The main reason for asking for this interview, was the opportunity to talk to the person who racked up more points than anyone who participated in the CACFP take ACTION Challenge even more than entire CACFP agencies. The idea was to find out more about her thoughts on the CACFP take ACTION challenge and her journey in advocacy, Early Child Care and the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) since the challenge. Well, was I in for a surprise.
I called Tracy, with my interview questions in hand and almost the first thing she said was, it’s so busy around here, wait did you hear the news? I said no, what did I miss? Tracy then told me that she was asked to run for Iowa’s District 70 House Representative and that she agreed to do it. What? That is fantastic, I was extremely excited and even though I did not know Tracy personally I felt proud.
So, I changed up the interview I had planned, this news was so relevant to what the challenge was all about; people taking ACTION exactly what Tracy Ehlert is doing. Most gracious, Tracy and I talked for two hours. We talked about topics like politics in regards to child care and other family issues, advocacy, volunteering, ratings, standards, curriculum, children led teaching, the challenge, support organizations, CACFP and the updated Meal Patterns, birth to five issues, family involvement, Farm to ECE, the FCC Business, and childhood obesity just to name a few. By the end, I thought that we would all be best served to do more than one blog about Tracy Ehlert and her journey but especially about Family Child Care and CACFP.
A few questions and answers
Q When and how did running for office happen?
A About two weeks ago I was asked to run for House District 70 in Iowa, now represented by Rep. Todd Taylor, D-Cedar Rapids. He had announced plans to run in 2018 for the seat held by retiring Democratic Sen. Wally Horn. It appealed to me when they said there wasn’t anyone representing the area with any early child care and family experience and the benefits that could come from her experience and advocacy. I talked to my family and they supported the idea.
Q When is the election and what is going to happen to your FCC business?
A The primary isn’t until June and I would not be on the job until 2019. Many of the children that I have currently enrolled would be getting ready to start school. The plan is to still have summer school at Babies 2 Kids Learning Center.
Q How did you get into the ECE Family Child Care business?
A I really kind of fell into it. I actually always wanted to teach, did some volunteer work for Head Start when my oldest was little. But after I had my second son, a friend asked if I would watch her child and when another friend asked and another. I decided I needed to look into getting registered with the state and then take some ECE classes. There was so much I did not know and it seemed the more I learned the more I loved it and the more I wanted to learn.
Q What keeps you motivated?
A The children keep you in it! Also, continuing education, school motivates me. At first I wasn’t as satisfied at the end of the day but then I went back to school. Then putting everything I was learning into practice, well it’s very exciting, there is always progress. It’s powerful. In ECE I don’t get stuck in a rut.
Q I see you are a QRIS Level 5 and are accredited with NAFCC. How do you feel about all of the standards, ratings, accreditations that are being implemented in the child care industry? Do you think it’s just too much, redundant?
A I like them all for many different reasons. Standards keep things more measurable for outcomes. I don’t see them as redundant at all, each one that I have completed has giving me something different. My program just keeps getting better and so do I with each standard/ratings achieved.
(A side note, the interviewer learned a lot about ratings/standards/accreditation tonight.)
Q During the wonderful webinar that you presented in last month, you talked about the challenge. You said, “When I first started in ECE, I gave little thought to what children really needed in nutrition and physical activity… Once I started in the CACFP my thoughts completely changed... But the point in my program where the biggest changes were made in my program was when I participated in the National CACFP take ACTION Challenge. You went on told the audience about the challenge and the benefits that you, your parents, other provider and your program received through your participation. My question is do you have any other thoughts about CACFP take ACTION Challenge?
A Actually, I do. I was disappointed that more people were not made aware of the challenge, I only found out about it by accident from a nurse that I sit on a committee with. My own state and food program didn’t tell us nor participate in it. So many people could be helped with the challenge. There should be another one but more people should be told about it. The Challenge changed her whole perception about many things in CACFP, nutrition and physical activity, it was inspiring.
Q How important do you think it is for the child care community to advocate for themselves and be involved in support organizations like NAFCC, NAEYC, CACFP?
A I recently had an opportunity to go to D.C. with SAVE THE CHILDREN ACTION NETWORK the Iowa State Contingency, it was quite the experience for me. Realizing how knowledgeable some staffers were about child care and family issues and then how many were on the other side of the spectrum and uninformed. Let them hear, everything and anything just make sure they hear. Getting the word out is so important and if we can’t do it, we need the support organizations to do it, so we need to support them.
Q Before politics was a thought in your future, what did you see in your future in the Family Child Care field?
A Teaching, I see myself teaching college.
A Few Tracy Ehlert Facts
Tracy is married to Justin and is the mother of two sons. A Family Child Care Small Business owner of Babies 2 Kids Learning Center; a State Registered, NAFCC Accredited and QRS 5 Level, Environment Rating Scales (ERS) Early Childhood Education Family Child Care home/business.
Her side job; A Continuing Education Instructor for Kirkwood Community College, a Level 2 trainer for CCR&R: Region 5 and a trainer for other local Early Childhood Education organizations.
Tracy serves as a Committee Member on the State of Iowa's QRS Oversight Team of the State's Early Childhood Workforce Alliance Advisory Committee (formally T.E.A.C.H./WAGE$ committee) and a council member on the National T.E.A.C.H. Early Childhood® Alliance.
Ms. Ehlert is a Terri Lynne Lokoff Ambassador, a NAFCC Accreditation Self-Study Ambassador and a Farm to ECE Coalition Member.
She loves her volunteer work as a Preschool Room Child Care Coordinator and Ready to Read Facilitator for Young Parents Network now YPN. One of her favorite volunteer times is spent with Save the Children Action Network (SCAN).
Her formal education background Business, Child Development and Early Childhood Education and she is the in the process of completing a Masters in Early Childhood Education: Teaching & Diversity.
Tracy is a recipient of a 2015 Terri Lynne Lokoff/Children's Tylenol National Child Care Teacher Award, was named December 2015 Provider of the Month by Child Care Aware of America and was one of three 2016 Let's Move Child Care Innovator Award Winners, 2016 CACFP take ACTION Challenge Gold ACTIONEER awardee. Tracy was also named by the Child Care Food Program Roundtable and CACFP take ACTION as a 2016 Top Ten in the categories of CACFP Blogs and CACFP People!
Want to know more facts about Tracy Ehlert? Take a peek at her portfolio
Want to know how the Tracy Ehlert campaign for District 70 is going? Check out Facebook
Healthy Kids Healthy Future July 2017 Webinar