Jennifer Leonhardt of Lovell couldn’t have been more surprised when she received a phone call from a staff member at Wyoming PBS informing her that she was one of three daycare providers in the state to receive a Wyoming PBS Outstanding Childcare Provider award. For the past four years, Wyoming PBS has been honoring outstanding home childcare providers from around the state for their hard work and dedication to early childcare and learning. This year’s Wyoming PBS Outstanding Childcare Providers were: Leonhardt, from Lovell; Ann Klein, from Gillette, and Kim Weinrich, from Casper.
Last month all three providers were honored at a legislative reception in Cheyenne followed by a breakfast hosted by Wyoming’s First Lady, Carol Mead, at the Governor’s Mansion.
Leonhardt started her home-based childcare business in Lovell about 20 years ago because she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom to her own daughter. In spite of the fact that her daughter is fully grown, she continues her business because she loves working with kids.
Currently, her home is a daycare for up to 10 small children age 1 to about 5-years-old, but she is remodeling her home to accommodate more.
“I want this day care to have a home-like feel,” said Leonhardt. “I want the kids to feel like they have a home here while their parents are away at work.”
She plans to keep that home-like feel in her newly remodeled space but with “more shelves, more closets and child-size sinks and toilets.” The plan also includes toy closets, a playroom and a comfortable napping area for the children. The property already includes a park-like setting and a playground that rivals any public park in the area.
“To have the space to have everything put away at the end of the day would be really nice,” chuckled Leonhardt.
Leonhardt thinks that one of the reasons she has been so successful with her business is because of the home-like environment she has created for the children who spend their days with her.
“If I would have put my own child in daycare, this would be the kind of place I would have felt comfortable with putting her,” said Leonhardt.
Leonhardt takes the children on field trips, teaches them to write their names and coaches them daily to know their address and phone number. The children have a reading hour every day and they take turns picking the book that will be read by drawing names from a special hat.
“It is important to acknowledge these outstanding childcare providers, as they are performing one of the most critical services – nurturing and educating our young children – and we want them to continue,” said Wyoming PBS General Manager Ruby Calvert. “Our childcare provider awards also reinforce best practices and training opportunities, because we all learn new ideas from these role model providers.”
Leonhardt is a licensed provider in the Lovell community and is a member of the STARS Board of Review and a strong advocate for children in Wyoming.
“Jennifer offers a program rich with everyday life experiences, an emphasis on literacy skills and preparing children for Kindergarten,” said Wyoming PBS Ready To Learn Coordinator Penny Hotovec. “Jennifer has created an environment of educational opportunities that enrich the lives of the children and families she serves.”
A PBS crew will be at Leonhardt’s daycare business filming for a segment that will air on the PBS series called “A Place of Our Own.” The series is shown on television and on the Wyoming PBS website.
Leonhardt doesn’t have the slightest idea who nominated her business for this honor, but she appreciates the recognition. She is currently working on her CDS certificate and she thinks that maybe someone from that program nominated her.
More information on the Wyoming PBS Outstanding Childcare Provider awards and honorees visit www.wyomingpbs.org/caregiver.
By Patti Carpenter