Step Up To Quality Stories

Step 5 spotlight: Marti Spitz discusses quality care and continuous improvement

We recently chatted with Marti Spitz, director of Beginnings Early Development Center in Hastings, to learn more about her Step Up to Quality journey and how the process has fostered continuous quality improvement at her center.

 What inspired you to become a child care provider?

I didn’t actually set out to be a child care provider. I was a nurse, and when I had my youngest son, child care was difficult to find. So, I decided that I would leave my nursing career for a short time and stay home with him.

While I was at home, I had some other nurse friends who needed care for their kids, and I said, “Hey, I’m at home anyway, so just bring them over!” It was one person, two people, three people, and before I knew it, I thought, “Well, maybe this is what I need to be doing!” Within the first year, I had a wait list. Within the first two years, I decided to expand to a center. That was 20 years ago.

What is your child care philosophy?

Our mission statement is to deliver excellence in child care services, surpassing the standard of care, and a nurturing environment where children are safe, happy, growing and learning.

We know that quality child care provides the foundation for the rest of a child’s life, and that has always been at the forefront for us. It’s not about how many children you can fit in your building, it’s about the quality of care you can give them.

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

When Step Up to Quality first came out around 10 years ago, I was a little hesitant at first because it was new. Our Infant/Toddler Quality Initiative coach, Jo Smith, introduced it to us because she knew our goal was to provide quality child care. She’s now coaching for Step Up to Quality, too.

Step Up to Quality involves a lot of trainings, so it can be difficult to get started with staff turnover. It took me a long time to get to the point of having consistent staff, and I think that’s the biggest barrier for the directors I’ve spoken with. But once key people are in place, you can move through steps rather quickly.

How does it feel to have achieved the Step 5 level?

It’s very personally rewarding as a director but also rewarding for our staff. As a director, I can’t take all the credit. I can put the paperwork together, I can schedule things, but it’s my team that does all the work.

Our entire team works together for the quality care of our kids, and I am so proud and grateful for them. I am very blessed to have a team that was willing to take part in this and to allow people to come in and observe us. Multiple evaluations can be a big ask, but they knew it was for the quality care of the kids, and they were all on board.

While we have reached Step 5, a misconception is that Step Up to Quality is something that you want to “achieve.” It is an achievement, but you’re not done there. It’s ongoing!

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

Step Up to Quality isn’t just about the hands-on care of kids, it takes a lot of things into consideration. We’ve especially learned and implemented practices in the administration area. We had a wage scale, but it didn’t take into consideration the education, experience and trainings of the people we hire, so we implemented a new scale. In the classrooms, we began having the teachers do self-assessments, which we had never done before joining Step Up to Quality. We also have our supervisors go in the classroom and do observations.

Step Up to Quality has also helped us learn what trainings our teachers need and how we can use those trainings to help educate our teachers, positively impact children and increase the quality of the entire center. We now encourage all of our staff to train to their next level. We want everyone moving up and expanding in their career.

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

Step Up to Quality is a process. If you’re struggling in a certain area, like administration or staff turnover, that’s okay! You’re going to start from Step 1, and you’re going to work up from there. You don’t have to have all of your ducks in a row from day one. My advice is to jump right in, and as you’re going through those steps, you’ll see quality improve.

Step Up to Quality makes it really easy for providers. They tell you exactly what they’re looking for and what quality means to them. They meet you where you’re at, strengthen your foundation and walk with you step by step to the next rating.