Katie Lumpkin, 605 Prep

When Mara started at 605 Prep, we knew we were in a great place. Upon moving to the Pre-Primary class under Ms. Katie’s direction, we noticed Mara’s development and social skills absolutely took off. Despite the challenges a diagnosis of Down syndrome can bring, you would never know it poses any challenges in the classroom. Ms. Katie communicates in such a positive manner, we often joke that it’s like she’s telling us a great story when she’s letting us know about something that happened with Mara during the day. She not only gives caring individual attention to each child, she also fosters the environment of inclusivity and acceptance. Ms. Katie’s patience and passion is evident every morning when she greets each child with a smile and a hug. She takes time to ensure everything is a learning opportunity. If a child is doing something that they shouldn’t be, Ms. Katie calmly and politely guides them to where/what they are to be doing – without a harshness or scolding. Not only does she care about “her kids” while at work, she does so while off duty as well. Ms. Katie joined Mara’s Buddy Walk team last fall and took time out of her weekend to walk with Mara during the event. Mara was so thrilled to see Ms. Katie that Saturday morning that the rest of the family no longer mattered. 🙂 Ms. Katie’s caring spirit makes her perfect for this type of work. Every child (and parent) would be so lucky to have her as a part of their team!

Sande Brosonski, Babes’N Toyland

Sande has been so wonderful and kind with our two boys Jaxton 3 and Everett 1. She has a magic touch with extra sparkle when it comes to tackling challenges that come up with our kids. She is amazing at standing her ground and helping to teach our boys the right’s and wrong’s of the world. She is always willing to talk and walk us through anything new that comes up with ideas and uses her expertise to help us navigate those challenges. When we had our little baby Everett last winter! It was around noon on the coldest day of winter and our older kids were off of school and Jaxton was at Sande’s. Our little baby was born and he was struggling to breath and he was sent to the NICU! We don’t have a lot of close family in town and the interstates were closed due to the weather. We were in a pinch and Sande came to our rescue! Jaxton was able to stay with her after hours until our little guy was stabilized and my husband could leave the hospital. We couldn’t put into words what it feels like to have someone like Sande to watch our little’s. We drop them off everyday knowing they are safe and loved and that they are learning to be good humans. My son Jaxton knows so many things – he is so smart and we know it’s because of her. Our 1 year old- who hates sleep at our house, somehow magically sleeps like a rockstar at her house. She truly is a godsend. She was made for this line of work and we are so thankful we found her

Brittany Bittner, Bright Eyes Daycare

Brittany has always been so patient and sweet with my children. She is always on their level interacting with them or listening closely when they communicate. Her passion for teaching children shines brightly, and she has made such a positive impact on my children’s lives. My children absolutely love her, and we are truly grateful for having her as their teacher.

Amanda Wiltse, Bright Eyes Daycare

An individual who is kindhearted with a passion for teaching children is how I’d describe Amanda. She has been in childcare for many years and her knowledge shows. She created a safe and nurturing environment for our children to grow and learn. She has showed such kindness, patience, and understanding with our children when they were in her classroom. Thank you for all you do!

Emma Bolger, Bright Eyes Daycare

Emma is such a caring and compassionate teacher who is always so attentive with her children. Her dedication in her classroom and her love of teaching shines through daily. Thank you for creating a supportive environment that helped my child flourish.

Deb Buehner, Bright Eyes Daycare

Deb was always been so kind and nurturing when my children were in the infant room. She made such an impact that even after my children grew older they still get excited to see her.

Catie Beck, Bright Eyes Daycare

Catie has been such a caring and compassionate teacher to my littles. Creating a warm and safe learning environment for her classroom children. She’s always thinking of ways to help enrich their little minds so they can flourish into the next room. My children are always so excited when they get to see Ms. Catie!

Jessi Copeland, Central Downtown Preschool

Jessi goes above and beyond for the children and families she serves! She deeply and truly cares about the whole child and family, not just their education. She makes each and every child feel seen, heard, and loved. She believes the best of every single child. She is truly a rare find!

Tina Perets, Compassion Childcare

Tina is the most caring, understanding, and compassionate teacher. I am very lucky to have her as my Child’s Pre-K teacher. She cares for her classrooms students as if they were her own children. You can see that she puts her whole heart into the lessons and projects. I am very blessed and grateful to have her as a teacher in my Child’s life.

Sara Kiefer, Cozy Corner Daycare

Sara loves children and cares for them as if they were her own. She is always thinking of new and exciting ideas to keep the young children we care for excited about coming to daycare. She enjoys keeping parents involved and having many activities throughout the year to help them get to know the other families. Sara is currently a full-time owner/director and a part-time student at STI for Early Childhood Development. She is always willing to help her staff and teach them things she has learned in school. She is also a mom to three amazing children. She has learned to wear many hats and prioritize her time management skills to keep her plate full and her heart happy!

Taylor Swanson, Creative Steps Childcare Center LLC

I would like to nominate Taylor Swanson for Teacher of the Year. Her unwavering enthusiasm, dedication to providing quality education, and willingness to happily problem-solve any issues that arise make her an exceptional educator. She goes above and beyond to ensure every child in her care receives the best possible learning experience, setting a remarkable example for her colleagues and positively impacting the lives of her students.

Theresa Senst, Dakota Kids

We absolutely adore Theresa. We were moving our youngest from a center to an in-home. We were very nervous about an in-home because we didn’t have the best experience in an in-home with our oldest two. The minute we met Theresa I could tell how amazing she is. She is so warm and welcoming. She embraces each child as if they were her own. Our youngest has really grown socially and independently. Theresa has been there with us while we grieve the loss of two babies. Theresa is more like family to us. We are so grateful to have found her!

Kiara Muilenburg, EmBe Avera Downtown

Kiara is the kindest , most genuine and caring person I have ever met . Kiddos are drawn to her because of her personality, willingness to teach and learn and change young minds wholeheartedly . I got the joy of working in a classroom with Kiara , and I am in awe of her patience and dedication to these kiddos . She is amazing.

Allison Lewis, EmBe South

My daughter, Madison, transitioned to Embe and was blessed to be placed in Miss Allison’s preschool room. We were nervous parents switching her to a new school and worried about her handling the transition of a new center, new teachers, new friends, and a new environment. Allison made her transition a breeze with her loving, open arms. Allison shows to much love and passion to all her kids and her role as a teacher. She deeply cares about her kids and treats them as of they are her own. Allison is dedicated to teaching her kids about how to be a good human through love, kindness, patience and empathy. She teaches the kids how to handle big emotions and I have seen a huge improvement in how my daughter handles her emotions at home. Every day at pick up, I am amazed at how calm her classroom full of 3 year old is. They are all engaged and having fun. Allison has open communication and is honest with their progress, strengths and needs. Madison is always so excited to share about all they learned and did at school that day. Allison has been such a blessing to our sweet girl and our family.

Miss Amy, EmBe South

Amy has the biggest heart and such love for the babies she cares for and their families. There is no better feeling then knowing you have left your child in such good hands.

Pam Mettler, EmBe South

She is a loyal worker, but more importantly cares about her students and families endlessly.


Pam is absolutely phenomenal! She goes above and beyond and loves every child as her own. Her dedication and love for her job truly shows. Embe is so blessed to have her.

Casi Smith, Good News Children’s Center

My son has been attending Good News Children’s Center since he was 1 year old. Every year, he’s talked about how he couldn’t wait until Miss Casi was his teacher. Last year, he finally got his dream and he was old enough to have Miss Casi as his teacher. She is so amazing with the kids and really has fun with them. She teaches them patience, kindness, and actually loves them as if they were her own children. When we see Casi outside of daycare, our son always runs up to her and gives her a huge hug. She is an amazing woman and we’re happy our son loves her so much. And we do too.

Courtney Sabie, Holy Cross Lutheran Church

Miss Courtney is one of the many amazing after school care teachers at Holy Cross. Courtney is one of the most positive and caring teachers that I have ever met. I love listening to the positive words and encouragement that she uses with all of the children. She also always encourage the kids to be kind to each other and encourages creativeness. Miss Coutney is one of a kind!

Jami Schott, Jami Schott Daycare

Jami has been such a blessing to our family. She has taken Emalyn in as her own and treats her like one of her own. She always has amazing and educational activities for the kids. Emalyn always loves to be there. We love Jami!


Jami is absolutely incredible. She has a love for kids like nothing I have ever seen. She is fun, energetic, engaging, caring and nurturing. I let out a sigh of relief everyday when I leave my son in her care knowing he is safe, protected and well cared for. That’s all a parent can wish for in a childcare provider.


All 5 of our kids have gone to Jami and she has become part of our family. Our kids love her and she loves them! She spends time with them outside of daycare hours taking them to pizza ranch, dollar stores, movies, park and everything in between. She makes the kids feel so special. We are blessed to have her in our life and don’t know what we would do without her! She loves all her daycare kids as her own.


This provider has gone above and beyond for “her kids” and families. She stayed open during the pandemic to allow her families to try to keep some normalcy in this unsettling time. She kept strong for her families and showed us all so much love and empathy. She has always been and continues to be someone who brings so much joy, excitement and love into the little minds she teaches. She not only cares for “her kids”- teaching them educational material, but also so many life lessons- about their feelings, treatment of others, animals, and nature, and communication. She is fluent in toddler and can understand all variations of the language, providing amazing translation back to the parents. She is always calm, cool, collected and spreads happiness at every encounter. She is someone my child is never sad to spend time with; someone who shows so much love to our entire family and truly cares and loves her job. I can go on and on about the amazing things this woman has done for our family over the last 7+ years. I have no way to express how incredibly thankful I am to have found Jami. She has played an essential part of our family’s life and the raising of my children. She is like family. I’d chose her over and over again. How lucky are we to have someone who raises and loves your biggest blessings as one of their own? Jami is more than deserving of this honor.


Our youngest, now 4, started attending Jami’s daycare when he had just turned 2. She has been an incredibly supportive provider and team member in parenting! Jami loves the kids in her care so much. She truly enjoys them, and it shows every day. Even when she is on vacation, she sends pictures for us to show the kids of fun things she’s doing. Our youngest will start kindergarten in the fall of 2025, and among all the reasons to feel emotional about it, leaving Jami’s daycare is definitely one of them.

Mel Wehrkamp, Little Wings

She’s done amazing with both our little boys and she’s always so positive and inviting!


The amount of love I have for this school is ridiculous- it’s the perfect stepping stone for kids to learn and prepare for school. They have so many fun activities, learning opportunities and fun with friends available for their students. Both my kids loved every minute of going to this school!

Cassie Graness, Little Wings

Miss Cassie is an amazing and phenomenal person and a great teacher to my daughter and her classmates. I recommend her for this award, cause she’s well deserving of it.


Miss Cassie is amazing with the kids, and made the transition for my son comfortable! She’s awesome!


She makes learning super fun and our daughter can’t wait until preschool days. She always says how nice Miss Cassie is and how they do fun activities together!

Mike and Cynthia McConniel, Mike’s Mini Monsters Childcare

Mike and Cynthia McConniel are childcare providers in Sioux Falls who have become like family to us. They have taken care of our two daughters since they were born and honestly have treated them like their own children. This husband and wife team run their in home daycare like a preschool, providing the kids with so many educational opportunities. Cynthia regularly cooks with children, allowing them to participate in making their own lunches and snacks. The kids are better eaters when allowed to prepare their meals! Painting pumpkins, dying Easter eggs, and making gifts for Mother’s day and Father’s day are also annual activities. Additionally, yoga, sing-a-longs, and various games are daily occurrences at Mike’s Mini Monsters! My children have learned to count and sing the alphabet at a very young age. They have also learned to self regulate and engage well with their peers. Mike and Cynthia are so deserving of Childcare Provider of the Year for all they have invested in so many children over the course of their career. Their dedication and patience with the kids in their care is second to none.

Sara Brinkman, Sioux Falls Lutheran

We would like to nominate Mrs. Brinkman for Educator of the Year. Mrs. Brinkman and her assistants do an amazing job of making learning a fun experience and creating interactive activities every day for the children. She is very understanding of all the needs of her students and a teaches with a genuine desire to make a difference. Our daughter enters Mrs. Brinkman’s classroom every day with a huge smile on her face and leaves just the same way. Every time telling us how she had “the best day ever” and noting all of the things that she learned that day. We have no doubt that the impact that Mrs. Brinkman has had on our daughter’s learning will follow her into grade school as she starts Pre-Kindergarten next year. We can only hope that our younger daughters are lucky enough to have Mrs. Brinkman as their teacher! She is a true asset to Sioux Fall Lutheran, the city of Sioux Falls, and really the students that she teaches.


Mrs. Brinkman has been a bright light in our kiddos’ daily lives and also in their education. Mrs. Brinkman has a classroom that fosters love, acceptance, hands-on activities and a devotion to learning. One of our kiddos was not very interested in letters but Mrs. Brinkman has pulled his love of other things in to learning and now he comes home each day and tells us about what letter/number they are learning about. Our other kiddo does love letters and since being in Mrs. Brinkman’s room has grown that love of letters and is now making them in to words. Their classroom is always transformed in to a new theme throughout the weeks from space stations to camping grounds to a chef’s kitchen just to name a few. When the children walk in to see the new theme they are immersed right back in to the fun and love of learning all over again. The time, thought, resources and planning that go in to the meaningful lessons and themes that are carried out each week do not go unnoticed and deserve recognition. Along with the superior academic lessons that are carried out we also are thankful for the social/emotional piece that is tied in to problem solving, working together and being a good classmate/part of the community. We know that our kiddos are getting an all-encompassing education this year that is setting them up for success and we are incredibly grateful that our children are able to be a part of Mrs. Brinkman’s preschool classroom.

Heather Miller, Sioux Falls Lutheran

Our family has been blessed to have had Heather teach 3 of our children. She prioritizes her faith, and the faith of her students. She allows our children’s personalities shine and motivates them to learn and grow independently. She loves her students and their families, so much so that she starts to feel like she’s a part of yours.


There are no words to describe how wonderful Ms. Miller is with her students. She cares for each of them like her own and teaches the kids so far above and beyond what is asked of her. I truly feel like she really gets to know the kids so she can help them at their level. She’s beyond wonderful and I couldn’t imagine anyone more deserving of this title.


Miss Miller’s ability to wrangle, nurture, lead, teach and entertain a group of 3-4 year olds is unmatched. Her empathy and passion for her students is indescribable. My son has so much excitement about school and the fun activities Miss Miller plans. He has learned how to voice his emotions and navigate his tantrums in a healthy way. He continues to develop academically and she is the reason for his success. She is so giving and caring, all while keeping school fun! We love that she shares her faith and love for Jesus with the kids in a way they understand and can relate. SFLS is the best home for my children and I am so thankful for Miss Miller.

Elizabeth Larson, Sioux Falls Lutheran School

Ms Larson understands and encourages appropriate child development in her classroom. My son was not only safe but nurtured in loving hands that communicated and made us a team in his year with her. My son grew so much in her classroom!

Miss Montana, Snicklefritz Learning Center

Montana is amazing with my daughter. My daughter is so excited when she arrives at preschool and sees Montana. If my daughter needs extra snuggles at drop off Montana is right there to comfort her. I see a lot of the other kids have these feelings towards her as well. She always has a smile on her face and a positive caring attitude. We just love Montana!


Miss Montana has a connection/relationship with every child. She is living, patient and kind. All of the children look forward to seeing her and playing. My child daughter is currently in her preschool class and my son is not yet, but he begs to go into her room everyday. She also does any amazing job with my picky picky baby! She makes parents feel like their children are safe and loved.

Carrie Corner, Tea Trinity Preschool

She is such a great light and wants the best for her students! She always great her students with a smiled and makes each one feel special.


She is a teacher that truly cares for all of her kids and their families. She provides a wonderful learning atmosphere that is both educational and fun! This will be our third time using Trinity Lutheran preschool all of our kids will have had Mrs.Corner as their teacher I love how she changes activities and party’s it’s never the same boring routine.

Elly Johansen, The SandLot Childcare & Preschool

Elly has been so supportive as our family has fostered kiddos over the past four years. She has continued to accept new kiddos into her center even though she knows that doing so comes with so much uncertainty. She doesn’t know whether our kiddos are going to be with her for a day, a week, a month, or even a year. She does know that the kiddos may have zero experience being in a daycare, may have extreme behaviors associated with the trauma that they have been through, and will often have extra services and visits that must be worked around. Elly has been willing to work with us through big behaviors and works with her staff to keep our kiddos, other kiddos in the daycare, and her staff safe while teaching our foster kiddos that they are in a safe place that they are loved while we are working. Finding a daycare that will accept foster kiddos and will accept State pay for foster kiddos is challenging. It is a challenge that we were not expecting when we started fostering, to be honest. But, Elly has made our experience so much easier. Elly and her staff are such a God-send to us, and we are deeply appreciative of how they care for our kiddos. Taking on a 2, 3, and 4 year-old that are not potty-trained, non-verbal for many weeks, and act more like 2-year old triplets is not an easy task. Over the last 12 months, Elly and The Sandlot staff have helped to literally transform these kiddos into far more typically-behaving 3, 4, and 5 year olds. We are incredibly proud of them all.

Joseph Thompson, Truks N Trykes Playcare

Mr. Joe spreads nothing but kindness and caring. He communicates with parents daily on activities and learning. He cares for his students and has a love for teaching. He not only cares about their education, but their wellbeing. It’s a blessing to know my child is taken care of in both aspects of education and safety.


Mr. Joe has been a phenomenal teacher for our son Beau since the day we arrived at Truks and Trykes. When Beau first started at the play-care center he was timid and lacking confidence in himself. Mr. Joe has brought out the very best in our son and has helped to make his experience in JrK so much better and I believe he has prepared him for the next steps in his education. Even if Mr. Joe doesn’t win this award, he deserves recognition for being one of the best!

Christina VanDenHoek, Sioux Falls Lutheran Preschool

Mrs. VanDenhoek is an outstanding teacher. She is so kind, patient, and understanding when it comes to each and every child in her class. She sends us messages and pictures throughout the day of our kiddo so we can see the accomplishments and excitement. She also is so attentive to our child’s individual needs and makes him feel so incredible special and confident in himself and what he can achieve. Our kiddo struggles with drop off and each morning she makes sure he is well taken care of, smiling, and playing within a few minutes of us leaving. She also has advanced our child’s learning so much through the unique and interactive activities she has them do each day. Finally, she went above and beyond in helping us change up our school schedule when we had a need for increasing it. She took care of contacting the admin and whomever else was needed to facilitate the change in his schedule. She truly cares of about each child and their family. We are so incredibly blessed to have her as our kiddo’s teacher for the year!

Mrs. Kami Talcott, Blessed Redeemer Preschool

Preschool is the beginning of children’s education career, and you only want the best to kick start a child’s education. We truly had the best of the best the last 4 years. Miss Kami has equipped our children to be fully ready for elementary school and has shown our kids love, kindness, and such an incredibly caring heart as they enter her doors each day. Our kids are eager to school each day and it’s truly because of Miss Kami. The activities they do allow them to show creativity as well as high level thinking. They come home so proud of what they have done in school and as a teacher I love seeing the growth they have made! We truly have been blessed to have Miss Kami as our children’s teacher!

Emmala Gunnare, Creative Steps Childcare Center

Emmala spends time coming up with creative and engaging lessons for her pre schoolers. She recently started student teaching as she’s working toward her degree, but still comes in on the weekends and evenings to lesson plan for the preschoolers. She truly cares about each child and demonstrates outstanding patience. We are so lucky to have Emmala at daycare. She is going to make an amazing teacher someday.

Kerra Wallace, EmBe South

I am thrilled to nominate Ms. Kerra for the Childcare Provider of the Year award in recognition of her outstanding dedication and exceptional contributions as a daycare teacher for Embe as the lead teacher in Embe South’s Creators B (two-year old) room. Ms. Kerra’s passion for early childhood education is evident in her unwavering commitment to creating a nurturing and stimulating environment for our youngest learners, including my two-year old, Noah. She has different learning “centers” or blocks throughout the day that are tailored age-appropriate activities to stimulate the cognitive, social, and emotional growth of her students. Ms. Kerra demonstrates creativity and innovation in her lesson plans, tailoring activities to meet the developmental needs of each child under her care. Her patience, compassion, and genuine love for teaching make her a role model for both her students and fellow educators at Embe. Her ability to cultivate a sense of security and trust among the children (and their parents) is truly commendable. I can tell my two-year old feels valued, supported, and cared for thanks to Kerra’s innate ability to foster a positive atmosphere for the children in her care. She is focused on ensuring the physical and emotional well-being of each child, and I feel so confident when I drop my child off in the morning thanks to the security and trust Ms. Kerra fosters! She has effective communication with the children, fellow staff, and parents, keeping all informed and involved in the children’s daily experiences. Apart from her compassion, Ms. Kerra is always demonstrating resilience, adaptability, and patience in handling the challenges that may arise in a dynamic childcare setting. Although she creates wonderful lesson plans for her room, she recognizes the day may take a turn, and she changes her course of action to suit the needs of her students. Ms. Kerra’s tireless efforts to create a foundation for lifelong learning and her positive impact on the lives of the children in her care make her more than deserving of the Childcare Provider of the Year recognition. Her room is not just a “daycare room,” but is truly a room of learning, creativity, and nuture. Ms. Kerra goes beyond her job description, making a lasting positive impact on the lives of the children and families they serve. Her dedication, compassion, and innovation contribute significantly to the development of the next generation, making her a standout candidate for this recognition and appreciation. Thank you for the opportunity to nominate her for outstanding Childcare Provider of the year.

Erika DeWitt, Abiding Savior Academy

Mrs. Erika is such a blessing to all of her students. She goes above and beyond each day to make her students feel welcomed and loved. Mrs. Erika is energetic and passionate about her teaching. Many three and four year olds have reservations about their first school experience. Mrs. Erika welcomes them with open arms and makes students and their parents feel comfortable with the transition to school. Mrs. Erika instills a love of learning based in Christian values and truly cares about fostering kindness and love in all that she does. Our family has been blessed to have Mrs. Erika as a preschool teacher for both of our children (this is our third year in a row with a child in her class,) and she is truly unmatched in her gift for shaping young minds.