Stephanie Kottwitz-Rino is the founder and director of her school, Foundations ECE in Casper, Wyoming.
Her journey as an EC Leader is one worth celebrating, Stephanie’s school has recently been identified as one of the top EC programs in Wyoming, and Stephanie has been invited onto a 4-person committee whose purpose is to improve EC programs across the state.
What an incredible win to be recognized as one of the top EC leaders in her home state!
She’s in a position to help support and develop other EC programs, and influence change because of her own program’s success.
And what does she attribute her success to?
Investing in herself as a program director!
Let’s take a look HOW Stephanie transformed herself as a leader, from feeling isolated and unsupported, to being recognized as one of the top EC leaders in her home state.
Two years ago, this is what Stephanie told me:
“I felt like I was all alone in my little corner of the early childhood world. I didn’t have anyone to problem solve, share wins, and work through challenges with that truly understood what I was talking about.“
She knew where she wanted to go, but she didn’t have the support network to take her there and share the journey.
The turning point for Stephanie was when she began to network with other EC Leaders.
Stephanie attended the very first EC Live Event in June 2017 with Chanie Wilschanski.
At the event, she was able to connect with other directors like her and talk about things that were going on, and people actually understood what she was talking about.
Shortly afterwards, she became a founding member of the Director’s Inner Circle and joined when we first opened the doors to the program in August 2017.
This was a significant invest for her, to invest in herself as a leader rather than the school or her team. But the payout was even greater for herself, her teachers AND her school because she had the confidence to lead each everyone in the right direction.
It opened her up to an entire community of directors who have her back!
Of course, after the great experiences in the past, it was a no-brainer for her to attend EC Live Event in 2018.
She said that one of the biggest changes from attending the Live Event in 2018 was her confidence and willingness to push outside of her comfort zone.
Here are just a few of the incredible wins that Stephanie since she began investing in herself as a leader and program director.
Win #1: Innovative Teachers Go Beyond Expectations
After all her hard work week in and week out, the results started to show.
She was focusing on pushing her team enough to keep them growing and was amazed at what they were capable of.
Recently, her school had their first Curriculum Showcase and her staff put their heart and soul into it.
They even surprised Stephanie by transforming one of the classrooms into an enchanted forest, which brought her to tears.
The amazing thing about this was that it was completely the teacher’s initiative.
- She didn’t ask them to do the transformation
- They came up with the idea and took action independently
- Everyone on the team is contributing to the school culture and direction
Win #2: Like-Minded Vision With Entire Team
Stephanie keeps in contact with her staff regularly on a forum page and she recently asked her staff a question:
“The plan is a compass, not a train schedule. What does this mean in relation to the way we plan for learning at our school?”
She was pleasantly surprised when it was her youngest employee who responded and she was spot on.
This showed that:
- Everyone on her team is getting on board with the school mission
- Conversations we are having as a team are really taking hold
- Veteran teachers are helping newer teachers to step up
Win #3: A Cohesive Team Who Enjoy Quality Time Together
Every director want to lead a team who works well together, right?
Stephanie Kottwitz-Rino hosted an end of the year holiday party at her house, cooking and baking food for the team to have brunch together.
She even invited a local artisan to teach a home decor making class so that they could enjoy the time together creating, and everyone was able to go home with a handmade piece that they could use to decorate their home or give away as a gift.
This was such an engaging and successful event that really helped to build her team and relationships within the school.
What an incredible feat that she has built up an environment in her school where this is possible!
Win #4: Culture Where Staff Send HER “You Rock” Messages
One of the big focuses in the Inner Circle is on expressing gratitude to your team so that they feel appreciated and are motivating to continue growing.
One day Stephanie got a dose of her own medicine when two teachers sent HER a little gift with an uplifting message.
They took time out of THEIR busy days to thank Stephanie for her hard work and let her know that her efforts were not wasted.
This is the type of culture that EVERY director wants to build in their school.
Stephanie lead the way with gratitude, and got back in return.
Win #5: Inspire Creativity In Teachers Approach In The Classroom
At one point, Stephanie noticed that her teachers were using the same old crayons and markers in the art center…
She had already:
- Purchased a range of amazing materials for the supply closet
- Asked them to use a variety of materials
- Reminded them how important it was to use different materials
But they weren’t using it, and she was tired of asking them!
After a training with Chanie, highlighting a creative idea of a mystery box challenge.
Stephanie took action right away and she created the mystery box next to her office.
She filled a box next to her office with “magical items” from the supply closet and sent an email out to her teachers with instructions for the next day.
Each teacher was expected to come to the box and choose at least one thing that she will put on her art center that morning.
It was up to them to figure out how to integrate into the lesson.
The next morning, every teacher took one item. Some integrated really well and for others it was about trying.
But every teacher did it, which was a huge win of itself!
This “Mystery Box Challenge” is something we teach in the Director’s Inner Circle because our focus is on the HOW of everything you desire in your school.
The Power of Investing in YOU as an EC Leader
Stephanie Kottwitz-Rino is a testament to the power of investing in yourself as a program administrator or EC leader.
When you invest in yourself, you can:
- Show up with confidence, knowing you are leading your team in the right direction
- Look to other program directors for support when you face challenges as a leader
- Give yourself the tools you need to grow and give back to your team
Stephanie has really prioritized herself in her investment decisions over the past three years, and the results are evident.
Her program has been identified as one of the top EC programs in her state, and she has been invited onto a 4-person committee whose purpose is to improve EC programs across the state.
This puts her into a position where she can support and develop other EC programs, influencing change because of her own program’s success.
None of this would have happened if she hadn’t invested in herself.
She was betting on her own success to
We’ll be going into great depth about how you can make this YOUR school’s reality at the EC Summit of Excellence in NYC this July 15-16.