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MnAEYC History
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Fifty Years of Growth and Counting…

by Rhoda Redleaf & Sandy Heidemann

The Early Years

The earliest years of our association are only recorded through oral history, as there are no known written records available. According to the recollections of Shirley Smith, one of our founding members and organization President from 1953-60, the group began as an informal get-together of preschool teachers who called themselves the Twin Cities Preschool Association. Their primary function was to hold workshops for staff members and to meet and hear speakers. These meetings were attended by 45-50 people. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the University of Minnesota sponsored Saturday workshops for the Twin City Area Teachers. From the beginning, the group included Day Care Centers and half-day Nursery School personnel; some of the earliest participants were from programs still listed on our membership roster. Interestingly, during the war years (WWII), full-day programs outnumbered half-day ones — a situation that changed dramatically after the war with the growth of nursery schools and play groups for preschool-aged children, and with the return of mothers to the home.

The Name

During the mid to late 40s, people from Rochester and Duluth began to participate in the group activities and the loose association eventually became the "Minnesota Preschool Education Association" and affiliated with the "National Association for Nursery Education" (NANE and MANE for Midwest). In 1970, when we joined NAEYC, this growing organization changed its name to what it is today.


The 1950s saw the beginnings of concerns about professionalization in the field. MPEA, under Shirley Smith's leadership, played a major role in the development of licensing standards, including teaching certification (an issue we continue to monitor). Shirley herself has served on every rule revision panel in some capacity. The 50s also saw the beginnings of the Fall Conference. The organization's format in the 50s and early 60s included monthly meetings at member's facilities, with a tour and a program. Summer workshops were sponsored at Aldrich Memorial nursery school in Rochester. They were held cooperatively with the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) and a DPS licensing staff member served as a liaison on our board, a practice held from the 50s through the 70s.

The 1960s brought tremendous growth to our field. Head Start began, the Montessori movement developed, and there was tremendous new emphasis on cognitive development (as a reaction to Sputnik). NEWS also began in the mid 1960s as a regular monthly communication to members. I served as its founding editor as it grew from a few pages to a combination newsletter and journal, eventually splitting into two separate publications. We hosted our Midwest Conference in 1965, an honor repeated in 1989 for the third time. We became the first AEYC Affiliate to develop a Code of Ethics, which was adopted by our association in April of 1968.

Into the 1970s

The 1970s brought a real surge in political action within and around our organization. It was launched by the first Annual Business Meeting for the general membership, which was held November 7, 1970, at our Fall Conference. The first resolution was introduced at that meeting by Jim Fish. Candidates for office were added by petition for the first time in the 1970s. Two candidates or more were nominated for office instead of a single slate of officers. This was presented by the nominating committee, as had been the previous custom. An award was established in 1970 in the name of an outstanding critically ill member, Evelyn House. Unfortunately, she did not live to receive the first of the award that was developed in her honor — but perhaps no other member has had a more lasting effect on this organization. We became accustomed to large numbers at our conferences and less frequent meetings. We witnessed the development of chapters throughout the state and the beginnings of meetings spread around the state — a trend that has continued in the 1980s. Vocational school programs grew around the state, and many more training opportunities became available to our members. This allowed the focus of our organization to broaden and turn to influencing others with the formation of a Speakers Bureau (a state-wide calling hotline responding to political concerns and involvement in coalition groups). The 70s also saw the rewriting and revision of licensing standards.

The 80s brought strengthening to the governance of our own organization. The issues and concerns around young children captured the attention of an ever larger constituency. The position statements on developmentally appropriate guidance and the accreditation program are of major significance in these times, when everyone is pushing more and more on issues relating to children. It's an exciting time to be in the early childhood field and it is rewarding to review our very proud history and see what a vital and consistent role we have played in furthering the appropriate education of young children!

In the 90s, MnAEYC hired its first Executive Director in 1996. The Institute of Early Childhood Professional Development was established and was funded by the state of Minnesota and private funders in 1995. In the 90s, the Institute and MnAEYC staff and board have been involved in defining credentials and core competencies. The Board also formed position statements on issues pertinent to the field. Several projects such as the MnAEYC Director’s Credential, Early Indicators of Progress, and Institute supported Credentialing programs grew from collaborations with public and private institutions and agencies.

The New Century

The new century bring changes to the national association, which will affect MnAEYC’s services to its members. Updates in technology, new management for membership databases, improvements in communications between national, state, and local are improving the field for early childhood professionals. MnAEYC launched its first website in 2000. Growing and continuing collaborations indicate a strong foundation is being laid for future professionals in the early childhood care and education. In 2000, MnAEYC awarded its first Director’s Credential to the first graduating class of Early Childhood Directors. Since that time, approximately 50 individuals have completed one of the pathways to the MnAEYC Credential.

Work in 2002 brought a refocus of the work of the Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development. In 2002, MnAEYC officially retired the Institute name and launched the MnAEYC Professional Development Program. Under the auspices of this program, a bright beginning for a collaborative statewide professional development group has begun. MnAEYC’s conferences have only become stronger through the years bringing issues and nationally featured speakers to a Minnesota audience. In the spring of 2005, we will be hosting the Midwest Regional AEYC, proud to feature the exciting work that occurs in Minnesota to our colleagues.

In 2006, we hosted and faciltated the first ever SuperConference which is a project of the Umbrella Strategic Alliance which we are leading. MnAEYC is aligning with the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association, the Minnesota School Age Care Alliance, and the Alliance for Early Child Professionals. This strategic alliance was formed to streamline some of our processes, bring a stronger voice for our members in the state, and share resources.

As MnAEYC enters its 69th year of serving the early childhood community in 2007, we expanded our programs by beginning a new Accreditation Facilitation Project. This project will serve centers, family child care homes, and schoolage sites who are pursuing national accreditation.

MnAEYC Past Presidents

2009-2010: Angele Passe/Kyra Osterdorf
2006-08: Cindy Murphy Kelley
2005-06: Angele Passe
2004-05: Bryan Nelson
2003-04: Christine Bentley
2002-03: Kate Zabertini
2001-02: Sandra Heidemann
2000-01: Peggy Beck
1999-00: Gail Roberts
1998-99: Jeanette Rydberg
1997-98: Barbara Murphy
1996-97: Karen Kurz-Riemer
1995-96: Beth Sandell
1994-95: Judy Lindman
1993-94: Eileen Nelson
1992-93: Pamm Mattick

1991-92: Connie Bell
1990-91: Lynn Galle
1989-90: Barbara O’Sullivan
1988-89: Nan Figge
1987-88: Katie Williams
1986-87: Renee Bruce
1985-86: Fran Olson
1984-85: Linda Sisson
1982-84: Diane McLinn
1980-82: Sue Harrington
1978-80: Tutti Sherlock
1976-78: Kathleen McNellis
1974-76: Erna Fishhaut
1972-74: Margaret Roth
1969-72: Kate Tanner
1968-69: Jackie Yamahiro

1966-68: Celia Rozman
1964-66: Barbara Wilkinson
1962-63: Pearl Pearlman
1960-61: Marilyn White
1957-59: Shirley Smith
1954-56: Muriel Eder
1952-53: Margaret Gripp
1950-51: Elizabeth Crary
1948-49: Amanda Kittelson
1946-47: Muriel Segolson
1944-45: Elizabeth McKenzie
1942-43: Grace Ware
1940-41: Edith Shufelt
1939: Florence Solie
1938: Mardell Turner

Executive Directors of MnAEYC

  • Kathleen O'Donnell, October 2014 to present
  • Sharon Bergen, July 2010 to October 2014
  • Brian Siverson-Hall: March, 2008 to July 2010
  • Deborah Fitzwater-Dewey: Sept., 2000 to Dec 2007
  • Deborah Chavez: July, 1999 to Aug., 2000
  • Eva Zygmunt Fillwalk: Aug., 1996 to June, 1999




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