Ruth I. Eickman Outstanding Early Childhood Educator Award
About the Award: This award recognizes an early childhood educator who has demonstrated outstanding commitment to young children and child centered learning, has been involved with the families of these young children, has shown an appreciation of children's and families' uniqueness, uses developmentally appropriate practices when working with young children and has demonstrated the use of innovative practices in the field of early childhood.
Awarded Amount: $750
Nominated By: Whitney Gibson, Co-Worker
Nomination: I am honored to nominate my fellow home-base teacher, Jenny Carver, for the Ruth Eickman award for early childhood excellence. When I joined the Lincoln Public Schools Early Childhood Special Education home-base program in August of 2008, Jenny was my co-teacher on the Northeast Team. At that time, there were five teams and it was common to only have two teachers per team. Jenny was a seasoned teacher that took me under her wing and taught me the ins and outs of what it means to be a home-base teacher.
In many ways, the tasks of a home-base teacher are like those of any other educator. You plan for your students, you collect data, you team with your fellow professionals, you write progress reports, and you develop an extensive number of teaching materials. But what Jenny taught me was unique to our profession. Jenny taught me how to talk to parents. This might sound simplistic, even easy. It’s not. It’s a complex skill that takes effort and diligence to acquire. At its core, you must learn how to put other people at ease as you enter a stranger’s home. It’s a challenging and taxing skill, and it’s often the last thing a teacher expects to need to know how to do proficiently when they graduate from teacher’s college.
As a home-base teacher, competently talking with caregivers could be argued to be at the crux of our job. We encounter every walk of life. We walk into the personal space of dozens (and if you do this long enough, like Jenny has, hundreds or thousands) of families. And it’s our job to talk to them. We talk about their child’s development and learning, from their child’s first words to their excitement about starting Kindergarten. We also talk about their deepest worries. Families often share their fears, trials, and uncertainties. Jenny coached me through conversations concerning how to talk to a parent who was worried about deportation as an illegal immigrant to finding out their child had a terminal illness. Jenny taught me that for some families school is a frightening word, filled with connotations of failure and judgement. I also learned from Jenny, that my visit into a family’s home and the conversations we share will likely be their first impression of school, special education and Lincoln Public Schools. Jenny taught me to be careful with my words, that my words carried weight.
Jenny exudes joy; for life, for her occupation, and most importantly, for young children. She is keenly aware of the importance of the family unit and understands how the members of a family impact a child as they learn and grow. During home visits, s he proficiently navigates the delicate balance between the roles of educator and guest. Jenny takes her job seriously and strives for excellence. She has a solid knowledge of child development and best practice strategies. I believe Jenny deserves the Ruth Eickman award for a legacy of outstanding service to students. But most of all, I am nominating Jenny because she taught me how to evolve from the role of teacher to the role of coach.
In addition, please note the following testimonials from a variety of LPS professionals that have worked with Jenny over the past ten years:
From Cheri Thaller (ECSE Technician) “I have worked with Jenny for many years and she has all of the qualities for the Ruth Eickman award. She goes above and beyond for her families to help them with whatever is needed for each individual child. She not only helps children and their families, she also helps and improves her co-workers. Jenny would be a perfect person for this award.”
From Molly Kouba (Physical Therapist): “Here is one of the many things that I love and miss about working with Jenny....problem solving. Things were never about complaining, it was about the root cause of a situation, behavior, policy, practice and looking at it from a different perspective than what we were seeing. Jenny is always compassionate to others’ situations and helps all of us navigate through those situations. She has an ease with children and adults. She is comfort, wisdom, kindness and love personified.”
From Amber Vraspir (Services Coordinator) “Jenny has been a very respected colleague of mine for several years. Since the day I met her, she has been someone who is extremely easy to talk to and supportive at all times. Even if she has her own struggles to deal with, she is always there for her families and colleagues as if there is nothing else in the world to worry about. She is a seasoned veteran in Early Childhood who many come to for support in all areas of the job that she gives her all to. Jenny is truly a kind, caring, and amazing person who is often caught smiling while walking around the office. But most of all, Jenny is often the reason I and many others are also smiling.”
From Penny Laschanzky (Occupational Therapist) "I was extremely blessed to be part of home-based early intervention services for Lincoln Public Schools with Jenny some several years back. There were many difficult situations that she and I worked jointly on within our team to provide services to young children. She was 100% engaged and determined to provide the best services and interventions possible for families. Not just for the child, but the whole family. Additionally, she was such an amazing teammate, always supportive of each different person and the different disciplines we represented. Never without a smile and a laugh and always willing to chip in and do anything asked of her and even more, jumping in before she was asked, to help serve children and problem-solve situations. As a newer teammate learning the ropes of home-based early intervention services, I remember when a new assessment tool came along that we all needed to learn (Teaching Strategies Gold) some many years back, and we would join in, all together, to learn this new tool. I can’t count how many times I would seek Jenny’s guidance and assistance with this and with learning and executing the new Routines Based Interviews (RBI’s). She was always generous with her time, her expertise, and her kind and supportive way of helping, while never EVER making you feel “less” for having asked for her help. She is such an incredible teacher, all these many years, and certainly worthy of recognition for all that she has so generously given and done to serve children, families, and co-workers. I wholeheartedly recommend Jenny for this award.”