Profiles in Childcare: D’Anne Johnson

Preparing Children for Success

Michelle Landsverk, Executive Director of Advance Thief River, and lead for the Advance TRF Childcare Collaborative, recently had the opportunity to chat with D’Anne Johnson, Director of Head Start for Inter-County Community Council.

D’Anne talked about the Head Start program found on the Northland Community and Technical College campus in Thief River Falls.

D’Anne has been director of Head Start for about 11 years. The program serves families in an area that encompasses three and a half counties, including a large group in Thief River Falls.

The two Head Start classrooms at Northland serve three- and four-year-old children.  They also offer a home-based program in which teachers make home visits and work with children on lessons as well as with parents to set goals and answer questions. The purpose is to give kids a head start on a successful life.

D’Anne emphasized, “in Head Start, we believe that parents are the primary educators of their kids, and we want to work side by side with them to set goals and help their kids get ready for school.”

The program focuses on play-based learning. “We’re not about sitting at tables and doing worksheets,” D’Anne said. “We build the learning into every area. As an example, kids might learn to count by playing with blocks or learn colors by playing with Legos.”

Program eligibility follows federal poverty guidelines, but many families are automatically eligible for Head Start, including families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TNAF), Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), families experiencing homelessness or housing instability, and families with foster children.

D’Anne stressed that outdoor play is an important component of Head Start.

“Covid taught us that it’s a great thing to get outside and get fresh air to stay healthy and safe,” she said. “We continue to do that because we feel it’s important. We have our kids come out every day, even when it’s cold, all the way down to zero degrees.”

Although their Thief River Falls classrooms are full, they typically have openings that pop up when a family moves away. They do have openings right now in their home-based program and are accepting applications.

Visit the Advance Thief River YouTube page, @AdvanceThiefRiver, for more information and a virtual tour of the Head Start facility at Northland.

More About Profiles in Childcare

“Profiles in Childcare” is a series of stories, highlighting the people who are working in, and for, childcare in our region.

These stories are being collected and published by Advance TRF Childcare Collaborative.

Subscribe to Advance Thief River, or follow us on Facebook, @advancetrfchildcare, and on YouTube, @AdvanceThiefRiver for the latest stories.

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