photo of Tammy Wicksrom in a classromm with children

Tammy works as the Director of Early Education at Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe in Onamia MN. She got into this field from what she describes as an accident. At the time, she lived in the Twin Cities and was working with little kids where she taught at a childcare center. She enjoys working with some of the youngest population because this is the age where kids are often the most excited to go to school. She later moved away from the cities and began working in early childhood development. Later, she took the job as Director of Early Education.

Her job has no typical day. She is often in charge of communicating with 3 districts and everything that’s involved with overseeing the program. She tries to keep in contact and regularly meet with families as she continues to fulfill all of her administrative, coordination and leadership duties. One of the ways her Head Start program promotes early childhood screening is that they screen every child in order to monitor their development and provide services as needed. Additionally, they utilize resources to help families learn about what they can do to promote healthy early childhood development.  She says that a lot of their work is not so much centered on the screening and services themselves but about the relationships they build with the families to help them foster healthy development for their children. Many families look forward to try new things to foster and learn about their child’s development.

When I met with Tammy, she stated that families are always doing the best they can. It is most necessary to apply both child and family centered approaches as she and her team work within early childhood development. Family goes beyond the definition of a nuclear family. They are often thinking about people such as extended family also, that it takes a village to raise a child. Families of Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe are often facing historical trauma and sometimes negative school experiences that they themselves may have had. However to combat this, many families have a strong cultural connection and an inclusive support network. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Head Start has cultural events for families to be involved with such as powwows at the school, ceremonies and has four elders on staff who teach Ojibwe language to the young children.

Tammy has a good working relationship with many of the families and other districts she works with which has taken time and trust building. She says that the best way to work with anyone and especially families is to build good working relationships instead of just having the school district call when there is concern.

We are very lucky and grateful to have Tammy as an Act Early Ambassador and for all the work she is doing for families! She gave the MN LTSAE team some advice that we should have materials that are more specific to Native American people. She offered me a tour of their new Head Start building that incorporated many of the tribal colors alongside beautiful open spaces and classrooms. The building is marvelous! She said she is grateful for the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe and how supportive they have been when they were brainstorming what the children needed for the new Head Start building. They have really gone above and beyond in supporting early childhood development and their school environment. When the building was first built, the tribe was very receptive to anything that would benefit the children. She is very thankful for all that they have done.