About Us

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Welcome to Here We Grow

We are a Christian, Reggio inspired early childhood center for Toddlers and Preschoolers. Our Toddler and Preschool rooms utilize an exploration based curriculum that works to meet state and national standards, however our hours of operation are longer than a traditional ECFE or Preschool Program, to provide a learning environment for working parents.

Here We Grow provides early childhood education for
children ages 16 months – 5 years.

Time & Location

Our hours of operation are Monday-Friday, 6:45am-5:30pm.

Conveniently located 1.5 miles from Highway 14, our facility is located on 2 acres, providing an expansive fenced in outdoor area. Additionally, our 2 large rooms can accommodate 38 total Toddler and Preschool children with no more than 17 Toddlers enrolled at one time.

Curriculum & Staff

  • We are licensed by the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Child Care Licensing Division.
  • Our staff are comprised of full-time members, fostering our value of consistency and developing family partnerships.
  • Our curriculum components are designed to help all children work towards developmental milestones set by the Minnesota Department of Human Services and Department of Education.
  • We value open lines of communication and family partnerships; as such parents will often find daily conversations about their child’s day a norm in our environment. Additionally, formal conferences are offered quarterly providing a time to collaborate with, set goals with, and connect with our families. Our site designed, state approved assessment tool based on the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress is used to celebrate children’s growth.

Security

In order to provide security and peace of mind while you are away, our facility is protected by a key fob security system, allowing access only to parents and staff.

Our Staff
Cheyenne Lax
Preschool Teacher

I have been passionate about early childhood education for over twelve years.  I received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from South Dakota State University. Throughout my years at SDSU, I studied and implemented the Reggio Emilia approach, which helped inspire what is done at Here We Grow.  I look forward to exploring and learning with the kids, as well as utilizing the education I received.

After teaching Early Childhood and Family Education and preschool for a few years, I decided to go back to school to pursue a Parent Education License. I enjoy working with both children and the parents, as I see parents as being a child’s first and most important teacher.  I have been teaching for over ten years, which most years were spent working with preschool aged children. And last but not least, I am a believer.

I am excited to work again in an environment that allows the sharing of our Christian faith and values as it arises.  I know that all of my past experiences have brought me to Here We Grow to be a blessing and help each child reach their full potential. I believes it is an honor to have the opportunity to work with you and your children. I have always had a passion for young children and their families and will continue to help each family be the best that they can be.

Jennifer Knudsvig
Assistant Director

Hi, I’m Jen! I have been at Here We Grow for 5 years! I am currently the Assistant Director and what I love about my job is that I get to help support the teachers, children, and the parents every day. I love that part of my job is to get to know your family and child(ren); it’s one of my favorite things!

The last 5 years have helped me grow and learn even more about what I believe is to be true about early childhood education. I believe that kids should learn through play, experiences, and being in nature! I believe they learn so much more as they are hands-on learning and experiencing life around them and playing, I have seen this first hand at Here We Grow. I strive to create an environment that is safe and nurturing where children can play and learn freely. I believe that play-based learning should foster the whole-child; including social, emotional, physical, cognitive and creative development.

A little about me; I grew up right here in Mankato about 5 minutes down the road from Here We Grow! I absolutely loved growing up in the country and getting to play outside and enjoy time with my 3 sisters discovering our surroundings. I grew up being very involved in our church, which meant a lot of time in the nursery and teaching Sunday School! I have always loved spending time with kids and watching them learn and grow. I went MSU-Mankato and I received my Bachelor’s degree in Family Life and Child Development. I have 10 years of experience teaching in early childhood education. Since college, I love taking new classes and having different experiences that I can learn from and bring back with me to the classroom. After college, I married my husband, Brandon and we have a son. As a family we love to bike, spend time together in nature, hiking, be involved in our local church, and spend as much time as we can with our families.

My son and I both love being at Here We Grow, we have been so blessed to call Here We Grow our family/community!

Nicole Fitzpatrick
2/3's Teacher

Hello my name is Nicole Fitzpatrick! I am one of the teachers in the 2’s and 3’s Room. I have been at Here We Grow for 2 years now. I have enjoyed getting to know all of the teachers, parents, and children while learning and growing with the true philosophy of Here We Grow. My favorite part of my day is getting all the love from the children and watching them grow during their time here.

A little background about myself. I graduated from St. Clair High School, then attended Rasmussen and South Central College for Child Development. I have been working with children ranging in age from 6 week to school age for 20 years. I have been blessed to get to know a lot of children and families in a few different child care settings around the area before coming to find what I was looking for at Here We Grow.

I have one very amazing 12 year old daughter who of course is my life. When I’m not at work I enjoy spending time with my daughter, family, and friends camping, fishing, hiking, going to the family cabin and just being outside enjoying life. I am so grateful that I get to spend my days with wonderful people around me and I look forward to growing and learning more in the future with all of the Here We Grow families.

Saige Wudtke
Preschool Teacher
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Hello Here We Grow families,

My name is Saige Wudtke and I am a Preschool teacher here! I am also a PCA for a client I have had for over 2 years! I am currently enrolled at Minnesota State University Mankato as an Elementary education major. I knew all my life I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and found that passion in children. My favorite part of my job is watching children and families grow by creating relationships and celebrating life together.

I believe in empowering others and loving them through growth and acceptance. I am so grateful for the opportunity to spend a chapter of my life at Here We Grow using what God has given me to encourage and use my gifts. Outside of work you will find me surrounded by my supportive friends and family doing life together. I love to laugh, nap, travel, and be spontaneous.

Thanks for letting me assist in your child’s development through exploring and learning about this world we live in. I’m excited to grow with you and your families.

Macey Page
Preschool Teacher

I am a graduate of Mankato West High School and received my Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in 2014 and my Infant and Toddler Child Development Credential in 2017. I have been teaching at Here We Grow since October 2016. Previously, I worked with high school students two summers in a row while I attended college, and had a handful of experiences teaching art with younger children on a volunteer basis.

My hobbies include painting, drawing, gardening, cooking, hiking, practicing yoga, and building community. I am thankful to get to incorporate my interests in our flexible learning environment. I consider myself both a teacher and a student.

I love learning from the preschoolers, families, and co-teachers here. The divergent thought processes and creativity of young minds are always inspiring! In the next year, I plan to incorporate more process art and simple mindfulness practices into the curriculum here.

Becky Crimmins
2/3's Teacher

Hello, my name is Becky (Steffensmeier) Crimmins.

I was born and raised in North Mankato and graduated from Mankato West High School. I attended the University of Minnesota where I received a Bachelor of Individualized Science in Child Psychology, Spanish, and Chicano Studies. Upon graduating from college, I had intended to pursue bilingual education. But this is where my life took a different path!

In 2002, I moved to San Diego, CA with my boyfriend (now husband) to “try out” living in another place. In order to pay bills, I quickly found a job at a Preschool. Although I never intended to stay long in the profession, I soon realized that my passion lie in early childhood education.  While living in San Diego, I continued my education by taking courses in Child Development.

In August of 2017, my husband and I moved “back” to Minnesota to be closer to both of our families. We live in North Mankato with our 10 year old son and our 8 year old daughter. We also have a quirky rescue dog (lab mix) name Zailor. I love spending time outside: biking with my children, hiking and attending baseball games. I feel fortunate to work at a center that shares my passion for the outdoors, play, and childhood.

Maggie Wahdan
2/3's Teacher in Mentorship

Hello! My name is Maggie. I currently live in North Mankato. I am originally from a small town called Mountain Lake, Minnesota. I graduated from Mountain Lake Public High School in 2014. I really enjoy sports and played volleyball and softball. After high school I attended Minnesota West in Jackson, Minnesota and continue my volleyball career. I then graduated with honors majoring in cosmetology. After a year in the industry I realized I wanted or pursue my dream of becoming a teacher. So, I currently am attending Rasmussen majoring in Elementary Education/Early Childhood Education.

Working at Here We grow has made me beyond excited for the future!

Melissa Anderson
Preschool Teacher
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Hello there! I am Melissa Anderson, I am from Mankato MN.

I truly love my job at Here We Grow, to me it is way more than being a preschool teacher. I always have treated every child as if they were one of my own.  I grew up in North Mankato with an older brother.  One of my favorite childhood memories is riding dirt bikes and four wheelers at Jack McGowan’s farm. I attended South Central College in 2006 for Child Development.  I also have over ten years experience working in a child care center.

I have three children ages 10, 8 and 5.  We enjoying exploring new parks, bike rides, water parks, and relaxing at the lake.  We also have a puppy named Madi that we all adore! I love being there for each child, to teach, guide, explore.  I love their hugs, stories, and the way they say my name.

Elizabeth Bangert
Founder/Owner/Director

Hello! My name is Elizabeth Bangert and I am the Founder/Owner/Director of Here We Grow.

I am originally from Crete, Illinois, just 30 miles south of Chicago. I moved here to Minnesota in 2003 to attend Martin Luther College in New Ulm and graduated in 2007 with a BS in Elementary Education and Choral Vocal Music. While I love Illinois, I decided to stay and make Minnesota my home.

I began graduate school in 2010, originally intending to pursue my Superintendent’s license. At the time I had been working as the Director of Equity and Integration for a collaborative of six public schools but had just taken a job as Director of a Child Care Center in Mankato. It was during my time in a class at MSU with Professor Jasper Hunt that my world changed. I was wearing business attire in a sea of Experiential Education Students wearing Vibram shoes (where you can see your individual toes); it was a cross-over elective that was for both Educational Leadership as well as Experiential Education. I fell in love with the students talking about nature therapy and I thought to myself, “This is what my childhood was like. Why aren’t there more environments like this for children?”. In 2012 I took the plunge, went home to my boyfriend (now husband), and said boldly, “I’m going to open a nature based early childhood center”. The rest is history… well sort of.

As many of you know I have overcome many obstacles along the way, including putting our entire life on the line for collateral for the loan for this space, fighting off a quarry, and most recently advocating for parent choice and the rights of child care providers. I believe very firmly that children are each unique individuals, capable of extraordinary things. But we must give them the opportunity to do so. And that is what I saw lacking in many other environments; the ability for children to be supported as individuals with ample opportunity to take age appropriate risks and explore a variety of different things.

My biography is purposefully last, as it embodies my philosophy of leadership which is best explained by Simon Sinek’s work, “Leaders Eat Last”. My journey to achieve my Master of Science in Educational Leadership as well as my experiences growing up in a family business, led to my deeply held believe that employees are more than just paid workers, they are people; individuals capable of great things and worthy of respect for their passions. I believe when we put people first, we are all better for it. It is my responsibility to care for children, families, and teachers; if I cannot care for teachers and ensure that their needs are met, that they are receiving what they need to thrive, then that negatively impacts children; a philosophy not only firmly held by me, but grounded in research.

My husband Josh and I reside in St. Peter, where he works as a Carpenter with our good friend, Blake. We enjoy camping, nature, biking, motorcycle rides, and listening to oldies. I also enjoy playing piano and writing music in my free time. I look forward to incorporating more music into the classroom this Fall. We have two cats, Max and Cali, and we pray each night that God grants us the child that we long for. While we lie in wait for an answer to our prayer, I have 38 children here that I am blessed to care for.

I look forward to our continued partnership, for Here We Grow, together.

Have any questions? Please let us know!