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CDC educator wins national-level award

Heidi Sowers, a child program technician assigned to the 28th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., reads to children inside a classroom March 3, 2017. Sowers was one of 50 childcare center educators in the U.S. who won the Terry Lynn Lokoff Award, a national-level award promoting teachers’ projects to better improve teaching environments for children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Randahl J. Jenson)

Heidi Sowers, a child program technician assigned to the 28th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., reads to children inside a classroom March 3, 2017. Sowers was one of 50 childcare center educators in the U.S. who won the Terry Lynn Lokoff Award, a national-level award promoting teachers’ projects to better improve teaching environments for children. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Randahl J. Jenson)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --

A teacher from the Child Development Center at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., won the 2017 Terry Lynn Lokoff Award, a national-level award promoting young educators’ projects to improve teaching environments for children.   

“Terry Lynn Lokoff was a caregiver years ago,” said Heidi Sowers, the award recipient and a child program technician assigned to the 28th Force Support Squadron CDC. “She was super passionate about it, and wanted to find ways to improve early childhood education. After she passed away in a car accident, her parents started this award.”

Any childcare center in the U.S. can submit one person for the award, but only 50 are chosen every year to receive the honor. To apply for the award, teachers must create a project focusing on social, emotional, small and gross motor skills, or cognitive development. In addition to the recognition, recipients are personally given $500, and are granted $500 to use towards their project.

Sowers has been involved with child care for more than 20 years, and has been working at the Ellsworth CDC for the past three.

“This is the profession I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. “I love working here.”

A co-worker of three years, and a former Terry Lynn Lokoff Award winner, was the one who inspired Sowers to apply.

“I worked with Heidi before she moved into another infant room,” said Collene Fletcher, the lead teacher in the infant rooms assigned to the 28th FSS CDC. “She has a lot of good ideas and is really good with the kids.”

Sowers’ project is focused on reading, and she plans on using the money she was awarded to purchase a bookshelf, a softer reading carpet and more books. She also wants to buy voice-recordable books for children whose parents are going to deploy so they can listen to their own parent read to them.

“I wanted to expand early literacy in the infant room,” said the mother of three. “It’s super important, but half of the kids in America aren’t read to when they go home. [Reading] promotes communication and language skills.”

Sowers began reading to her three daughters before they were born, and truly believes that her project will benefit the children at the CDC in the same ways she has seen it benefit her now-teenage daughters.  

“It’s amazing what 15 minutes a day can do,” said Sowers. “I’ve noticed it in my own kids, and now they are all avid readers.”