Step Up To Quality Stories

Step 5 Spotlight: Angie Herman boosts quality for Boone County child care

Meet Angie Herman, director of Tiny Treasures Daycare in Albion, Nebraska. Angie’s enthusiasm for early childhood shines throughout her career and her Step Up to Quality journey. Learn more about how Angie and her staff bring high-quality child care to Boone County.

What inspired you to become an early childhood professional?

I always wanted to be a teacher. In high school, I was a student aide for the kindergarten classroom, and I never wanted to leave. I loved it so much. I knew I wanted to go into early childhood, and while I was at Southeast Community College in Lincoln in the ‘80s, we built the college’s childcare center. I was just totally smitten by working with kiddos.

How long has Tiny Treasures been established?

Tiny Treasures Daycare has been in our community for over 23 years. I’ve been here for nearly 13 years. We’re a hospital-owned daycare with two daycare homes right next to each other across the street from the Boone County Health Center. We’re all hospital employees.

It’s kind of fantastic when you think about it — businesses weren’t putting child care in their establishments 23 years ago. But Boone County Health Center stuck their neck out and started a daycare. Now, we’ve grown to two daycares, and we’re hoping to add another one for infants.

I also help educate adults. I do required trainings for the State of Nebraska: the Early Learning Guidelines and the Safe With You training. I give these trainings to my staff and other licensed providers in Boone County. I try to offer three or four opportunities each year.

What is your child care philosophy?

My philosophy is to have a safe, loving environment where the kids have lots of fun and experience lots of joy throughout the day when they’re away from their parents.

How did you learn about Step Up to Quality? Why did you decide to join?

When I was doing my trainings, the state introduced Step Up to Quality. They wanted trainers to promote it to whoever was licensed. After a while, I realized I couldn’t encourage these providers to do it if we didn’t sign up ourselves. So, we joined Step Up to Quality in 2019. It took us a while with trainings and the pandemic, but it was well worth it.

Did you have a Step Up to Quality coach? How was the experience?

Yes, it was terrific. I cannot say enough about our coach. My staff was always excited to welcome her. She would come in, meet with staff one-on-one and motivate them with the things that they were already doing. We loved her positivity.

I’ve always said that, even when you’re the best, you can be better . And when we’re improving, we feel good about what we’re doing. That’s another reason I wanted to join Step Up to Quality. My staff listens to my ideas and my opinions, but I really wanted someone else to coach them with an outside perspective. We miss her now that we’re done with coaching, but she stays in contact.

In what ways has Step Up to Quality helped boost the quality of your child care practices? What have you learned and implemented?

I have so many examples. One was naming and explaining children’s emotions when they’re going through something. The kiddos would look at us and say, “Yes, that’s it, that’s what’s going on.” We did that already, but this advice built on our practices and strengthened our interactions with them.

We also began to create portfolios for our children’s development. Having a physical portfolio to show a child’s growth is pretty incredible to share with their parents. We see children every day, and sometimes we don’t notice changes until we look back at what they’ve accomplished.

Our biggest achievement was building an outdoor classroom. Our coach realized early on that we spent a lot of time outside on our huge playground. The insides of our centers weren’t being used as much, so she recommended that we bring the centers outside.

We created areas outdoors to reflect every area we had indoors — a quiet area, a reading area, a science area and a potted garden. We have a place for riding bikes and climbing. We incorporated music with a wall that holds lots of instruments. We have a stage with a CD player so the kids can choose songs and perform. Our awesome hospital maintenance staff built us mud kitchens with a full range of utensils, aprons and hats.

Our playground is terrific. In the winter, we mourn its loss because we don’t get to spend as much time out there. But that is the biggest thing that we implemented because of our coach, and it’s the most rewarding. Not only do we enjoy it, but the kids enjoy it. We do almost everything outside.

How does it feel to be rated at a Step 5 level?

It’s incredible. My staff all feel like it was well worth it, and we’re really proud of it. We have big “We’re quality” signs outside. I hear my staff tell parents daily what they learned from our coach. I think it just continues to grow.

How was the observation process?

Of course, we were nervous. But we knocked it out of the park each time. We have two daycares, so each site was observed over two days. But when you’re confident in what you’re doing, it’s no big deal to have someone come in and observe.

What words of encouragement do you have for providers who are considering joining Step Up to Quality or are still working through the steps?

I definitely encourage everyone to join. Sometimes, we stagnate in our jobs, just doing what we do. It’s nice to feel revived and encouraged. Do it at your own speed so you don’t get overwhelmed. There’s no hurry or time limit.