Family: Husband, Craig; children, Jeff, Denise, Steve and Stefanie; and seven grandchildren.
Awards: Advocate of the Year 2004 – Nebraska Family Child Care Association; Celebrate Literacy Award 2005 – Central Nebraska Reading Council; Celebrate Literacy Award 2006 – Nebraska State Reading Council; Making a Difference for Children 2006 – Voices for Children in Nebraska; Woman of Distinction Award 2011 – YWCA Grand Island.
Community Involvement: Nebraska Department of Education statewide early childhood and autism spectrum disorder committees; UNK-Community Early Childhood Conference Planning Committee; Central Community College Advisory Board; Rooted in Relationships Committee; Coalition for Children; T.E.A.C.H. Advisory Board; Autism Society of Nebraska; Autism Walk-A-Thon; St. Jude’s Bike-A-Thon; Association for Child Abuse Prevention; Grand Island Children’s Day Festival; Respite care coordinator for families of children with disabilities; Family Interagency Teams in Grand Island, Kearney, Holdrege, Hastings and Broken Bow; Central Region Autism Spectrum Disorder Team; Core Competencies focus/planning committee; Tobacco Free Hall County.
By TYLER ELLYSON
KEARNEY – Roxanne Vipond’s career in early childhood education began out of necessity.
She put her life on hold when her twins, Steve and Stefanie, were born in 1980. Steve was diagnosed with autism and Stefanie has bilateral hearing loss.
With a lack of information and resources available at the time, Vipond took on the responsibility of working one-on-one with her son until he was able to communicate and enter school at age 6.
“That’s really what drove me to realize the importance of early childhood education and made me want to be a part of that,” Vipond said. “Those early years are critical to a child’s success, and you never get those years back.”
Over the next four decades, Vipond used her passion for early childhood and special education to make a difference in the lives of children across central Nebraska and the entire state.
On Thursday evening, the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s College of Education celebrated her impact by presenting Vipond with the Dr. LaVonne Plambeck Early Childhood Pioneer Award. Named after LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck of Omaha, a longtime advocate for early childhood education, the award recognizes an individual for their outstanding contributions to early childhood education. It was presented during a ceremony at UNK’s LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center as part of the Kearney Area Week of the Young Child events.
“As evidenced by her extensive career and community service, Roxanne embodies an early childhood educational leader and pioneer like Dr. Plambeck,” said associate professor Toni Hill, director of UNK’s early childhood and family advocacy program and a member of the UNK Early Childhood Committee, which organizes an annual conference for child care providers, teachers, parents, college students and others involved in early learning.
Vipond started her career as director of religious education for prekindergarten through eighth grade students at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Grand Island before joining the staff at Grand Island Public Schools. She served as the district’s service coordinator for preschool-age children for 16 months and as the director of child care solutions for 11 years.
In August 2011, Vipond joined Kearney-based Educational Service Unit 10 as the early learning connection coordinator, a position she held for nearly eight years before retiring in May 2019. During her time with ESU 10, Vipond coordinated numerous early childhood training sessions for providers and educators in 23 counties.
“Through her work as the early learning coordinator at ESU 10, Roxanne increased early childhood workforce access to high-quality professional development using creative and collaborative approaches,” said UNK Early Childhood Committee member Paula Thompson, an assistant professor of teacher education. “I was always very impressed with her efforts to meet the professional development needs of all populations in the service area, particularly the opportunities extended to rural Nebraska early childhood educators who are sometimes overlooked.”
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Vipond has volunteered with numerous local, regional and state committees and organizations. She served as a board member and president of the Autism Society of Nebraska and facilitated a support group for the parents of autistic children. Vipond also was a member of statewide early childhood and autism spectrum disorder committees through the Nebraska Department of Education, as well as the Central Region Autism Spectrum Disorder Team.
She’s served on the UNK-Community Early Childhood Conference Planning Committee since its inception six years ago.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with all of the early childhood professionals at UNK and the many early childhood entities in the community,” Vipond said. “We have a great collaboration as we work together to stress how important those early years are.”
Although she’s retired, Vipond remains active in early childhood education. For the past two years, the Grand Island resident has been a part-time coach for Rooted in Relationships, an initiative of the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation that partners with communities to implement evidence-based practices that enhance the social-emotional development of children from birth through age 8. Vipond supports children and staff at UNK’s Plambeck Center through the program.
“It’s a great initiative,” she said. “I really believe in it, and it’s very effective. You can see the progress children and providers make by using this Pyramid Model.”
Vipond is “honored and grateful” to receive the Early Childhood Pioneer Award, but the successes she’s seen in Nebraska children are the greatest prize.
“It’s very, very rewarding to see a child grow and thrive and succeed,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
EARLY CHILDHOOD PIONEER AWARD
UNK’s College of Education presented the inaugural Early Childhood Pioneer Award to LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck of Omaha in 2019. The Early Childhood Committee then named the award in her honor.
An educational legend and visionary, Plambeck has supported and invested in high-quality experiences for young children for decades. She opened Omaha’s first Montessori Educational Center in 1968 and later added seven locations and opened schools in Denver and Fort Worth. Plambeck also launched the Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute to provide professionals with training and certification.
In addition to working on early childhood education extensively with UNK, the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Buffett Early Childhood Institute, College of Saint Mary and Concordia University, she has served the Nebraska Association of Young Children, American Montessori Society Board of Directors, Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education and an advisory committee on early childhood education for the state of Nebraska, and was appointed to a White House conference on families.
A financial gift from Plambeck added two dedicated Montessori classrooms to UNK’s Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center, as well as an endowed Montessori education professorship and an endowed fund that supports workshops, seminars and other outreach activities for early childhood education providers across Nebraska.