A lot times people might take for granted the amount of work it is to be an early childhood education teacher.

“It’s more than just play, they’re learning so many of the necessary tasks,” said Christy Moen, a preschool teacher at Peace of Mind Early Education Center. “It’s all the little things that adults don’t think about.”

The Woodbury Area Chamber Commerce recently recognized the importance of early childhood education by naming Moen, of Inver Grove Heights, its 2015 Educator of the Year.

“Usually there’s not a lot of notoriety in early childhood education,” Moen said, “so this is pretty amazing.”

Moen will be recognized during the Woodbury Area Chamber of Commerce’s Community Awards Celebration Friday, Jan. 22, at the Prom Center in Oakdale.

“It’s a little daunting because I deal with 3- and 4-year-olds,” she said, “so talking to a big group of adults is a little nerve racking.”

Excitement for education

Becoming a teacher always seemed like a natural fit for Moen growing up.

“Growing up I was the caretaker, I always wanted to help the younger kids,” she said. “It’s just a love of children and a desire to help them reach their potential.”

Moen first began as an elementary school teacher in the 1990s. but then she took some time off to start her own family.

Moen eventually found her way back to teaching, but this time it was as an early childhood education teacher at Peace of Mind.

“When I decided to come back, I thought let’s try the younger ones,” she said. “When I came back my daughter was this age, so I knew about that age.”

Moen has taught at Peace of Mind for the past 10 years.

At Peace of Mind, children get to Moen’s class when they are about 33 months and they stay with her through turning 3 and 4 years old.

“Each child is unique,” she said, “so I believe in teaching to the individual child.”

Moen said being an early childhood education teacher is a very rewarding career because everything is so exciting for her students.

“Everything is new, even from the easiest tasks that adults take for granted,” she said. “I love the smiles on their faces and the joy that they have.”

The top educator

Moen was nominated for the Educator of the Year award by Nikki Robbins, owner and founder of Peace of Mind.

In her nomination letter Robbins wrote: “For more than 10 years now I have been blessed to work with the most talented, loving, caring, thoughtful and dedicated early childhood teacher in the field. Despite her own aches and pains in her body, she gives 110 percent daily to demanding 3 and 4 year olds, even keeping up with them running daily laps in the gym and always being the most interactive fun teacher a young child could ever hope to have. Her outstanding parent communication calms a new parent’s nerves on the first day and she has never missed an opening shift at 6 a.m. despite what Minnesota weather can bring.”

Robbins was the first to tell Moen that she had been selected as the Educator of the Year, but Moen didn’t think much about it until the official letter came, she said.

“I was thinking I don’t know what she’s talking about,” she said, “and then the letter came and I went to her said ‘You weren’t kidding.’

“I was just really surprised.”

At the Community Awards Celebration Moen will be presented with her Educator of the Year trophy.

Even though Moen is a little nervous about accepting her award, she said she’s excited to bring awareness to early childhood education.

“We can start talking about how important early childhood education is,” she said, “because these are the little leaders of tomorrow.”