Step Up To Quality Stories

Step 5 spotlight: Sara Voss shares her perspective from different sides of Step Up to Quality

Meet Sara Voss, an administrative coordinator at Fingerprints Child Development Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. Seasoned in the early childhood field, Sara shares her experiences working with Step Up to Quality throughout her career as a center director, administrative coordinator, observer and coach.

What inspired you to become an early childhood professional?

I’ve always loved kids. I studied elementary education and early childhood development in college. After graduation, I taught first grade for about five years at a school with students from low-income households. Witnessing the barriers they faced, I started focusing on the importance of having a solid learning foundation from birth, which led me back to early childhood.

What is Fingerprints’ child care philosophy?

We strive to be a safe, Christian environment that encourages the growth and development of each child. We foster creativity and develop problem-solving skills, and investigation through play is supported by well-trained, caring staff who love children. Families are highly encouraged to participate and share in activities both inside and outside of the classroom.

Tell us more about the work you do at Fingerprints as an administrative coordinator.

As an administrative coordinator, I’m responsible for staff development, child development and program quality. There are three of us on the administrative team, and we each have different strengths. For me, my strength is working in the classroom and focusing on teachers. For others, it’s the budget and payroll. It helps us not be spread too thin.

Fingerprints opened in 2004, and I’ve been there for about two years. Prior to this program, I was the director of another center for 17 years. Both Prudence, Fingerprints’ director, and I had heard about Step Up to Quality through the directors’ association we were a part of. It seemed like a great program to join — we’re always looking for ways to improve and give our children and families the highest care possible, and Step Up to Quality gave us a path to follow.

I’m also a Step Up to Quality coach and an observer, so I’ve been able to give our staff extra coaching as needed.

When did you decide to become a coach?

It was about two years ago. I was looking to do something different after being a director for 17 years. I went through Step Up to Quality with my previous program and had a great experience with my coach, so I knew a bit about the role. It was a really good fit for me at that time, and I’ve continued to do it.

Did your center work with an additional Step Up to Quality coach?

Yes — I was an on-site coach, but it was nice to get another perspective from our coach, Jen. She focused on the Environment Rating Scale, and I focused on CLASS, so I felt like our staff got a good picture of what “quality” really is.

We weren’t sure if we were going to do observations, but Jen really pushed us to try it out, so we decided to go for it and surprised ourselves with how well we did.

It’s always intimidating to have an outside person coming in to observe your program. I think our staff was a little more accustomed to it because I had been doing several observations in their rooms, so they knew what to expect. We took the pressure off by telling them to just go through their normal day, and they happened to do really well.

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

We feel really proud to have earned a Step 5. We’re always critical of everything we do, so it was nice to get that recognition. We had a week-long Step 5 celebration including t-shirts and lunch for the staff, cookies for the families and a visit from Kona Ice.

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

We were at the point where we needed to get new curriculum for our center, and Step Up to Quality helped us set those deadlines and pushed us to make decisions while our staff went through the Step Up to Quality process.

Our staff has always been really good at planning intentional activities to keep our kids engaged and learning, but this process reminded us how crucial it is for teachers to have time to plan and collaborate. We added some staff work days and more time in their schedules to focus on planning intentional opportunities for the children.

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

Don’t be overwhelmed with the process. Go through the Rating Request Form and start gathering your evidence — you may be surprised by how much you’ve already done.