Early childhood educators discuss the new "In His Hands" manual.
Early childhood educators discuss the new “In His Hands” manual.

It’s that time of year again, when thoughts of “back to school” are on everyone’s mind. Parents, students, and teachers are all thinking about the new school year. This is also true for our early childhood leaders serving in 1,285 Lutheran early childhood programs across the nation. In preparation for the new school year, early childhood educators are meeting collaboratively to share and learn about best practices in serving young children.

Nearly one hundred and seventy early childhood directors, teachers, and support staff gathered at Faith Lutheran in Collierville, Tennessee, for the 2014 Mid-South District Early Childhood Conference. Know, Grow, Sow, the conference theme, focused on providing educators inspiration and information for the coming school year.

Iowa East and Iowa West District early childhood educators met in Urbandale, IA for an annual conference hosted by Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and Tiny Treasures Lutheran Preschool. Over two hundred passionate early childhood educators met to explore the topic of Wild about Children.

The attendees met to gain more knowledge about current early childhood trends, explore issues that impact early childhood educators and centers, and to gain a better knowledge of various subject areas. Additionally, they were refreshed and renewed in the Lord, ready for another year of service in their early childhood ministries.

The keynote speakers, Mr. Drew Gerdes (Faith, Collierville, TN) and Kim Marxhausen (Gloria Dei, Urbandale, IA) are nationally recognized educators who speak on a variety of topics related to early childhood. Their presentations motivated and inspired the attendees to greater service, focusing on touching the lives of children with the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. Gerdes and Marxhausen are both authors of articles, blogs, devotions, curricular materials, and are highly respected early childhood educators in our LCMS.

District leader, Rev. Bob Riggert was recognized for his many years of dedicated service in the field of early childhood in the Iowa West District. Dr. Jon Mielke, Education Executive for the Indiana District, attended the joint district conference in Tennessee for the second year along with 33 early childhood educators from the Indiana District. Rev. Riggert, Dr. Mielke along with Charles Winterstein, the Mid-South District Education Executive, support and encourage this type of collaboration for all believe a setting like this helps to better meet the needs for early childhood educators. Winterstein stated, “By coming together for such a conference, we can develop a more comprehensive program that provides excellent information and education for the participants. It also gives a much broader view of early childhood education in our LCMS and provides a network for early childhood educators to communicate with one another during the year.”

Dr. Rebecca Schmidt, Associate Director of Schools for the LCMS was present for both conferences and affirmed early childhood leaders, teachers, and assistants who work with children and families. “God has richly blessed the work of our talented and gifted educators who minister to young children. The number of LCMS early childhood centers continues to grow each year. This is a tremendous blessing for the families that are served.”