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The Clear Connection Between Child Development & Economic Development

When The Valley Child Development Center opened in January 2018, it was the culmination of years of work residents of the town had poured into their dream.

Their dream wasn’t and isn’t just about a quality child care center in their town, though. It’s about making Red Cloud a vibrant, viable community for generations to come – and quality, affordable child care was a key missing ingredient.

Starting from Scratch

In 2012, the Red Cloud Community Foundation Fund, with the support of the Nebraska Community Foundation, organized Community Action Planning. It was comprised of a series of meetings with all interested members of the community and the need for child care ended up being one of the top two priorities identified. At the time, just one licensed in-home child care was available within a 20-mile radius of the town.

A committee was formed, and it was decided that they would “dream big.” The city donated land, and funds started to be raised for a best-in-class child development center.

By June 2017, the building was being built and the director, Kerra Robinson, was hired. She had extensive experience in the education field – but had never run a business before. She hit the ground running: hiring staff, creating procedures, purchasing furniture and meeting with families.

“One of the first things I did after I was hired was enroll our program in Step Up to Quality,” she said.

The Importance of High-Quality

Kerra took the community’s dream of having a high-quality child care center and adopted it as her own – taking the vision to the next level. Aligning her program with Step Up to Quality principles and guidelines helped her establish the culture of high-quality from the very beginning.

“I am so impressed with the program and the fact that it’s free,” Kerra said. “There’s really no negative or downside to it at all.”

Kerra and her team have built the center into one that would be highly sought after in bigger towns. Even though she doesn’t have much competition to worry about, she sets the standard high, so the kids in her care have the best possible start in life.

The Valley Child Development Center is licensed for 80 children from ages six weeks to 12 years old. They haven’t even celebrated their first anniversary yet, and they have 70 kids enrolled – and have already expanded their center’s infant care offerings from one room to two.

Some other highlights from their first year include:

  • Starting an Edible Schoolyard program, the only official farm-based program in the state
  • Achieving better child-to-teacher ratios than the state requires, in every classroom
  • Teachers are certified or working toward their teacher certification and assistant teachers have or are working toward their associate degrees in early childhood
  • All staff are life-long learners
  • Hosting a robotics expert from Texas during their summer program

Quite literally, Kerra and her team are just getting started. One of her goals is to increase the center’s Step Up to Quality rating this upcoming year.

The Snowball Effect

The town of Red Cloud has already seen their investments in high-quality early childhood care and education pay off. They’re getting attention from across the state from other towns that want to replicate the results they’ve seen.

For example, the town’s only locally-owned grocery store was in danger of closing. Like child care, having a convenient place to buy groceries is key to retaining families in small towns. A woman who grew up in Red Cloud, but lived in Seward, always thought about moving her family back there. She and her husband happened to be in town for her ten-year high school reunion one summer, and she heard about the store’s plight. She also heard about the brand new child development center opening up – a perfect place to send their three young girls.

Fast forward to today, the grocery store is thriving under the new ownership, and so are their three girls who attend The Valley Child Development Center.

Kerra could go on and on about these sorts of stories.

There’s the single mom who can now attend nursing school because The Valley Child Development Center accepts child care subsidies (the only center to do so in the area).

There’s the high school student who volunteered at the center and is now taking education courses in college. She worked there over the summer and has a place of employment if she chooses to come back to her hometown after college.

“Mostly I think about the really young kids that we’re nurturing right now, and how we’re preparing them for kindergarten, and how they will be ready to learn,” she said.

Those children soon turn into high school students, who turn into people who might want to stay in the thriving town of Red Cloud.

“We’re lifting up the community, and everyone is excited,” Kerra said. “It’s been an amazing community effort.”

NILA Notes

If you did not attend NILA’s annual conference this year, you missed a great event.

Consistently, teachers attending the conference reported how important it was to be able to network with other teachers. This face-to-face time is a rare opportunity to reach out, to connect, to collaborate, and to gain from the experience of others.

As an honorary member of the NILA Board, I have seen the dedication in trying to provide a wide arrange of selections that fit the needs of Nebraska educators. Plans for the 2019 Conference are already under way.

You have an opportunity to grow your organization stronger and greater. NILA will send out request for presenters. Apply to be a presenter. Send recommendations for presenters and keynote presenters to NILA. Send nominations for NILA’s recognition awards. Most of all, attend the conference next year in Kearney.

NILA 2019 will be a conference like no other. NDE hopes to have the World Language standards ready for roll out before the conference. NILA is reaching out to schools of higher education and other educational providers to provide specialized tracks to meet their professional needs, to build collaboration with K-12 schools, and to establish partnerships. Watch the NILA website in the months to come for more information.

German Week at UNL: Activities Open to the Public

The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Washington, in cooperation with the University of Nebraska Lincoln, is sponsoring German Week October 22nd – October 26th. Activities throughout the week are free and open to the public. On Monday, October 22nd, a poster session and talk will discuss “The Changing Faces of Germany: Migration/Immigration Scenes That Tell a Story”. Tuesday’s movie screening of “Die Fremde” will be introduced by German Consul from the Consulate in Chicago. More activities continue Wednesday through Friday. UNL’s contact for more information is Jim Benes at

Critical Language Scholarships Offer Study-Abroad Grants

The Critical Language Scholarship Program is an intensive overseas language and cultural immersion program for American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities. Students spend eight to ten weeks abroad studying one of 15 critical languages. The program includes intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language gains.

The application is now live and available online at: Applications are due Tuesday, November 27, 2018 by 8:00pm EST.

CLS, a program of the U.S. Department of State, is part of a wider government initiative to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering foreign languages that are critical to national security and economic prosperity. CLS plays an important role in preparing students for the 21st century’s globalized workforce and increasing national competitiveness.

This year, the CLS Program is pleased to announce the addition of Brazilian Portuguese to our list of language programs for 2019. The full list of the 15 languages offered through the CLS Program includes: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu. Most languages offered by the CLS Program do not require applicants to have any experience studying critical languages.

Language pre-requisites can be found on our website at The CLS Program seeks participants with diverse interests, and from a wide range of fields of study and career paths, with the purpose of representing the full diversity of the United States. Participants are selected based on their commitment to language learning and plans to apply their language skills to their future academic or professional pursuits. Students from all academic disciplines, including business, engineering, law, medicine, science, social sciences, arts and humanities are encouraged to apply.

Prior to preparing their application, interested students should review the full eligibility and application information on the CLS Program website. For news, updates and more information about the CLS Program, check out the CLS website or our Facebook page for updates!

CLS Website:
CLS Facebook page:
CLS Twitter page:
For other questions, please contact

Meet the NILA Board of Directors

Some of the NILA Board members pose after the NILA Fall Conference. Top row (L-R): Shanna Hellerich, Alicia Dallman Shoemaker, Second row (L-R): Terri Wright, Will West, Front row (L-R): Katy Cattlett, Janet Eckerson, Cara Heminger


At the Fall Conference, NILA confirms and/or appoints its officers for the Board of Directors. NILA President Shanna Hellerich passed her gavel to Alicia Dallman Shoemaker. As president, Ms. Hellerich organized and led meetings of NILA’s governing board, led workshops, and participated in the revision process of the World Language Standards. Ms. Hellerich is a teacher at Shelton Public Schools where she has taught Spanish I-IV since 2007. Ms. Shoemaker, often called Senora Zapato, is a Spanish teacher and Curriculum Specialist at Elkhorn Public Schools. Ms. Shoemaker has expanded her classroom practice to include international education and STEM approaches. She is also an adjunct professor at Nebraska Wesleyan University. The two will continue to work together on the NILA Governing Board as Ms. Hellerich takes the role of Past President. Other members of the NILA Governing Board are:

President Elect Janet Eckerson. Dr. Eckerson is the World Language Department Chair and a Spanish teacher at Lincoln High School in Lincoln and a Practice Fellow at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.

Vice President Katy Cattlett. Ms. Cattlett is the Supervisor of Dual Language and World Language for Omaha Public Schools.

Secretary Brett Avila. Mr. Avila is a Spanish teacher at Sidney Public Schools.

Treasurer Terri Wright. Ms. Wright is a French teacher at Millard Public Schools.

Communications Director Will West. Mr. West is a French teacher at Lincoln Public Schools Lincoln High School.

Nebraska Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese President Angela Wagoner. Ms. Wagoner is a Spanish teacher at Crete Public Schools.

Nebraska Association of Teachers of French President Cara Heminger. Ms. Heminger is a French teacher at Lincoln Public Schools North Star High School. Ms. Heminger also serves as the Conference Organizer.

Nebraska Association of Teachers of German President Wendy Brennan. Ms. Brennan teaches German at Millard North High School in Millard.

ESL Conference at OPS Open to Nebraska Educators

The 20th Annual ESL Fall Conference sponsored by Omaha Public Schools will be Saturday, October 20 from 8:30-2:00 pm at 3215 Cuming Street in Omaha. The featured session is “Survival Brain vs. Learning Brain: Trauma Informed Practices for Immigrant and Refugee Students”. There will be over 40 other sessions available on topics such as technology integration, dual language, supporting newcomers, migrant education, and working with refugee students. Registration for non-OPS participants is $59 and includes breakfast and lunch. Register at

Language & Friendship, Inc. Seeking Host Families

Language & Friendship, Inc, a Minnesota based organization, is seeking families to host students from France, Spain, or Argentina in the United States in 2019. Host families provide room, board, and hospitality. The upcoming French group will be in the US from February 2-February 23, 2019. Groups arrive in spring, winter, and summer from various countries. More information can be found on their website at

Malaika Grants Help Nebraska to Reach the World

Reach the World‘s curriculum-aligned virtual exchange journeys connect you and your students with volunteer travelers to explore the world without ever leaving the classroom. In matching your classroom of students with your own volunteer traveler abroad, you can harness authentic experiences in real time to enhance your lessons while inspiring your students to become curious, confident global citizens. Travelers are researchers or students with an interest in sharing their experiences with U.S. students.

Thanks to the generous support of the Malaika Foundation, you can take your students on one of these journeys this spring for free! Our programs are highly customizable, both in length and in curricular alignment. Whatever you want to teach and wherever you want to go, Reach the World wants to create that journey for you.

Spaces are limited, so e-mail Christopher Ahearn ( to connect with your volunteer traveler today!


Color and Contour: Provencal Quilts and Domestic Objects
Lois Gottsch Gallery
International Quilt Study Center & Museum
June 15-October 28

Middle East Forum
CEC OPPD Community Dialogue Room
September 20 and October 18

Chinese Warriors of Peking
Lied Center
October 21

Ballet Folklórico de México
Lied Center
October 30

Au Cabaret Français
L’Alliance Français
November 2

Beaujolais Nouveau
L’Alliance Français
November 17

NILA Announces Award Winning Teachers

NILA recognized several teachers during the Fall Conference. Nominations were received from around the state and reviewed by the NILA Board. The selected recipients were recognized in a formal presentation during the lunch on Saturday.

Melissa Hernandez pictured with Shanna Hellerich
World Language Teacher of the Year
Melissa Hernandez
Lincoln Northeast High School


Shanna Hellerich and Mariah Wailes
World Language New Teacher of the Year
Mariah Wailes
Lincoln High School
Lincoln Public Schools

Toben Cohen-Dunning and Katy Cattlett
Pro Lingua Award
Toben Cohen-Dunning
Omaha Public Schools Foundation
Omaha Public Schools

Jamie Honke and Angie Wagoner
Nebraska Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Teacher of the Year
Jamie Honke
Ralston High School
Ralston Public Schools

Not Pictured:
Nebraska Association of Teachers of French
Kristen Tangen
Lincoln Southeast High School
Lincoln Public Schools

Nebraska Association of Teachers of German
Kristen Hetrick
Doane University