BROKEN BOW–Broken Bow resident and childcare provider Heather Schmidt was recently named the 2021-2022 recipient of the Outstanding Early Childhood Family Advocacy Alumni award from the Department of Counseling, School Psychology, and Family Science at the University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK).
The award reflects Schmidt’s outstanding achievements, leadership, contributions to the field, and the respect the department faculty have for her. An Honors and Scholarship Cermony will be held on April 24 where she will be recognized.
Heather Schmidt is the owner of Love & Learn Childcare and also works as a coach for Step Up to Quality. In addition, she serves on boards including Nebraska T.E.A.C.H and Childcare Wage$ Advisory Board, NECC Family Childcare Advisory Board, and Central Nebraska Community Action Partnership (CNCAP) Early Childhood Programs Policy Council Board.
In a video campaign with First Five Nebraska, Schmidt said, “I find myself saying this all the time: ‘I’m just a childcare provider.’ We’re not ‘just’ anything. We are helping the community ensure its future.”
Schmidt graduated from Broken Bow High School in 1990 and attended the University of Nebraska at Kearney for a few semesters. In 2005, she opened her own family childcare and was licensed for 10 children. She increased her license to accomdate more children in the summertime after she was married in 2010.
As part of the Department of Counseling, School Psychology, and Family Science Outstanding Early Childhood Family Advocacy Alumni award, Schmidt provided the following information about her education journey and passion for providing quality early childhood education. This also comes during the Week of the Young Child (WOYC) and recent ribbon cuttings held in celebration of WOYC and joining the Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce.
“When I started back to college in 2012, after a 19-year absence, my goal was to earn an Associates of Arts Degree, at Mid-Plains Community College. Returning to school was made possible by MPCC opening a campus in Broken Bow, and being able to utilize the T.E.A.C.H. scholarship through the NeAEYC. I was taking things slow, two classes at a time, so that I could still run my childcare. In 2014 I earned an Early Childhood Education Certificate from MPPC. I was also coming to the conclusion that I would be graduating MPCC soon, and I wanted to continue on with school, but had no idea in what field.
In 2015 UNK opened a new degree program, Early Childhood Family Advocacy, this was the degree I had been looking [for]. I graduated from MPCC in 2016 with an Associates of Art Degree and an Early Childhood Education Diploma. Spring of 2017 I started for the second time at UNK. One of my first classes was Family and Social Policy, which I was not looking forward to taking. That was a life changing class. I never really thought of myself of as interested in political policies, until I realized how government policies directly affect children and their families as well as my business as an early childhood educator. It remains my favorite class during my college career.
As a Senior I completed an individual studies class. The topic I chose was Childcare in Custer County and I had an opportunity to give a presentation in the fall of 2019 to the CEDC Leadership class on childcare. I also gave a presentation to Dr. Obasi’s Family and Social Policy class in early 2020 on the same topic.
The most valuable lessons I have learned and still continue to learn is that I am an expert in my field, along with all early childhood professionals. We need to be advocating for children, their families, and ourselves; advising government, policy makers, and stakeholders, starting at the local level and working our way up. Support for early childhood infrastructure starts locally so that our community can not only sustain but grow.” -Heather Schmidt