Early Education Program Earns High Marks for Services

By Toya Stewart Downey, February 17, 2017

For another year, the Mille Lacs Band’s Wewinabi Early Education program was awarded a four-star rating for its services from the statewide organization, Child Care Aware.

The rating is the highest possible rating by Parent Aware, which is the state’s childcare rating system.

“This shows that we go above and beyond to offer a high quality program for our families,” said Mary Fletcher, the Band’s Director of Early Education.

“It’s a lot of hard work to make sure we fulfill the requirements and track them, but it shows our commitment to our children and families,” she added.

The staff of 100, which includes teachers and support staff, had to participate in many hours of training to earn the rating that can range from one to four stars. They had to demonstrate competencies in the areas of child assessment, family relationships and health and wellbeing.

Further, the programs that have the all-star rating must exceed the licensing requirement to support school readiness.

Participating programs have:

  • Volunteered for extra in-depth training
  • Use a scientifically based curriculum, which is validated by Parent Aware
  • Shown evidence of strong, caring relationships with each child
  • Adopted the latest approaches to getting children’s learning on track
  • Committed to daily activities that help children learn and grow
  • Placed high importance on children’s heath and safety
  • Been trained in current observation techniques, and that training is used to aid staff in assessing children’s needs
  • Demonstrated that it is respectful of each child’s unique background and encourages children to celebrate their individuality. Activities that teach about similarities and differences in realistic, positive ways help children learn to value and respect themselves and others.

“This would not be possible without the dedication and hard work from the Mille Lacs Early Education staff,” Mary said. “Every day, teachers and support staff come to work with the children’s best interest in mind. It is that commitment and the support of the Band administration that has enabled us to continue to receive this honor.”

The Wewinabi program has 220 students enrolled from the different districts. It is also strong in its language and cultural offerings that takes the “whole child” approach, Mary said.

The language immersion classes, time spent with Elders in classrooms and the other traditional and cultural teachings set the program apart from most typical childcare programs.

Band Elders spend time in the classrooms teaching Ojibwe to students and staff. The Elders are also a program resource that staff can utilize when making lesson plans.

“They have also been a part of our annual cultural training during our pre-service trainings,” Mary added. They sew blankets for our babies every year. They have their own room, which includes sewing machines, and so while our children nap they are busily sewing quilts for them.”

For more information about Mille Lacs Early Education’s Parent Aware four star rating, please feel free to contact Mary Fletcher at Wewinabi early education center at 320-32-7590.

More information concerning Parent Aware and quality childcare can be found at parentawareratings.org.