Early Childhood Champion

NECC, in partnership with We Care for Kids, launched the Early Childhood Champion award to highlight the importance of the early childhood workforce. Beginning in October 2022, two providers will be named the “Early Childhood Champion” of the month every month until September 2023. Winners receive a $1,000 gift and a plaque in honor of their commitment to excellence and service to their communities.

Celebrating Those Who Help Nebraska Thrive

The early childhood workforce needs our support. Early learning professionals give families and communities access to a supportive environment for learning and growing. Yet, the child care profession is often overlooked when it comes to the much-needed resources and supports these essential educators deserve.

Nebraska needs more early educators, and the Early Childhood Champion campaign is just one way to support the early learning professionals all Nebraskans need to thrive.

Read about our Early Childhood Champions below!

Alisha Perkins | Omaha, NE

October 2022 Early Childhood Champion

Alisha Perkins is the owner of Perkins Tender Love & Care in Omaha. Her program offers 24-hour care to families, a unique and impactful offering to the community! Alisha says that after working closely with families in the human services field for over 20 years, she learned that a healthy foundation makes a difference, and that’s what lead her to her true passion – children.

“I wanted to make the most impact by providing a fun, loving, nurturing learning environment for children. I am currently living a dual passion, I work hands-on with children and I still provide resources and supports to their parents!”

Ashley Garrison | Beatrice, NE

October 2022 Early Childhood Champion

Ash (Ashley) Garrison is the owner of Sky High Daycare in Beatrice, NE. She has been a licensed child care provider for 11 years and is currently in the process of opening a second program in the Beatrice area. She started her career in high school when she was a student aide for the kindergarten class.

“I adored spending my afternoons with children and teaching them life skills,” Ashley said. “When I had my first son, I realized it was the perfect time to operate my own child care.”

Jannette Vilela | Omaha, NE

November 2022 Early Childhood Champion

Jannette Vilela is an early educator at Educare at Indian Hill in Omaha. She has been a child care provider for 15 years and says she became a teacher aide because of her love of being around children who are eager to learn.

“I think teaching is one of the greatest professions there are out there we are helping them grow as individuals as we teach them the knowledge that they didn’t know before. Seeing a student learn and excel at something is genuinely a rewarding experience.”

Shannon Stutzman | Columbus, NE

November 2022 Early Childhood Champion

Shannon Stutzman is the owner of Stutzman’s Daycare. She’s been a child care provider for 24 years and started her journey after struggling to find a child care provider for her daughter.

“During our search, becoming a provider always sat in the back of my mind. About a year and a half after our son was born I felt like I was missing out on my children’s milestones and really started thinking of becoming a childcare provider. The care and love that our children received, I wanted to do that and share that with others.”

Christina Sigbornson | Omaha, NE

December 2022 Early Childhood Champion

Currently serving as the primary provider in the infant 1 room at Hamilton Heights Child Development Center, Christina Sigbornson has been a child care provider for 23 years.

“I knew from a young age that I wanted to be around young children.” Christina said that she thought she would choose to be an elementary school teacher, but soon realized her path would look a little different. “After starting at my first center, I knew that I would much rather spend my day with children under the age of 3.”

Jami Legate | Norfolk, NE

December 2022 Early Childhood Champion

Jami Legate is the owner of Stepping Stones in Norfolk, NE. With 6 years of experience in child care, Jami worked at two child care centers before starting her family child care business in 2018.

“I have always loved kids and I love watching them grow and learn every day. My first little one that I had from 6 months old to 4 years old just left me this year for preschool; I was very sad to see him go but so happy to see him growing up!”

Yai Johnson | Omaha, NE

January 2023 Early Childhood Champion

Yai Johnson is the owner of Circle of Love Childcare Center in Omaha, NE. Having been a child care provider since the age of 16, Yai has been running her program for almost 10 years, serving hundreds of families and managing to sustain her business through the pandemic and other challenges.

“I have always had a love for children. Growing up in a big family having younger siblings, and a large family as well as having once older children of my own, I’ve seen what joy children can bring.”

Jennifer Baumann | Chadron, NE

January 2023 Early Childhood Champion

Jennifer Baumann has been running her program, Little Angel Playschool, since August of 1999. Like many child care professionals, Jennifer initially entered the field to be able to support her children. Soon after, she realized she thoroughly enjoyed working with children and learning about their development.

Children are truly amazing, and it is a joy to see them grow, play, and achieve their milestones. Yes, the effort is difficult, but the rewards are enormous. I feel fortunate to be a part of a child’s first five years of life.”

Bonita Sims | Omaha, NE

February 2023 Early Childhood Champion

Bonita Sims is the owner of Chosen 1 Child Development Center in Omaha, NE. She has been a child care provider for over 20 years, serving families with newborns to watching them grow into school age and beyond.

Bonita says this award means a lot. “I am so excited to receive this award. I have a passion to work with children. The love and passion I have for children has not gone unnoticed. Thank you.”

Angie Kaup | Hooper, NE

February 2023 Early Childhood Champion

Angie Kaup is the owner of Magic Giggles Childcare in Hooper, NE. She has always enjoyed caring for children. Prior to starting her in-home child care program 23 years ago, she worked as a nanny. “Growing up, my mother had an in-home day care, and I knew I wanted to do the same.”

“Being named an Early Childhood Champion means so much to me. It shows that even being a small in-home child care provider that my love and dedication for the families I care for is being noticed. I care for these children and their families so much and this award shows me they appreciate me as much as I do them.”

Carime Ruvalcaba | Grand Island, NE

March 2023 Early Childhood Champion

Carime Ruvalcaba is the owner of Karime Child Care, LLC, and has been a child care provider for 5 years. Carime is CDA certified, participates in Step Up to Quality, and in 2022, received the Women’s Business Center Entrepreneur Award from the Center for Rural Affairs. Carime is working to become a trainer to help other Spanish-speaking child care providers in her community.

“I love being one of the people who positively influence the lives of children and their families. If we invest in thriving children, we will help build thriving families and that will lead to thriving communities.”

Kayla Neumann | Omaha, NE

March 2023 Early Childhood Champion

Kayla Neumann is an Early Childhood Special Education teacher at Westside Community Schools. She has worked in Early Childhood Education for 10 years and was inspired to pursue a career in education because of the impactful relationships she formed with her teachers.

“Being an Early Childhood Champion makes me feel beyond appreciated and valued for the work I have done in my teaching career so far. I work my hardest each day for my students and give them my all, so it means so much to be recognized for that work.”

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