Kari Stetler Teacher Student Service Specialist at the Helen R. Godfrey University Child Learning and Care Center (HRG UCLCC) I babysat as a teen and realized how much I love helping children learn and grow. To me it’s one of the most rewarding jobs I can think of. Children are, quite literally, our future, and I enjoy helping each of them reach their full potential as lifelong learners. Our center provides a high-quality, developmentally appropriate environment for children and their families. We are a model educational and training site collaborating with partners throughout UW-Stevens Point (UWSP) and the community for early childhood development, teacher education, and UW-Stevens Point students. We build strong bonds with the adult students and give them guidance through their sometimes stressful and challenging higher educational years. I have been working in the early childhood field for almost 25 years. I have worked with ECE students for 23 years here at the university. I have worked with students from UWSP and Mid-state Technical College (MSTC) since 2000. My center and I are in collaboration with UWSP, MSTC, NAEYC, DCF, DPI, the Stevens Point School District, Birth to 3, Childcaring, and Green and Healthy Schools to provide resources that enable children, families, and all staff growth opportunities. We were awarded the U.S. Department of Education National Green Ribbon award in 2021. I also started and am administrator of a Facebook group for Infant and Toddler teachers sharing and connecting. I have 1,700 members. My primary underlying philosophy is that children learn through play. My goal is to provide many kinds of experiences, supporting each child’s progress at a child-led pace. A strong emphasis on family, community, and culture is promoted with developmentally appropriate practices and the Reggio Emilia Inspired Approach as well as Conscious Discipline practices. I have children the first two years they are at our center, from 6 weeks to 2 years. When care is consistent, developmentally appropriate, emotionally supportive, and the environment is healthy and safe, there are positive effects on children and their families. When I have the children in their first two years, this enables us to build a strong bond not only with the children but also with their families. I am most proud of the relationships and bonds that I build with children and families. At UCLCC we call ourselves a “school family.” A child's early experiences of being nurtured and developing a bond with a caring adult affects all aspects of behavior and development. Children develop trust that their teachers will provide what they need to thrive, including love, acceptance, positive guidance, and protection. I have stayed in contact with several of my former students’ families and have been invited to many high school graduations. Early childhood educators are among the first educators that will teach the child to read, write, and learn math concepts along with social and emotional skills. Learning starts at birth, and I feel that early childhood teachers do not receive the recognition and respect that they deserve. We are seeing more children with emotional, behavior, and developmental challenges. Childcare centers and families need more direct support from specialist with these children to help them to be successful in learning. I would like to see more federal, state, and local funds invested in our early learners. When we invest in early childhood education and intervention, we can help reduce the need for expensive correctional services later in life (e.g., prisons, rehabilitation centers). Early care and education can be viewed as an investment (especially for at-risk children), and studies show a positive return on that investment.