Sally Dannenberg loves to learn and watch people learn. Maybe that has something to do with why she enjoys working with children so much – after all, for them, every day is an opportunity for new lessons and new adventures.
“I’ve always been interested in working with children,” she said. “I enjoy all the things that they’re learning every day all the time, and every day is kind of like a challenge for them. It’s something new. They see things a lot differently than we do.”
Dannenberg, a research and development associate with HDI’s Child Care Aware program, has been involved in childcare across multiple states for about 15 years. She started as a pediatric nurse before getting involved with childcare, including the Child Care Aware program in Minnesota. It’s part of what brought her to HDI – she saw a lot of the good work that the program did there, and saw a chance to continue the good work she’d already been doing.
“My original position was with Race to the Top, which was a grant to improve child care in Kentucky,” she said, adding that there were a number of equivalent grants across the US. “I was interested in that because I’d seen some of the changes they’d made in Minnesota through this grant.”
By now, she’s been with HDI for nine years. She’s been involved in a number of childcare-related projects within HDI, including courses for childcare providers – something she says she’s really proud of. Part of what’s kept her here is that she has the chance to constantly learn and grow as she works.
“There’s always something new to learn,” she said. “I learn constantly from all the other projects at HDI.”
The other part? She says it’s the people.
“They all have the same focus,” she said. “We care about people from birth to death…Childcare Aware is trying to help people get that best start that we can.”
While Dannenberg gets plenty of chances to learn on the job, she also loves to learn at home. She has a list of skills she wants to learn. One she’s best known for is quilting and sewing, to the point where she created a quilt that was raffled off as part of HDI’s 50th anniversary. If you ask her about it, though, she’ll tell you she’s not talented, she’s persistent. She’s stayed persistent since junior high.
She has a list of skills that she wants to learn beyond that. And through her persistence, she has learned a few – caning chairs, upholstering furniture – including a chair that was falling apart. Currently, she’s working on learning stained glass.
“It’s just kind of like a bucket list,” she said. “Usually, it’s something I want around my house that I couldn’t go out and buy. I want to say ‘I did that.’”
She also mentions that her family is the most important thing to her – and with them, she can put all that childcare experience to use to make sure they get the chance to grow up right.
“Even though my grandkids live far away, I still make the time to drive or fly to see them,” she said. “Just letting them know about how I grew up and teaching them things they can use the rest of their life too.”