by Nathan Warner
Childcare Provider of the Year. That’s a pretty big deal, and it should be. For Sherburne County, the honor rests on the shoulders of Zimmerman’s Brenda Johnson and her home care business, Brenda L. Johnson Family Child Care. The tribute took her completely by surprise.
“I was shocked,” she laughed, “it must have been a very good letter that nominated me.”
The honor was delivered by the Elk River Child Care Providers Association, which determines the award for Sherburne County. Winners by county go on to a banquet sponsored by the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association (MLFCCA) May 3 and 4 in Rochester.
Profession inspired her to seek education
Johnson, a Zimmerman resident since 1978, is thrilled with the award and feels it affirms her years of hard work and education to get to where she is, making all the challenges worth it. There have been many along the way. She says one of the biggest challenges of a childcare provider is to manage all the different dynamics with children and parents that she has to deal with. “Every child is different,” she explains, “and some need more or different care than others. The same can be said for their parents too.”
This reality of her profession inspired her to continue learning beyond the normal education a day-care provider receives until she was comfortable in every situation. “Basically, the biggest challenge is to make everyone happy,” she laughs.
That being said, there are also truly rewarding experiences. She says her most rewarding experience over the years has been the difference she can make in some families’ lives. “We may not always know at the time,” she says, “but around my birthday or Christmas time, I’ll get such lovely cards that tell me how much my service means to the families I know.” She feels she has the most important job of anyone.
At her home, it isn’t uncommon for Brenda to take care of a child from infancy up through fifth or sixth grade. Often, though, the parents get a new job or the family moves and Brenda doesn’t see them again. Despite that, Brenda keeps in touch with a few of her kids who stay in the area as they grow up. “I’ve attended their graduations, gone to their weddings, and seen them have children of their own,” she says, “which makes the work even more fulfilling.”
Brenda’s detour to becoming a childcare provider began with her youngest son. “He was a handful, and I really struggled with leaving him in the hands of other people,” she said. “I worried about him all day; so finally, I decided to stay at home.” At this point, a few neighbors and friends asked Brenda to look after their kids during the day. Brenda discovered she had a passion for it. More and more families began seeking her help and she realized that if she was going to continue, she needed to be licensed. “I began taking training classes,” she says, “and that stimulated me to learn more.”
That stimulation pushed her to take a two-year child development course at Anoka Technical College, as well as several teaching courses. She was licensed for day care in 1985 and her home was accredited by Worthington College in 1998.
Since then, she’s continued her education while growing her home childcare establishment, one family at a time. She also feels that the experience has proved invaluable for her children.
“I was able to apply all that education and knowledge with my son and daughter as well,” she says, “and I feel it made me a better parent.”