Shoreview teacher wins national award

Janet Simons, second from right, found out she was one of ten winners of the Early Educator Award on her 25th anniversary of working at KinderCare. (Hannah Burlingame/Bulletin)
Janet Simons, second from right, found out she was one of ten winners of the Early Educator Award on her 25th anniversary of working at KinderCare. (Hannah Burlingame/Bulletin)

On the day of her 25th anniversary of beginning work at the KinderCare in Shoreview, teacher Janet Simons received extra recognition, that almost no one saw coming.

Simons received the Early Childhood Educator Award from Knowledge Universe on Oct. 8. She was one of ten recipients this year, out of more than 25,000 employees. Beyond the recognition, the award comes with a significant sweetener: $10,000.

The Knowledge Universe Early Childhood Educator Award is an award that recognizes teachers who demonstrate exceptional skills in teaching young children. The KinderCare in Shoreview opened in 1982 and serves kids six weeks to 12-years-old.

Kelly Hillier, KinderCare district manager for Minnesota, nominated Simons.

"When you watch [Simons] in action, every one of those kids love her," Hillier said. "The parents love her."

Simons thought she was just going to be reading a book to a group of students the morning of Oct. 8 — it was a book about a hero searching for a sidekick — that happened to tell Simons that she was an award winner, at the end

"When I started getting toward the end it was kind of becoming a little bit real and I wasn’t quite sure 'Is this really playing out like this? Is this really going to be about me?" Simons said. "When I realized that it was I was floored."

Simons, who said she was honored and humbled by the award, is a 56-year-old mother of two, grandmother of two more and works in the infant room. She is also a recent breast cancer survivor.

Despite battling the disease, coworkers said she still came into work everyday with a smile on her face.

"I learned over the years I can't do anything about the cancer. I can get the treatments but it’s just all how you look at things in life," Simons said. "I choose to look at things on the positive side rather than looking more on the negative side. That doesn’t do anything for me."

A big surprise

Only a few people knew about the surprise in advance.

Kimberly Baar, center director, found out about the surprise the day it was taking place and said Simons was very deserving.

"She puts herself in the job because it's what she loves to do. She truly impacts the lives of families that come to the center," Baar said, adding that Simons is selfless and patient.

Despite being there for 25 years, Simons said she still loves her jobs.

"That's why I've been here for so long. I’m inspired by the babies that I care for, just helping them and watching them learn," Simons said.

While she's still figuring out do with the money, she knows it will help her and her husband get back on their feet.

"We'll be paying some more medical bills and using a little bit to splurge, I think," Simons said. "You gotta do that."

Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or staffwriter@lillienews.com.

 

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