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Hale selected as 2018 Family Childcare Provider of the Year

Holly's Little Red Wagon Childcare owner Holly Hale is pictured with her parents, Barb and Len Nelson of North Hudson, after receiving the 2018 family Childcare Provider of the Year award on May 11, at the Wisc Family Child Care Association Conference at Chula Vista in Wisconsin Dells. Submitted photo

Holly Hale of Holly's Little Red Wagon Childcare in Roberts was selected as 2018 Family Childcare Provider of the Year on May 11, at the Wisc Family Child Care Association Conference at Chula Vista in Wisconsin Dells. And even though the award meant a lot to her, it meant more to her that her family and friends were there to support her.

"Being provider of the year means that I am making a difference for families, the community, and the early childhood profession by giving the children a high quality early childhood experience. If I can make a difference for my families, then I have accomplished what I wanted, too," Hale said. "However, I think the best part of the day was having the four people who have been most influential in my life be by my side, and see how happy and proud they all were."

Hale has been working in childcare for most of the last 35 years and has been licensed since August 2006. Since beginning her program, Hale received her associates degree from WITC in New Richmond, her bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls and is currently working on her master's degree in early childhood education at Concordia University.

"When I started childcare, it was so I could stay home with my own children. Through the years and my education, I have learned and implemented developmentally appropriate practices in a play-based learning environment," Hale said. "My job is to observe the children to learn their interests and create activities around their interests. The most important thing I can do for each child is to send them to school with social skills and self-help skills."

It is Hale's belief that everything a child needs to learn can be taught in a play-based learning environment. In her program, children take part in process art, which means that other than the changing of materials, the children are allowed to create whatever they want.

"My favorite thing to do is to record what they tell me about their work. I try never to ask 'what is it' I ask them 'can you tell me about this?'" Hale said.

Hale currently has 11 children enrolled in Little Red Wagon Childcare, with no more than eight children being cared for at a time.

"Every day there is a new funny story," Hale said. "Children tell the funniest things about what happens at home. They are way too honest. One of the best stories I have about care is:

"If you know me, you know I have a phobia of mice. It doesn't matter if they are dead or alive. I cry and freeze if I encounter one. At the time, I was recently divorced and one of the cats left a dead mouse on the sidewalk. I looked at the kids and told them 'Today we are going to learn to face our fears.' I went to the garage and got a shovel. I scooped up the mouse (yep, I was crying) and started running toward the field with it. One of the 4-year olds said, 'Don't worry Holly, I am right here beside you!' A little further through the yard, another said, 'Holly, I think the mouse is waking up.' That was it. I screamed, and the mouse went flying off the shovel and I never saw it again. After that, if there was a dead mouse the kids would tell me to stand back and they would yell for my daughter to do 'mouse patrol.' So much for facing our fears!"

Hale was accompanied to the conference luncheon by her parents, Leonard and Barbara Nelson, of North Hudson; Chris Lace, her Youngstar technical consultant who nominated Hale for the award; and Vicki Harmon, Hale's early childhood instructor from WITC-New Richmond.

"If it wasn't for all they have taught me and supported me in, I would not be able to provide a program that can offer so much for children," Hale said. "I did not know what to say when Chris Lace told me that she had nominated me, and NAFCC selected me as the Family Childcare Provider of the Year. I know childcare is hard work, but I only work hard so the children can have a good start that will follow them a lifetime. I do not feel like I do anymore than what I would want someone to do for my children or grandchildren."

Hale, a mother of four to Kati, Jeremy, Michael, and Emily, has five grandchildren with a sixth on the way.

"They are why I do what I do. I also want to thank my assistants, Suzi Bibeau and Lindsay Brinkman ... we are a great team!" Hale said. "The only way I can give the best to the children is to continue to learn and grow in my field. I am hoping to be able to teach childcare classes in the future. The award has made me feel like I have made a difference."

Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Observer for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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