where improvements can be made. YoungStar trainings and guidance offered Darian’s program innovative ideas about how to make improvements and changes in important areas such as increasing diversity and in supporting staff taking steps forward, all of which Darian says has helped put the pieces in place for achieving 5 Stars in the future.

First Lutheran Church Child Care Center and Preschool

Not far away in New Richmond, Director of First Lutheran Church Child Care Leslie Thomas, also worked with Kari on YoungStar. Leslie has been Director for 8 years, with a maximum of 100 children from 6 weeks old to 12 years old in her charge,  and is in her third year of YoungStar. “Kari has helped us take a look at our overall program and given us the opportunity to look at each component,” says Leslie.  Leslie’s program recently switched locations and she says YoungStar components played a big part in arranging their new environments for the children. Leslie recently spoke with Kari about setting goals to achieve a higher Star rating. “The goal is to work as a whole center to achieve the next level of YoungStar,” says Leslie. Kari has shown them how to set and implement goals to reach that next level.

Working Together

Both centers expressed to Kari the need for local early childhood trainings. In response, Kari connected Darian and Leslie to plan a local learning opportunity together, as part of their YoungStar Quality Improvement plans. The conference that arose from this collaboration was 6 months in the making, involving community members and local businesses, including Wisconsin Indian Technical College that hosted the conference. “We went into it with a fairly modest expectation,” says Darian, “and ended up with just under 200 participants;” a huge accomplishment. The event benefitted group and family programs, and included  two major YoungStar trainings that were a big attraction with high attendance. “We started pooling funds and resources to provide opportunities for both programs,” says Leslie, and it just kind of exploded from there…It was awesome!” Darian and Leslie agree that the benefits of this conference, now an annual event, was three-fold. It benefitted their programs by incorporating it into their YoungStar plans, provided a local, quality training opportunity to New Richmond early childhood professionals, and helped their two programs build a collaborative relationship with one another. Overall, says Darian, “YoungStar feels more teamwork oriented.”

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Center Collaboration

Be the Change You Wish to See- Mahatma Gandhi

“I like seeing how children grow, how they click. I am truly fascinated by it…through respecting and understanding children’s differences I can help teach them how to do that too.”

– Kari Sanders, Owner
Scribble Dibble Day Care, Colfax


When Kari Sanders and her husband Travis could not find child care in the area to meet their needs, they decided to make a change. Both were working full-time at odd hours and Kari’s mother sometimes had to come over at 4:30 in the morning to watch their children. “We fought our way through it,” says Kari. “I thought, there has to be something better than this.” So together, they ensured that there was. Kari and her husband opened a certified family child care program, and “Scribble Dibble Day Care” opened in 2008. But it was a year later, when they began working with YoungStar, that things really got going.

Stepping Stones

With the financial and technical support YoungStar provided, Kari and Travis restructured their home to include sectioned, well-planned play areas, shelving with materials to promote positive play, an outdoor climber, and much more. Kari went back to school with the resources available to her through YoungStar, in an effort to improve the 2 Star rating her program earned. She is now working to complete her E-Child Associate’s Degree, and states that the positive changes they have made to their learning environment, and her ability to go back to school is thanks to YoungStar. “I love the concept of the tools [YoungStar provides] and how to plan for your business,” says Kari. “They help you evaluate where you are and where you need to make those changes. I have learned so much and it has been a wonderful experience.”

Looking Forward

Kari and her husband are hopeful that with the changes they have made in the environment and curriculum at Scribble Dibble Day Care, and as Kari completes her education, that they will continue to move up in Star levels. Short-term, Kari hopes to refinish their basement area to create an even larger play and learning area for the children in her care, and to “finesse” the knowledge she has cultivated to “affect children’s outcomes by teaching them what they need to live life successfully.”

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Scribble Dibble Day Care- Nov-2013

From Rising Star to 5 Star

“I love to provide service to children, I love to see the smiles on their faces when they figure something out or learn something new. I love working with children.”

– Sahera Abukhamireh, Director
Kids N’ Care, Milwaukee

On the Rise

Sahera Abukhamireh has come a long way since her center program, Kids N’ Care, was first featured as a “Rising Star.” Sahera launched Kids N’ Care in January of 2000, with her two boys and three other children. She chose a building that was once a house because she wanted going to school to, “feel like a second home” for children and their families. Gaining recognition as a child care program and as a provider was an uphill battle. Sahera started by inviting friends and family to enroll and slowly built her program’s reputation. As the center moved forward, Sahera says that YoungStar played a huge part in perfecting the program. “I loved the idea of YoungStar,” says Sahera. She not only appreciated the guidance YoungStar provided, she had seen too many child care programs before YoungStar that were not providing quality care, and did not plan to be one of them. With the help of her YoungStar TC, Tracie Jarentowski of 4C for Children, Sahera set out to provide the best learning environment possible for the children in her program.

Expanding Their Reach

With YoungStar guidance Sahera updated classroom toys to be more educationally targeted and built defined play environments within the center. “It is so nice how neat and organized it is,” says Sahera,  “and how the children are learning through movement from this area to that area.” Sahera also really appreciated her TC’s efforts to provide one on one training and question and answer opportunities for the staff, because this “brought a lot of  quality for the [program].” As Kids N’ Care continually set and reached higher and higher enrollment capacities, the building went through various remodels, including an addition, with the help of Sahera’s husband. In this way, they were able to increase their child capacity and age range in order to meet the demands for their program. They now have 84 children enrolled at Kids N’ Care, ranging from six weeks to 13 years old. Thanks to Sahera’s efforts, the center is accredited and has earned a 5 Star rating.

Still Reaching Higher

Sahera has her sights set high for the future of Kids N’ Care, and is already on her way there. Not only does she plan to make sure that her current Kids N’ Care center keeps their 5 Star rating, she is opening another child care center.  She has hired a Center Director and says that she and her husband will supervise both centers to make certain that the high level of quality she has set for her current center, “follows us to our second location.” She stresses that especially with the opening of her second center, she and her staff will continue to take advantage of the high-quality trainings and other assistance that YoungStar offers. “We are accredited and we have 5 Stars,” says Sahera. “But we still welcome YoungStar.”

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Kids N' Care

Decolores: An Everyday Thing

“My Technical Consultant, Tracie Jarentowski, has been great, I can’t thank her enough. She pretty much has taught me to love YoungStar.”

– Ana Rojas, Director
DeColores, Milwaukee

A Great Start

Ana Rojas began her journey towards YoungStar when she joined forces with her mother in 2005 to open a family child care. By 2007, they had such a long waiting list for enrollment that they decided to open a group child care program named, DeColores. DeColores now has a 28 child capacity with infant, toddler, and preschool rooms. Right away, Ana encouraged her staff to continue their education by getting their Associate’s Degrees. “The staff was kind of afraid to go to school,” says Ana. “So, we all went to school together!” Both Ana and her mother attended school and graduated with their entire staff. “I love what I do,” says Ana. “To do this job you really need to like it, and to live it. It’s an everyday thing.” The daily work of Ana, her mother, and their staff, is evident. DeColores has come a long way thanks to their efforts, and to YoungStar support as they moved forward.

Their Creation

Once Ana learned about  YoungStar and what they had to offer, she took advantage of their guidance and began to work with her technical consultant, Tracie. Early on, Ana admits, it was a bit of a struggle. Most of the DeColores furniture had to be replaced to be the right size for young children, and designated play areas needed to be established. Ana says she went from planning lessons based off of themes to observing and evaluating each child in her class, then planning individually appropriate goals and activities. They even changed the way they did art. “Before, we thought that the children’s art has to look like something, but it doesn’t,” explains Ana. “It’s their creation.” Now teachers put out art materials and let the kids create what they like. An approach, says Ana, that has made the whole class enjoy art time. With all of the many changes and improvements they have made, DeColores has earned a 3 Star rating—and they are not done yet.

Quality Staff & Parent Engagement

Ana plans to go for a higher Star rating later this year, and is currently focusing on the retention  and training of staff. Ana says she is continually working with new staff to get them up to speed on how things work at DeColores so that they are prepared for the program’s next rating. Ana is also focusing on making the DeColores budget more effective, and on engaging the families of the children in care. “Kids love to have their parents come and be with them in the classroom, “ says Ana. “They feel so special.” Ana says she is working on even more ideas to encourage parent involvement, and with the great parents and staff DeColores has, she is hopeful. Not only that she can successfully engage the families, but that all her endeavors on behalf of DeColores will succeed, as together Ana, her staff, the children and their families, continue their hard-earned climb through the Stars.  “I am just so glad that YoungStar came to us,” says Ana. “It is hard at first and it takes time, but this is quality. There is a reason for it.”

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¡Sí, se puede! (Yes, you can!)

“Working with YoungStar has been a total success. With YoungStar I was guided to create a safe environment to make sure everything the children needed was in place.”

– Ivelisse Crespo, Owner/Provider
Ivelisse Crespo Family Child Dc, Milwaukee

Getting Started

Ivelisse Crespo came to the United States from Puerto Rico with a college degree and a passion for working with young children. After struggling to find work as a non-English speaker, Ivelisse eventually decided to start her own child care program. Her program was licensed in April of 2001 and she built her clientele by word of mouth. Ivelisse worked with YoungStar through the process of setting up and refining her program environment and took advantage of the opportunity for continuing her education. She worked hard to earn her program’s current 5 Star rating, and is now at her full capacity of eight children for enrollment.

A Learning Process

Ivelisse says that with the education she received through YoungStar she has developed a new, less rigid method of teaching than in the past. She implements within her program the idea that children use play in their discovery of knowledge. It is how children explore and grow, and allowing them to do so is a chance for educators and parents to observe how individual children learn. Ivelisse says she has learned that if a child gets up and wanders during story time she does not have to stop until that child is seated and attentive. She lets them investigate while she finishes the story, and everyone wins. The child who is wandering is still learning, and so are the children listening to the story. This is just one example of how Ivelisse has applied this new teaching approach. She says that using it reduces stress because she feels prepared and she can see the children in her program responding positively. Overall, this creates a more relaxed, open environment in her program, that is more conducive to learning.

A New Approach

According to Ivelisse, working with YoungStar opened the door to creating the successful teaching style she uses now, and to receiving her National Association for Family Child Care Accreditation this past summer. Ivelisse is now applying to Master’s degree programs, to continue improving her effectiveness as a child care provider. She says she would like to tell other early child care providers working to improve their programs through YoungStar, that yes, the effort is sometimes stressful, yes, it can be difficult, but it is worthwhile, and it is rewarding. And if you think you can’t do it, Ivelisse is here to tell you, “Sí, se puede.”

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Ivelisse Crespo Family Child Dc- Nov-2013_Page_2Ivelisse Crespo Family Child Dc- Nov-2013_Page_1

CAP CARE Rises with 4 Stars

“The Young Star Program is a great asset to the State of Wisconsin. It offers the tools, guidance, and opportunity for our child care centers to rise to the level our children deserve.”

– Amanda Hollis, Child Care Assistant
Cambridge, WI

Confidence to Achieve More

With the onset of YoungStar for school-age programs and brand new to the process, CAP CARE decided to focus on ensuring that they received a 3 star rating in their first year of participation. What came as a pleasant surprise was the encouragement and confidence of their technical consultant to go through the formal rating process to earn 4 stars. “Although the initial thought of becoming a 4 star program seemed overwhelming, the YoungStar program provided the support and information to allow us to reach our goal! It has been great for our program and our families,” describes Lesli Buehler who directs the program.

No Stopping Now

And CAP CARE is not stopping at 4 stars. With only three points to go for a 5 star rating, they are already creating changes that will support them in reaching those 5 stars next year. For example, every child started the new school year off with a portfolio in order to meet quality indicators linked to Learning Environment & Curriculum. How did they make this happen? They effectively engaged families. Because they were able to integrate portfolio building in the annual open house held by the school, CAP CARE was able to engage families of children enrolled, as well as other families who dropped in. Innovatively, CAP CARE separately interviewed families and children that evening, taking time to gather information, understand perspectives, show children and families that they are valued and very importantly to get families thinking about their role in quality school-age programming.

Strength & Validity

While change can be challenging, CAP CARE shares that it is well-worth it for the positive response. Janette Bystol, Child Care Leader, describes how children have reacted to changes in the environment, sharing that: “YoungStar has shown us that less is more and children have really responded to the idea positively. Having the art station, “Painting with Picasso,” always set up and ready to go has been a huge hit. The block area is another favorite with small bins of people, transportations and more, all close by ready for play. Gina, from 4-C, was a huge help in the entire process and I am forever grateful for all of her wonderful ideas to help us achieve our 4 star rating.” The encouraging reactions don’t stop with the children. With coverage from the local media and congratulations from school teachers and families, this positive recognition served to strengthen and validate CAP CARE’s quality.

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CAP CARE - Success Story

4 Stars and Still Rising

“An exceptionally nice part of YoungStar is the ability to track the progress of the room and the center.”

– Stacey Beyer, Teacher
Sandbox Child Care & Preschool

Being Proactive & Positive

When Kelly Jensen, program director and administrator of Sand Box Child Care & Preschool, first learned of Wisconsin’s quality rating and improvement system, YoungStar, she immediately knew what her approach would be: proactivity and positivity. And her approach proved effective, resulting in the program’s 4 star rating.

“I felt it was my obligation to sift through all of the YoungStar information,” says Kelly. She adds that a key to their suc-cess was collecting and presenting the information in a way that brought the most relevant points to her team.

A New Set of Eyes

The team of staff at Sand Box Child Care & Preschool met YoungStar with the same positive attitude, channeling energy into the program’s quality improvement cycle. “When the YoungStar staff came into evaluate, it brought a new set of eyes to how we do things. When you are in the same environment every day, you see things one way and they see it a different way,” says Sand Box Child Care & Preschool team member, Mary Gerstberger.

But the team didn’t stop there. The program used innovative strategies to sustain change efforts, including monthly classroom reviews and tri-annual peer reviews using the environmental rating scales. The information gathered in these reviews was used to inform quality improvement plans of each of the six classrooms.

Next Steps Already in Motion

Sand Box Child Care & Preschool understands that quality improvement is truly a journey and they have big plans for continuing down their path. Staff members are dedicating hours of time preparing themselves for continuing their edu-cation. While they admit at times it seems long and hard, they know that it is worth it and will ensure their educational success.

And as team members support program quality improvements, the program is committed to supporting the team, as well. Kelly states that the bonus payments for quality will be reinvested in the program, with staff compensation being a high priority. With four stars under their belt, Sandbox Child Care & Preschool aspires for continued quality improve-ment and has set concrete, specific goals for the future.

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Sand Box Child Care & Preschool - Story DRAFT

One Amazing Teacher!

“I feel truly honored to take care of children.”

– Sheri Johnson, Owner
Imagination Station, Rice Lake

From the Start

Sheri Johnson just knew that she would some day educate and inspire young children. Sheri has grown into a remarkable teacher that started as a young child playing “School” with her friends siting in desks, as she stood as the teacher in the front of the room. As a family child care owner, she finds it exhilarating to watch the interactions between her students that are of all different ages. The older children help with the younger, while the younger learn and absorb skills from the older children. Sheri feels lucky to provide her students with an environment that allows them to learn, grow, and get a little (or a lot) messy!

Easy Education

Sheri is so happy that she explored YoungStar. It took her down a path that led her to more education. With the encouragement of her Technical Consultant, Brandy Metcalf, she was able to visualize herself taking classes while still providing quality care for her students. With a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship awarded to her and the receipt of credit for classes that she was already attending for continuing education, it seemed foolish not to take advantage of the opportunity. By completing the Preschool Credential, Sheri attained enough points in Provider Education and Training to move her up in Registry Career Levels and earn her 3 Star rating!

Plus, what she learned in her classes could only benefit her students! For Sheri, her favorite classes focus on child development. She loves that she can instantly apply what she learns to her child care program. Another benefit is all of the support she feels. Sheri really values the support that she has received from Brandy, but also from her classmates. It is welcome to have the company of others in the early care and education field.

It is All About the Children

Sheri believes YoungStar is about helping children. It allows providers to work hard to improve their practices for their students. Sheri found that the process of technical assistance celebrated the techniques she already used that positively impacted her students’ learning. In addition, she could look at and assess her environment in order to make small, but meaningful changes. For example, Sheri simply added a tent and small light to her environment, so that her students now have a cozy and quiet area to retreat to when calm and relaxation are needed.

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Sheri Johnson-Imagination Station-Success Story

Building on Natural Tendencies

“I have used observations to plan opportunities that encourage physical activity for an infant, three 2-year-olds, one 4-year-old and two 6-year-olds. I watch for the types of activities that are piquing their curiosity at each age.”

– Brenda Flannery, Owner
Li’l Blessings, Crandon

Brenda Flannery whole-heartedly took on Active Early with a child-centered approach. At Li’l Blessings Child Care, her family childcare center in Crandon, WI, Flannery typically cares for 5-7 children, all under the age of 5. The range of ages and physical abilities made it difficult for Flannery to guide teacher-led activities. Instead, she began by observing the children’s self-directed play and capitalized on their natural tendencies. For a child in the developmental phase of learning to climb, Flannery would offer more climbing opportunities, because it is the activity that the child wants to do. She would further encourage the physical activity by incorporating the climbing activity into a relay race.

Implementation of the Active Early program was not difficult for Flannery. Because pre-school aged kids are inherently energetic, Flannery only had to provide the equipment and time to facilitate active play and learning. With the Active Early grant, she improved her facility by installing an interactive play deck with slides, ladders, tunnels, and boxes for sand or water play. Flannery worked with her licensing agent to expand her existing written policies to include specific details about the types of activities and foods offered at her center. She asked parents to help draft these policies. Involving parents in the process was pivotal in garnering their support.

Not only did Flannery get the parents on board with Active Early, but also she kept them on board with regular communication via in-person conver-sations, a monthly newsletter, the center’s bulletin board, and now with daily updates on a new Facebook page. The topics of these posts range from general Active Early information to relevant legislation topics to descriptions of the day’s activities. Her hope is to keep the parents in-formed and educated, and so far, her efforts are working. Flannery says her experience with the Active Early program has been an enjoyable one, and definitely something she would do again.

Funding for Active Early 2.0 was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

Why Being Active Early Matters

Establishing healthy habits at an early age is key to promoting life-long health. Movement benefits children’s:

  • Brain development
  • Vision and hearing
  • Muscle coordination

Activity benefits everyone. Children who are regularly active:

  • Have less behavioral problems
  • Sleep better at night
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Are more alert and ready to learn
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Early child care providers can improve child health and wellness by establishing policies for the expert recommended 120 minutes of physical activity each day. The Active Early guide gives providers concrete strategies to get kids active.

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Lil Blessings

It Matters to Parents & Teachers

“Children are more aware of their bodies and that it is their job to take care of their bodies through exercise and making their hearts ‘happy’.”

– Linda Groom, Director
Hudson Community Children’s Center, Hudson

For Linda Groom, director of Hudson Community Children’s Center, one mother’s letter was a powerful confirmation of the positive impact of the Active Early pilot. The note, handwritten in crayon, expressed her gratitude for the new emphasis on active play and learning. The physical activity time provided her son with autism an appropriate outlet for releasing his energy, allowing him to be more attentive and successful the rest of the day. Academic preparation for school – learning letters and numbers – is often at the forefront of parental concerns when it comes to early childhood care. However, parents may over-look the fact that exercise can complement academic learning rather than displacing it.

Lifelong health became a key focus at the kickoff of the Active Early program in this group center for children age 2-5 in Hudson, WI. Physical activity was deemed an integral component of the daily lesson plans and staff designed innovative ways to include it at any time of year, regardless of the weather. Outdoors, teachers became active role models and playmates rather than standing supervisors. Indoors, paper plates and paper towel rolls became racquets for balloon tennis.

Groom credits the success of Hudson’s Active Early program to the endorsement she received from the center’s teachers. Hearing the shocking statistics on childhood obesity and learning creative ideas for physical activity were particularly motivating for her staff. To provide teachers with additional time to incorporate their new ideas into the lesson plans, Groom personally supported teachers or brought in substitutes.

Now when Groom’s teachers give children time for free play, they can choose to go to a movement center in addition to traditional centers like math, science or music. The new focus on physical activity at Hudson Community Children’s Center is not only making for a quieter story time but is also teaching the next generation how to have healthy hearts and healthy minds. Parents have been eager to share their appreciation in many ways – even in the form of a crayon-written letter.

Funding for Active Early 2.0 was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

Why Being Active Early Matters

Establishing healthy habits at an early age is key to promoting life-long health. Movement benefits children’s:

  • Brain development
  • Vision and hearing
  • Muscle coordination

Activity benefits everyone. Children who are regularly active:

  • Have less behavioral problems
  • Sleep better at night
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Are more alert and ready to learn
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Early child care providers can improve child health and wellness by establishing policies for the expert recommended 120 minutes of physical activity each day. The Active Early guide gives providers concrete strategies to get kids active.

Get the PDF:

Hudson Community Children's Center - Final

Active Play Translates Into Learning

“Kids who play, who are physically active, are healthier and smarter. We are doing children an injustice by not providing enough time for that kind of play.”

— Laura Shallow, Director
Shining Stars, Suamico

For a child learning to read, opening a book involves risk. Without the opportunity to take risks outside, as in climbing a tree or catching crayfish in a creek, a child won’t be as inclined to take that first risk in learning to read. Laura Shallow, owner of Shining Stars Preschool and Child Care Center in Suamico, WI has long-believed that the “body wires the brain.” She devoted a year to piloting the Active Early program because she recognizes physical activity as an essential part of child development and education.

Shining Stars, a group child care center, is located 10 minutes outside Green Bay, WI. The rurally-located center boasts a prairie, woods, gardens, a creek, outdoor play equipment, indoor climbing equipment, tumbling mats, and no shortage of balls of all sizes, shapes, and textures. Nature play has always been a critical component of Shallow’s program, but with the Active Early pilot, what they had already been “just doing” became a part of written policy, marketing brochures, and daily lesson plans. The 120 minutes of physical activity is divided into 60 minute blocks in the morning and afternoon. At least 15 minutes of each hour is dedicated to teacher-led instruction, in which the children are taught new games.

Why does Shallow feel so strongly about keeping kids active for 120 minutes per day at Shining Stars? “Kids who play, who are physically active, are healthier and smarter. We are doing children an injustice by not providing enough time for that kind of play. There’s all kinds of challenges [to implementing the Active Early program], but this [program] is worthwhile, because it makes a difference. Bottom line, that’s why we’re here— to make a difference.”

Nature play has always been a critical component of Shallow’s program, but with the implementation of the Active Early pilot program, they were able to further build on this philosophy. Building is something with which these kids are well-acquainted. A corner of the room dedicated to building with wooden blocks became a whole room taken over by elaborate block structures, which translated to a similar “city” in the sandboxes outside. Laura says this experience promoted not only physical activity, but also literacy, math, collaboration, and spatial awareness. The kids weren’t just playing, they were learning.

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Shining Stars

 Funding for Active Early 2.0 was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

Why Being Active Early Matters

Establishing healthy habits at an early age is key to promoting life-long health. Movement benefits children’s:

  • Brain development
  • Vision and hearing
  • Muscle coordination

Activity benefits everyone. Children who are regularly active:

  • Have less behavioral problems
  • Sleep better at night
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Are more alert and ready to learn
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Early child care providers can improve child health and wellness by establishing policies for the expert recommended 120 minutes of physical activity each day. The Active Early guide gives providers concrete strategies to get kids active.

10 Minutes Here & 10 Minutes There

“Providing more training, at a low cost to providers, would be very beneficial to children and providers. It is feasible to increase activity in child care—easy, actually—with the right resources.”

– Teresa Storm, Owner
Tender Times Child Care, Amery

Small changes yielded big rewards for Teresa Storm when she piloted Active Early at her Amery, WI family childcare center, Tender Times Child Care. Six years ago, prompted by a personal conviction to improve her own lifestyle, Storm started giving more attention to the physical activity and nutrition patterns of the children at her center. Her informal efforts were a start, but it was not until completing the Active Early training that Storm intentionally scheduled physical activity into her daily lesson plan.

Energized by the low-cost, simple strategies provided by Active Early, Storm began introducing 10-minute spurts of physical activity throughout the day to achieve the goal of 120 minutes. She incorporated more teacher-led instruction during outdoor play, turned transition times into opportunities for activity, and found creative ways to include movement in traditionally sedentary periods such as circle time.

When the pilot first began, Storm was eager to incorporate her new ideas all at once. However, she soon realized the children needed time to adjust to the new schedule and additional physical activity. She gradually added the 10-minute bouts of activity, tailoring them to the energy levels and abilities of the individual children. Storm noted fewer behavioral issues and greater enthusiasm among the children during the day. They even napped better, too.

Storm had already been passionate about promoting healthy habits at her center, but Active Early equipped her with the specific tools and strategies to do so every day. Based on her experiences, Storm firmly believes “providing more training, at a low cost to providers, would be very beneficial to the children and providers. It is feasible to increase activity in child care—easy, actually—with the right resources.”

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Tender Times

Funding for Active Early 2.0 was provided by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health from the Wisconsin Partnership Program.

Why Being Active Early Matters

Establishing healthy habits at an early age is key to promoting life-long health. Movement benefits children’s:

  • Brain development
  • Vision and hearing
  • Muscle coordination

Activity benefits everyone. Children who are regularly active:

  • Have less behavioral problems
  • Sleep better at night
  • Feel better about themselves
  • Are more alert and ready to learn
  • Maintain a healthy weight

Early child care providers can improve child health and wellness by establishing policies for the expert recommended 120 minutes of physical activity each day. The Active Early guide gives providers concrete strategies to get kids active.

5 Stars Keep Shining Bright

“My experience with YoungStar has been positive.  It was time – consuming, but with hard work and dedication, I realized the  improvements I was making would benefit the children in the long run.”

– Katy Schultz, Owner
Tender Hearts Family Daycare, Oshkosh

The Hard Work Was Worth It

Tender Hearts Family Daycare owner and child care provider, Katy Schultz, was not sure what to expect when she first started YoungStar.  Now, having been through the process twice, Katy recognizes what a positive experience YoungStar provides.  Katy felt constantly supported by her Technical Consultant, Mary Sue Voights, who was there to answer any questions along the way.  In the beginning there were trials.  However, Katy accepted the challenge of finding innovative solutions to those trials.  Katy knows that these challenges are goals towards improving the experiences for the children she cares for.  In addition, her second year of participating in YoungStar has been easier as she now knows what to expect.

Improving the Learning Environment

A major goal for Katy was to focus on portfolios.  Katy knew the many benefits that would result if she could accurately assess the children and keep track of development.  The portfolios helped her to communicate better with her students’ parents, and plan purposeful activities based on the specific development of the children.  Setting goals for each child and tracking their progress from day to day, month to month, and even year to year helped her provide an environment where the children could learn to their greatest potential.  Katy notes that the parents love the portfolios because they can see the growth that has taken place for their child.  “YoungStar has guided me to improve how I do things in my center, in the way of lesson planning, portfolios, and how to get the parents more involved,” says Katy.

Effectively Engaging Families

Katy has actively involved her students’ families in YoungStar by writing about her accomplishments in her program newsletter and soliciting feedback from families on her annual survey.  She also communicates one-on-one with each student’s family, which allows her to understand the context of home.  She also meets with families twice a year during student conferences.  Katy believes that the modifications she has made to her program through YoungStar have been worth it for the positive responses she has received from parents.  Her parents recognize how hard she works to continually make improvements to her program for the benefit of their children while they are in her care.

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Katy Schultz-Tender Hearts-Success Story-Final

Choosing to Lead

“YoungStar may seem like just a piece of paper, but it is what people know now as the meaning of an investment…If you don’t invest in your program no one will buy into it.”

– Debbie Drew, Administrative Director
St. John’s Child Development

A Seasoned Provider

When Debbie Drew took on the challenge of YoungStar at her program, St. John’s Development Center, she was no stranger to early education. Debbie has over 25 years of working in early childhood education to bolster her current leadership role as Administrative Director, and it is that experience and knowledge that made Debbie quickly recognize the value of YoungStar for her program. “I told my staff, we have a choice,” said Debbie, at the recent Symposia Series on Supporting Healthy Early Brain Development in Madison. “[In YoungStar] we can lead, follow, or stay behind…and they knew I wouldn’t stand for anything but leading.” With their first micro-grant the program took the lead when they bought two rocking chairs for their infant room. They went through three to four rocking chairs a year because they broke easily due to low quality. When their garbage man came to take the old ones away, explained Debbie, he commented that, “All I ever haul out of here is rocking chairs,” and offered to buy the program new ones. When Debbie showed him they already had new ones and explained about YoungStar, he donated $500 to the program anyways, which they put right back into another classroom. “Just educating him about [YoungStar] and what we do was so exciting!” said Debbie.

Beyond Rocking Chairs

As Debbie’s program continued through YoungStar, they gained more opportunities for improvement. Debbie’s staff started out with only two Associate’s degrees amongst them. Now, thanks to YoungStar trainings and T.E.A.C.H. scholarship support, most of her staff have either a Bachelor’s or an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood. Furthermore, Debbie has retained the same staff for ten or more years because she invested in them, and has even been able to expand her staff and her program, to include a school age component. “Since YoungStar, there is a difference in the way staff acts,” said Debbie. “They see themselves as professionals and now it’s, ‘What’s our next challenge?’ We are all proud to be early childhood professionals.” Debbie’s program has earned 5 Stars, and now Debbie’s staff often help other programs navigate YoungStar, which Debbie sees as another advantage of the rating system. “YoungStar gives child care providers something in common so we are not on separate ‘islands’” said Debbie. “We are trying to help each other.”

A Brighter Future

One of the most apparent by-products of YoungStar’s positive impact on Debbie, her staff, and the program itself, is evident in the children they care for. YoungStar has “helped the children tremendously,” said Debbie. Not only by creating a better program to support them, but also by focusing on parent engagement so that learning extends beyond the classroom.  “YoungStar teaches us how to talk to a parent, or to a family,” said Debbie. “This helps us and it helps the families and children.” Debbie looks forward to ongoing improvements to her program through YoungStar, and to  continue acting as a mentor to other providers and programs. “Pick one or two things to work on and as long as you have a plan to improve, you are good,” Debbie advised. “We are all at different levels for different reasons, so start with what your budget can do, and try to be creative in using your money.”

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St. John’s Child Development Center

Dedication and a Plan Bring Success for Lil' Stars

“I want to improve the quality of care I provide to the children and to their families.”


– Rebecca Quintanilla, Owner
Lil’ Stars Family Child Care Center, Green Bay

Back to School

It is not easy to go back to school while raising a one- and three-year-old and running a small business, but Rebecca Quintanilla of Lil’ Stars Family Child Care Center has demonstrated it can it be done. In her second year of YoungStar, Rebecca decided to work with a technical consultant. After weighing the many options with her consultant, Jamie Tramte Brassfield, Rebecca decided to focus in on credit-based education. She  applied for and received a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship to help cover the cost of earning her Associate’s Degree in early childhood education.  Rebecca has observed that in her 12+ years of experience, the field has continued to change. By taking additional classes, she’s been able to keep current and implement best practices.

A Rising Star

With the support and encouragement of her technical consultant, as well as the families in her program,    Rebecca achieved her 3 Star rating in year two.  But she is not stopping there.  Rebecca is already thinking about the improvements she wants to make to her program next year.  “With the goals I have I want to move to the next step and try for a 4 Star rating,” states Rebecca.  Not only will she be looking to rise in stars, but she is also taking steps to transition from certification to licensure, so that she can provide high quality care for more children and families.

It’s All for Children and Families

Rebecca’s students and their families are delighted with the improvements she’s made through her engagement in YoungStar.  The children in her care have had their interest piqued by the investments Rebecca has made with her micro-grant, with one child loving the new library and another being drawn to new manipulative materials. Families appreciate the new visual schedule, an idea she learned about in one of her classes.  Rebecca knows that YoungStar is meant to support families, stating “I would hope that families would take the time to research different programs, whether it is a group child care center of a family child care center, before enrolling their children. Some of the things I personally would look at would be if they participate in YoungStar, their rating and the kind of violations they have received. I would want to know that my children are safe and receiving high quality child care.”

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YoungStar Success Story 2

The Best Job!

“I have the best job in the world. I make such an impact on the futures of the kids in my care.”

– Peggy Neau, Owner
Peggy’s Place, Pleasant Prairie

15 Years of Quality Service

Since Peggy Neau opened her doors to the children of Pleasant Prairie in 1998, she has been helping them reach their highest potential. Peggy has loved the work she has been able to do with the children in her care. Mostly, she enjoys that she gets to teach the children to respect themselves and others in the community. The work can be frustrating and challenging, but worth it! Peggy knows that the children are happy when they are with her and the parents are happy to have Peggy as the caregiver to their children.

YoungStar Challenge

“YoungStar was challenging.  It challenged me!”  Peggy accepted this challenge as a chance to really examine her program.  A benefit of working through formal rating, Peggy mentions, is that it is a chance to think critically and analyze the standards.  This allowed Peggy the opportunity to take a very in depth look at her program.  Through this process, Peggy found many areas of success to celebrate and other areas where she could make some minor enhancements that would benefit her program and the children she cares for.  The YoungStar experience was even more pleasant by working with her Technical Consultant, Corie Davis.  Peggy reflects that it was helpful to have the support along the way, that Corie was a helpful guide.  Having the  Quality Improvement Plan and clear goals, kept Peggy  moving forward.

Working Towards Her Goals

Peggy is now working at full speed toward Accreditation.  It is important to Peggy to do all that she can to provide the children in her care with the most enriching learning environment.  Another goal of Peggy’s, is to make her assessments more intentional.  She hopes to incorporate her assessments into her daily planning and portfolios.  Peggy’s determination and commitment to the children is what motivates her to work hard for her program.

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Peggy's Place SS - Final

A Balancing Act:Family and Education

“I am happy YoungStar was there…It has really helped my daycare… things like good nutrition, helping the kids stay active….even with my family. YoungStar is here to give us a better life.”


‐ Chia Her, Director
Wamengs Day Care, Wausau WI

Back to School

Chia Her has worked in child care for five years. Her current family child care program includes her own five children. Also in her home, are her in-laws, her husband, and his brothers and sisters. At the end of a day of providing child care, it is Chia’s job to cook dinner for the entire family. Needless to say, she is busy. After choosing to participate in YoungStar since it’s inception, despite her busy schedule, she is also only the second Hmong provider in her area of the state to achieve 3 Stars. “At first YoungStar was hard,” said Chia. “It was really hard.” Chia’s program started with a 2 Star rating, and her Technical Consultant, Kao Xiong, encouraged her to further her education to increase her rating. With Kao’s support, and a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship, Chia decided to “go for it,” and enrolled to receive her Associate’s degree in Early Childhood. Her first semester she  was taking 21 credits while still maintaining her full time child care program  and caring for her own five children. “I thought I wasn’t going to make it.” said Chia. “But, I just kept going with the flow, and after the first semester things got easier, and I kept on going.” Despite the enormous amount of time and effort that it required, Chia has only two classes to complete before she graduates this fall. Her program has now earned a 3 Star rating.

Changes and Connections

Chia’s education is not all that has changed. “Before YoungStar, before school, I thought I knew everything about child care,” said Chia. “No, I didn’t.” Thanks to the knowledge she has gained through schooling and YoungStar trainings, Chia no longer sees herself as a babysitter, but as a professional. She sets more of a structure to her program, paying attention to things like good nutrition, staying active, and filling the child care space with tools and toys to encourage learning and exploration. “YoungStar helps you run your business with the grant that they give you,” said Chia. “My kids love the toys we have purchased.” Home life has also been affected by the knowledge Chia has gained. Her family has more nutritious meals, she said, and they eat together more often. She also maintains supports for her business and herself, such as her regular Hmong provider meetings, where she first met Kao and got the information to get started in YoungStar. “This group was really a big opportunity for me.” said Chia. “It really helps…we go to seminars and they speak English and some of these Hmong providers don’t know what they are talking about. So we come back and have a group meeting, and we talk about it.”


With all of the supports she has through YoungStar and the confidence those have given her, Chia is already looking towards the future. “Now with my school almost being done I have so many goals,” said Chia. “I just have so much in mind that I want to do.” Chia would love to expand her child care program, maybe shoot for her bachelor’s degree, and continue to  improve her YoungStar rating. “I just want to go down so many roads,” said Chia, “I feel so excited!”

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Wamengs Day Care

5 Stars and Holding

“One of the things is in starting YoungStar is you have to be proactive in where you want to go…we are in a rural county that hasn’t got a lot of money…there is nothing overly spectacular about us…I believed we could do it and I really believed my team could do it.”

– Kelly Jensen, Director
Sand Box Child Care & Preschool, Medford

A Community Achievement

When Kelly Jensen’s program was first featured as a YoungStar success story they had reached 4 Stars, and Kelly professed her commitment to continued program improvement. Now, years later, her program has achieved a 5 Star rating. “When we said we were going to do YoungStar, we kept saying ‘we can do it’ so maybe it would become a reality,” said Kelly. “Then once we hit 5 Stars we were like, ‘holy cow, we are there!’ And you settle back into the pride of it.” Kelly said that she is also encouraged by community members’ recognition of her program’s accomplishment. Parents of the children in her program told their friends about YoungStar and about Sand Box reaching 5 Stars, and the word spread. “A 70-year-old stopped me in the grocery store and said, ‘Nice job on that 5 Star, I know how hard you worked on it,’ laughed Kelly.

Next Steps

Now that they are at a 5 Star level, they are doing what it takes to stay there. “It’s more fine-tuning,” said Kelly, “creating your system a little better so that your work is more efficient…the icing on the cake.” Kelly said her staff is very proactive in finding and implementing better systems and methods than those already in place. “The whole YoungStar experience has made me take a look at how I interact with children and families,” said one staff member, Julie. “You always wonder if you could do more; YoungStar makes you think.” Because attracting and retaining high quality staff can be a challenge, Kelly has worked towards increasing the wage scale for her staff in accordance with their education; a plan that she referenced in her first success story. She has now successfully reached that goal, with the program now at a point where staff salary increases were possible at the end of 2014. Kelly emphasized that she wants her staff to know that she recognizes their importance and is committed to making it better for them. “People want to know that you see them, and that you hear them, and that they are valued.” said Kelly. “I want my staff to know that, and for that message to go from my staff to the parents.”

Looking Forward

Recently, Kelly received word that her center would be one of the beneficiaries of an Early Head Start—Child Care Partnership Award; a result of President Obama’s Early Learning Initiative. Indianhead Community Action Agency in Ladysmith was awarded $1,400,000 and Sand Box Child Care & Preschool is one of four child care centers that were involved from the beginning in formulating the grant proposal. “Sand Box is pleased to represent a large group center in a rural area that is working towards improving the lives of children and families,” said Kelly. “I am so very proud of my staff and what they have accomplished.”

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In child care, 'Your day is never the same.'

“YoungStar has been a personal reward to myself…a personal goal. I was like, I am just getting that 5 Stars.”

– Beth Bue, Owner
Teddy Bear Family Childcare, Black River Falls

The Start of Teddy Bear Family Childcare

At the age of 18, Beth Bue started her career in child care working at a group center. Years later in 1993, still in the child care field, Beth had her youngest son and found there was no child care available in her area that worked for her family. So she established her own family child care, Teddy Bear Family Childcare. When YoungStar came about, Beth’s program was in full swing, and she was more than ready to tackle YoungStar requirements. “The most challenging thing for me is not to panic and get all frazzled when the observer is here,” admitted Beth. Beth’s program has grown and thrived through YoungStar, taking the great things Beth was already implementing in the home, to the next level.

Next Level

Since beginning YoungStar Beth has seen positive changes in her program. “The kiddos are able to make their own choices,” said Beth, “and it just seems more like a relaxed environment.” Beth currently has 8 children ranging from 2 to 6 years old in her program. Through working with YoungStar, Beth has enhanced her reading and science areas, completed some needed construction updates to her home to strengthen the quality of the program environment, and looks to the children’s interests to shape lesson planning. There is also a big focus on the children’s portfolios. Beth uses Teaching Strategies GOLD to keep track of her children’s portfolios online, so that she can share children’s developmental milestones and goals with their parents. Through all of these changes and efforts, Beth’s program recently achieved a 5 Star rating, becoming the first 5 Star child care program in Jackson County.

5 Star Recognition

Besides the pride taken in achieving 5 Stars, Beth landed in the spotlight with her parents and community. One of her parents contacted the local news about Beth’s achievement, and the paper printed a glowing article about Beth’s program accomplishments. Beth personally celebrated her 5 Star rating with a party for her children and their parents, reminiscent of one she had nearly 2 years ago, celebrating 30 years in child care. At the 30 year party Beth invited all of the children she cared for over the years, some of whom now have families of their own. And for Beth, that is what makes it all worthwhile. “It’s just the kiddos,” said Beth. “Your day is never the same. You never know what they are going to throw at you.”

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It’s the little things that keep you going.

“YoungStar was a dramatic change…but better. It’s a great program. I love YoungStar.”

– Elizabeth Wooldridge, Director,
Auntie E’s Childcare, Waukesha

Transitions: Not Just Hard for Children

Elizabeth was 18 when she started working in child care. Years later in 2006 when she opened her certified family child care program, Auntie E’s Childcare, she had considerable experience in early education. But YoungStar required some transitions that she had not encountered before.  “It was a big change,” said Elizabeth, “but a good change.” Elizabeth has five children currently in her care; a 7 month old, three 2-year-olds, and a 5-year-old. Elizabeth said that the YoungStar trainings and the chance to continue her education through a T.E.A.C.H. scholarship has “helped out a lot.” Through her education she discovered new techniques for teaching that she put to use, which motivated the children in her care to become more engaged in play and discovery. “I love that I finished my [Early Childhood Associate’s] degree because of YoungStar,” said Elizabeth. With the support of YoungStar, her Technical Consultant, Marilu Rodriguez-Kroll, and her mother, who helped with the business, Elizabeth graduated last year. “You know how they say it takes a village to raise a family?” laughed Elizabeth. “Well, it takes a village to run a child care.” Elizabeth not only earned her degree, she earned a 4 Star rating for her child care program as well; one of the few certified family child care programs in the state to do so.

Evolving Through YoungStar

Since YoungStar, Elizabeth noted, her program has grown. One benefit is that parents can look her up on the YoungStar website, which Elizabeth said helps families make more informed child care choices and has opened up a new pool of customers for her.  Aside from that, changes and additions made to the learning environments at her care have been plentiful, thanks to financial assistance provided through YoungStar. They now have areas for things like dramatic play and writing, and more educational toys for children to explore. “I see the children engaging more which is great for them to learn,” enthused Elizabeth. “I see them working together, rather than fighting.” Another innovation is doing individual portfolios to better support and track children’s development. “To be able to document that [growth] and know the right way to observe, is good for the provider, the child, and the parents,” said Elizabeth.

On to the Next Challenge

Besides continuing her climb through YoungStar, Elizabeth has started to work with her Pre-Licensing Specialist, Toni Kutner, in preparation for the licensing process. She hopes to be licensed by next Spring. She also plans to eventually expand her program to a small group center that focuses on continuity of care, with the same teachers day to day, and a “home atmosphere.”  “I love what I do, I wouldn’t change anything,” said Elizabeth, recalling moments like when she sneezed and all of the children chimed in to say, “Bless you, Auntie.” “I get so much gratification from the kids. It’s the little things that keep you going.”

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Auntie E’s Childcare

Home Grown Child Care (Cuidado Infantil Hecho en Casa)

“The more we prepare ourselves, the more we learn, the better we are able to teach the children and support the families…the more we prepare the children in our care now, the more they can learn in school. We are giving them a base for later success.”

– Andrea Acevedo, Co-Owner,
Peladitos, Milwaukee

From a passion to a career (De una pasión a una carrera)

Andrea and Gerineldo Acevedo’s Milwaukee family child care grew from Andrea’s passion for working and volunteering with children. It was this passion, despite “not knowing anything” about running a child care business in the beginning, that brought her husband Gerineldo on board, and led them to build their own child care together, “Peladitos.” They set out to start their child care in 2009, by researching basic business requirements and enrolling in classes. As they ran their business they attended classes and trainings and worked together with their Technical Consultant (TC), Isabel Coriano, to meet YoungStar requirements. Both found that through this process they were starting to recognize how to better approach teaching and caring for children to get successful outcomes. They understood more about what was driving certain behaviors in children, and what supports would be most effective for their learning. They would frequently take something they learned in class one day, turn around the next day, and use it in the classroom. As a result they started to see positive changes in their classroom environments, the children’s behavior, and in how the children learned.

La guardería de cuidado infantil de Andrea y Gerineldo Acevedo in Milwaukee tuvo su origen en la pasión de Andrea por trabajar y prestar servicios voluntarios en programas infantiles. Fue esta pasión, a pesar de en un principio “no saber nada” sobre el manejo de una guardería, lo que llevó a su esposo Gerineldo a embarcarse en el proyecto de construir juntos su propia guardería, “Peladitos.”  Decidieron iniciar su guardería en 2009, investigando los requisitos básicos y matriculándose en clases.  A medida que trabajaban en su negocio, asistían a clases y trabajaban junto con su asesora técnica, Isabel Coriano, a fin de cumplir con los requisitos de YoungStar.  Ambos se dieron cuenta que mediante este proceso estaban empezando a identificar  mejores métodos para dar cuidado y enseñanza que diera mejores resultados para los niños.  Entendieron más acerca de lo que motivaba ciertos comportamientos en los niños, y que apoyo podría ser más efectivo en su aprendizaje.  Frecuentemente ellos toman algo que aprendieron en una clase y lo implementan el siguiente día.  Como resultado empezaron a ver cambios positivos en el medioambiente, en el comportamiento de los niños, y en el aprendizaje de los niños.

From Theory to Practice (De la teoría a la práctica)

As the Acevedos applied the knowledge they gained through YoungStar to their program, Peladitos flourished along with their education.  Currently the Acevedos have each earned 3 credentials and their associate degree, all while running their child care business full time. Peladitos worked up to being a 5 Star program with their original TC, Isabel, and now work with TC Jeanne Labana to maintain quality in their care. They currently have children from ages 1 to 5 enrolled. “[As a child care provider] the first thing you have to have is love for children and then love for what you do,” said Gerineldo. “Because this is not easy work.” While certainly not easy, it is work that both of the Acevedos love. They refer to the children they care for and their families as their “extended family.” When asked what is most rewarding about their job, their response is “everything.” As a program they celebrate each child’s birthday, holidays, and other important events in the children’s lives, and invite families to take part. They have truly taken the term “family child care” to the next level.

Los Acevedo aplicaron los conocimientos que recibieron a través de YoungStar y “Peladitos” prosperó junto con su desarrollo profesional.  Actualmente ambos, Andrea y Gerineldo han completado 3 credenciales y su grado de asociado, todo esto al mismo tiempo que manejan su guardería infantil a tiempo completo. “Peladitos” hizo el proceso para obtener 5 estrellas con su primera consultora técnica, Isabel, y ahora trabajan con la consultora Jeanne Labana para mantener la calidad en su programa. A esta fecha ellos tienen inscritos niños de 1 a 5 años de edad. “Como proveedor de cuidado infantil lo primero que tienes que tener es amor por los niños y luego sentir amor por lo que haces,” dijo Gerineldo. “Porque esto no es trabajo fácil.” Aunque ciertamente no es trabajo fácil, es un trabajo que los Acevedo aman. Se refieren a los niños que cuidan y a sus familias como su “familia extendida.”  Cuando se le preguntó ¿Qué es lo más gratificante de su trabajo? su respuesta fue “todo.” En su programa, ellos celebran el cumpleaños de cada niño, así como fiestas y otros acontecimientos importantes en la vida de los niños e invitan a las familias a participar. Han realmente elevado el término “cuidado infantil” a un nivel superior.

Above and Beyond (Más allá de sus responsabilidades)

The Acevedos have taken significant steps over the years to shape their program into the exemplary child care it is today, such as integrating the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards and the Pyramid Model heavily into their environments and approach. They have also continued to find new and unique ways to keep their families engaged while supporting the children in their care. For instance, upon realizing that all of the children in the program had the same family physician, the Acevedos reached out to that physician and asked him to come visit the program. They invited the parents, and the physician spoke with the families about important health care issues regarding their children—such as timely vaccinations and flu shots. This physician now visits on a fairly regular basis to maintain communication with the families regarding their children’s health. “The more we prepare ourselves, the more we learn, the better we are able to teach the children and support the families. The more we prepare the children in our care now, the more they can learn in school,” said Andrea. “We are giving them a base for later success.”

Los Acevedo han tomado pasos significativos a través de los años para crear el programa ejemplar que “Peladitos” es hoy en día, como integrar en su medioambiente y métodos de enseñanza, el modelo de las normas de aprendizaje temprano de Wisconsin y el modelo de la pirámide de desarrollo socioemocional. También continúan buscando nuevas formas para animar la participación de las familias de los niños bajo su cuidado.  Por ejemplo, al darse cuenta de que todos los niños en el programa tenían el mismo médico de familia, los Acevedo invitaron a ese médico a visitar el programa y organizaron una reunión donde el médico habló con las familias sobre importantes temas de salud, como la vacunación oportuna y vacunas contra la gripe. Este médico ahora hace visitas con regularidad para mantener comunicación con las familias sobre la salud de sus hijos. “Cuanto más nos preparamos, más aprendemos, mejor somos capaces de enseñar a los niños y apoyar a las familias. Entre más preparamos a los niños bajo nuestro cuidado, aprenderán más y mejor en la escuela, “dijo Andrea. “Les estamos dando una base para el éxito futuro.”

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Peladitos story

Budgeting Made Easy

“We built up a relationship…I really wanted to get to know her first. I really asked her what she wanted to do.”

– Kristy Prunty, YoungStar Technical Consultant,
Child Care Partnership

When Child Care Partnership YoungStar Technical Consultant (TC) Kristy Prunty was assigned to provider Jean Stage’s child care program, Play To Learn Child Care Center, Jean was familiar with the YoungStar process and had an ongoing professional relationship with Child Care Partnership. She has been in in-home child care provider for almost 18 years and had previous technical consultation experiences through Child Care Partnership. Her program also took part in Active Early 2.0 working with Child Care Partnership, and Jean took provider trainings through their agency. But with Kristy came a brand new perspective on the program, including an innovative approach to how Jean tracked her program budget— something she has never particularly enjoyed.

“Kristy was able to present things that made sense and fit into my world,” said Jean, referring to budgeting practices. “I just could not find something that would work, that would make sense, and she did.”

After meeting Jean for the first time and discussing the budgeting process with her, Kristy brought back some of the YoungStar templates and budgeting materials to work through together.

“I tried to explain it to her in a way that would be applicable to her life,” stated Kristy, who encouraged Jean to begin with budgeting for something she desired in her personal life. “Once I connected it with something she tangibly wanted…I think it made more sense to her and got her motivated to do it.”

Jean said that the new approach to tracking her budget on a monthly basis has allowed her to “simplify life exponentially.”

In addition to budgeting, Kristy and Jean are working on portfolios and completed a mock Environmental Rating Scale (ERS). Both Kristy and Jean emphasized the value of their technical consultation.

“It’s always nice to have a fresh set of eyes,” said Kristy. “[TCs] are there to support every provider as much as we can and help them with what they already have…It’s not us coming in to say you have to do this and this.”

As a veteran child care provider, Jean admits that she initially thought she had nothing new to learn through technical consultation. Now she emphasizes that there “certainly is.” TCs can show you ideas and strategies you may not have thought of and can “get those creative juices flowing.”

“Kristy was amazing,” said Jean. “I can’t say enough good things about her.”

SFTA member CCR&Rs offer valuable resources and information to new and practiced providers. Find your local CCR&R.

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Becoming a Child Care Professional

“Every day I have a different experience with the children.”

– Erika Gutierrez, Owner
Erika Gutierrez, Green Bay

Fulfilling a Need

It is fitting that Erika Gutierrez’s family child care program is named for her, given that it grew to fulfill a need she saw in her own family. Erika has twins, one who has autism, and found that she did not feel comfortable leaving her children in child care, knowing the specialized care that she wanted both of her children to receive. When she realized a friend of hers was also searching for child care, Erika decided to start her own child care program in 2010, becoming a licensed provider in 2011. Through the years YoungStar has played a significant role in supporting Erika through the process of building her child care business and expanding her knowledge of how to best support the children in her care. “YoungStar has helped a lot,” emphasized Erika, adding that when she has doubts or questions about something to do with her program, whether it is business or child related, she can get those answered in the classes and trainings she continues to take through YoungStar, or by her Technical Consultant (TC), Cassy DeBauche. Thanks to YoungStar, Erika finds that she has learned how to better support the children in her care, including her own children, through age-appropriate activities that meet their individual needs. Having this knowledge has not only allowed her to improve her program environment, it has given her the language she needs to position herself as a professional in the field of early education so that she can build her business.

The Business of Child Care

Aside from learning and applying child development and early education knowledge in the classroom, one of the major benefits Erika has found in YoungStar is the business savvy she has gained. In the beginning of her program, she had very few formal policies in place. As such, there were times that she provided child care to families but did not get paid. Through the assistance of micro-grants, Erika has been able to write up a formal contract with the families enrolled in her program. She has also been able to create additional solid business practices and policies that hold her program and the families enrolled to specific standards. Erika has even explained YoungStar to her families and has been able to leverage that to build her business further. Upon achieving a 3 Star rating for her program, Erika decided to raise her rates slightly. She was able to explain this change to families in a way that made sense to them, since they understood her quality through YoungStar was increasing and that the pay change reflected that, and would be used to maintain and build quality in the program.

A 5 Star Journey

Overall, Erika has found the YoungStar process to be smooth and highly beneficial. Her TC adapts to her schedule and supports her program through any changes and activities that she pursues. Due to her program movement from a 2 to a 3 Star, her Wisconsin Shares subsidy reimbursement is no longer reduced by 5%, which has helped her with more effectively allocating funds for her business. Having her child care listed on the YoungStar website, with her rating, has also increased inquiries about enrollment for her child care. She started out with two children in her program and she now has a waiting list. Long term she is determined to continue her journey through YoungStar all the way to a 5 Star, and in the near future, plans to finish her associate degree in education, with a focus on working with children who have autism. She has only three more classes to complete.

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Erika Gutierrez

The Road to YoungStar

“I would highly recommend [YoungStar], just because there are things that [child care providers] wouldn’t even think of that YoungStar can help them with.”

– Tanya Jolma, Owner
Country Kids Daycare, Ashland

Getting on Board

Tanya Jolma ran her child care, Country Kids Daycare, for 10 years before becoming licensed in 2014. A year and a half later she attended For the Love of Children,” an event hosted by her local YoungStar office, Northwest Connection Family Resources. After learning more about YoungStar participation at the event, Tanya decided to look into receiving YoungStar technical consultation. YoungStar Technical Consultant, Amanda Linden, visited one-on-one with Tanya to explain the YoungStar process in depth, and how Country Kids Daycare could benefit. Tanya decided that even with her years of experience, moving forward with YoungStar made sense.

Building Strong Business Practices

Tanya chose to focus her initial technical consultation on business practices, particularly in the area of tax information and insurance. After speaking with Amanda she realized that her current insurance only covered her for three of the eight children in her child care. Armed with this knowledge, Tanya was able to find improved insurance coverage so that she was fully covered for all of the children in her care. Tanya said that she is very thankful that Amanda was able to bring the insurance issue to her attention before it became a problem. Tanya also worked with Amanda on issues surrounding her program’s tax information. Amanda spoke with Tom Copeland, a leading trainer, author and advocate for the business of family child care nationwide, about ways to support Tanya in managing her tax information. Besides providing Tanya with relevant tax resources and information, Amanda was able to connect Tanya directly with Tom, who was generous enough to look over her tax information and  offer her tips for her child care business.

YoungStar Benefits

Now that she has experienced technical consultation, Tanya feels that she has greatly benefited, not only in terms of business practices, but in other areas as well. With her micro-grant money she was able to buy gross motor equipment for her backyard, and Amanda gave her ideas for adding more science materials and activities to her program. Tanya said that she can see why some providers may be uncertain about YoungStar, but encourages them to give it a chance. “I guess I didn’t expect to get that much out of YoungStar,” admitted Tanya. “[But] I would highly recommend it just because there are things that [child care providers] wouldn’t even think of that YoungStar can help them with.”

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See Success for Yourself

“Our children, families, staff, administration, our business, and our community are all benefiting because of the process of YoungStar.” – Jennifer Finch, Administrative Director Faith Academy, Franklin Jumping in from Day One Jennifer Finch’s first day at the child care […]

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