Longtime Early Childhood Leader Beth Achter Recognized
The Minnesota Association for Family and Early Education (MNAFEE) to Present the Award in Honor of Lois Engstrom, Founder Figure in Minnesota’s Early Childhood Professional FieldSt Paul, Minn., August 5, 2021 – The Minnesota Association for Family and Early Education announced the Lois Engstrom Leadership Award winner today. The award was created to recognize an individual who has made dynamic contributions to advance the goals and principles of parent education, Early Childhood Family Education and/or early childhood programming in public schools locally and throughout Minnesota.Beth Achter was chosen as the winner of the Lois Engstrom Leadership Award for 2021. Ms. Achter is an exemplary leader and educator with the Lakes Country Service Cooperative located in the Fergus Falls, MN area (formerly West Central ECSU).
Her career has always been full of children! It evolved from an early childhood teacher in Colorado and North Dakota and owner of her own program in Fergus Falls in the 70s and 80s. In 1984 Ms Achter became a part time regional ECFE Coordinator for West Central ECSU. Lois Engstrom assisted and encouraged Ms. Achter in helping about 20 districts plan and develop their new ECFE programs. Fergus Falls hired her that same year to plan and develop their new ECFE program. By the time of her retirement from Fergus Falls in 2008, ECFE, School Readiness, a United Way funded Child Care Visitor Program and other grant programs reached parents and children through 15 teachers and assistants.
2021 Lois Engstrom Award Winner
Some of those grant programs included classes for teen parents, a Music and Movement class for child care providers from Bremer Foundation, and a toy lending library through collaboration with Bremer Bank. She continues her work today with the Lake Country Service Cooperative serving many school districts within nine counties and working with early childhood and family education staff.Ms. Achter’s reach goes beyond the families and children as she helps to support and develop staff to move early childhood education further. She is a true advocate for high quality early education and values the important relationships that are built from it. Melissa Amundson, a staff member and a nominator of Ms. Achter for the award says, “Beth inspires us to not only think of children and families in our classroom but to think of the larger picture and to get involved in local and state initiatives to promote and move our profession forward.”
In Ms. Achter’s words: “Relationships are the key to success in any profession. This is especially true working with parents and young children. I think the most significant impact early childhood educators can have on young children is to help them develop a sense of trust and security and that they are valued for “who they are”. I believe this is also true of parent educators. When parents receive information and support in a trusting environment, they are encouraged and gain strength. Children are the responsibility of everyone and families deserve our support when raising their children. I believe we must serve the “whole child” in the context of their family and community. We must allow children to be children and we must provide developmentally and nurturing environments where they can grow and flourish.”
When notified of the award, Ms Achter said, “I am honored to be recognized by MNAFEE whose members are recognized as leaders in our field. To receive it in the name of Lois Engstrom is humbling. This award is not just for me. I share it with the dedicated teachers, coordinators, school administrators and my employer.”About the Lois Engstrom Leadership Award: Lois Engstrom was instrumental in the design, development and statewide expansion of the public school Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) program for all families with children from birth to kindergarten and their parents. She provided wise and inspirational leadership for this and other family and early learning initiatives including School Readiness over 25 years in her position at the Minnesota Department of Education. After retirement she shepherded founding of the Minnesota Association for Family and Early Education (MNAFEE) and helped build it into the organization it is today.
The Winner of the Lois Engstrom Leadership Award:
● Is a current or past member of MNAFEE
● Has five or more years of demonstrating strong leadership in the field of family and early education, particularly as it pertains to parent education, Early Childhood Family Education and/or early childhood programming in public schools in Minnesota
● Shows a career-long commitment to the field of family and early education, particularly as it pertains to parent education, Early Childhood Family Education and/or early childhood programming in public schools
● Has made a significant impact on the lives of young children, parents and/or families, and/or professionals in the field.
● Has had a statewide impact through their efforts to improve the lives of children, parents and/or families, and/or professionals in the field.
The individual selected for the award is announced at the Annual Family and Early Childhood Education Conference in mid-April which was held virtually this year. Ms. Achter will be recognized at the MNAEFE August 5 Board Meeting.