Can there be too much love? I know my testimonials are overflowing, but I wanted you to get a sense of who I am and what I bring to Sparks and Leaps. The following are excerpts (used with permission) from letters of recommendation from parents, adult colleagues and supervisors. I have many more in a booklet that did not get included, because I thought the new ones from the "kids" were more fun.
"As the Volunteer coordinator of the Urban Ecology Center http://urbanecologycenter.org/, an environmental community center serving urban youth, I worked with Michelle from 2005- 2009. Michelle was always one of the first volunteers to offer her time to help. We could count on her to come prepared with more than enough age-appropriate activities to engage, educate and entertain children during special events. She also developed and implemented programs for children and families who dropped in to visit our Center. And while Michelle excels in working with preschoolers and elementary ages, she even supported our Teen adventure Challenge. In seven years of working for the Urban Ecology Center, I have yet to meet another volunteer whose enthusiasm for children matches Michelle's. She is determined to provide the best possible experiences for any child with whom she is working. I heartily recommend her."
Susan W. 2/23/10
"It is a joy to commend you to Michelle Simonson. For the past 10 years, I served as supervisory pastor at Bayshore Lutheran Church to Michelle who directed our Sunday nursery program, devised an apprentice child caregiver program for teens, was a developer of curriculum and was a mentor to half a generation of parents. She has deep listening skills with adults and children, has a high value of and interest in the interplay of the spiritual, psychological and physical in individual personalities and family systems and an eagerness to learn from everyone she meets and everything she experiences. She has earned the trust, enthusiasm and appreciation of scores of parents for her guidance with their children with her profound sense of empathy and her vast experience in mentoring families of every shape and kind. Michelle's best gifts are her voracious appetite for knowledge of all kinds, her lifelong interest in the study of children and families, her ability to think both critically and non-judgementally, her imagination (she can actually think like a three year old or any age) and her wonderful creativity. She compiled a booklet of as many holidays as she could find which helped children discover there were many times and ways to celebrate. Michelle works well in a collaborative environment. She is open to the ideas of other's. I appreciate her ability to draw on past experience while remaining open to try new things. Michelle's professional life has all been self directed, so she is uniquely positioned to determine a direction with a program. I highly recommend her."
Norene S. 1/28/10
"Michelle Simonson was the answer to our prayers. She was a constant source of support, love and care. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are better parents because of Michelle. She gave our family a sanity that was so appreciated at a time when life tended towards the chaotic. She provided our children with a wealth of fun and enriching activities. If parenthood had an Academy Awards, Michelle would definitely be at the top of people I would thank in my acceptance speech. "
Rachel B. 2008
"Michelle is an honest and ethical woman who maintains high standards in her work. She is conscientious and will do what it takes to get the job done well. Michelle has always worked in the best interests of families. I do not hesitate at all to recommend Michelle for any type of work in the child care field"
Mary O. 8/28/97 Mary was a colleague in the nanny placement business in the 90's. She is the president of Nannie's From The Heartland (www.nanniesheartland.com/which is the best nanny agency in Minneapolis!) and former president of the International Nanny Association.
"Michelle Simonson has so many fine attributes which contribute to her excellence as a child care provider that I hardly know where to begin. She is without a doubt the best care provider I have ever known. She loves children and brings great energy into their presence. My son learned that a day with Michelle is always full of fun and adventure. She is honest and reliable - a woman of the highest integrity. I am an elementary school teacher who has high standards for my care providers. Michelle always exceeded my expectations. I recommend her without hesitation. "
Ricki T. 4/26/96
"I met Michelle when I started working at a Montessori school in Minneapolis in 1979. She was the teacher in the toddler room and I worked with the children in the pre-school room. We immediately connected as friends as she had that magic that just made me want to be with her. (who wouldn’t?) My children have known her since they were born and adore her, not to mention, they think she’s a “hoot”, even now as young adults. Because of Michelle’s love of children and families, she started Umbrella Child Care Services, a nanny placement agency in 1991. I was a partner for the first several years, and when she moved out of the state, I took it over with our other partner and continued to make it successful for many years. Michelle is passionate, creative, and non-judgmental, which is why she is loved by so many, children, clients and friends. Her style is curious, playful, inviting, energetic, and yet patient. She finds a way to connect with everyone and make their lives more meaningful. Her insights though all of her experiences, both personally and professionally, are invaluable in helping families through transitions."
In addition to the testimonials from adults, I thought it would also be fun to include some of the "kids"who have been such an important part of my life. I sent them messages and asked if they would be willing to let me post their names and ages to the following group testimonial* : "Michelle took us on exciting adventures, played fun games and gave us lots of love. We think your family will like her." I was deeply touched that so many chose to send me additional comments and am posting excerpts from them as well. This page is from former nanny charges, all except one of whom I have known since birth or toddlerhood.
"My first memories with Michelle carry me through days of four rambunctious kids (my three brothers and I). Michelle was a kid with us, not just watching us. We would gallivant to the closest water park, zoo, beach. As an adult, I find each and every memory heartwarming. When my brother, also one of Michelle's ducklings, passed away, I was found by her presence again. Despite distance, Michelle was always keeping in touch with postcards with wonderful little thoughts and love. I was in the midst of grief with no idea or direction where to go. That's where Michelle comes in. All it can take is one thought, or many, to remind a person that one event isn't something that determines their life. That postcard reminded me of those memories and moments that I was able to spend doing those things with my brothers. It made me really see what gifts she had been giving us all along."
Erin R. age 25
"I love you Michelle and I wish you good luck in your new adventures. I remember making pears look like spooky mice on Halloween. Any family would be lucky to meet you."
Joey R. Age 20
"You were / are the second best thing in my life (2nd only to my moms cooking I'm sure you will understand). I could not have asked for a better childhood and I also could not imagine a childhood without you involved in it. I wish you the best as always and can't wait to see you next time you make it up / over to Minnesota."
Johnny A. Age 21
"With two working parents out of the house for prolonged periods of time, Michelle became an integral part of our family. Her passion for reading, writing, learning, and outdoor exploration instilled in me a passion for the arts that continues to drive me at the age of 23. A sincere and intellectually stimulating individual, Michelle was able to recognize and build upon my strengths and interests, which allowed me to excel socially and academically at an early age. I am grateful that someone as caring and vested in my wellbeing was present during the early stages of my life."
Robby A. Age 23
"Michelle took care of me and my three older siblings for all of my young childhood, and I could not have asked for a better nanny. She has an unending supply of energy, as is proof in her ability to keep four young energetic children occupied all day. She is incredibly caring, helping each of us mature as we grew older. Most importantly for kids, she is fun - many great childhood memories were spent in her care. Just recently I went to see her again, and she has as much energy as ever! Any family would be lucky to have someone as amazing as Michelle to work with them."
Zach K. Age 25
"I traveled to worlds unimaginable to a 5 year old with Michelle- incredible escapes from a normal reality where I couldn't stop laughing and giggling for more than 5 minutes. It's more than 20 years later and I still remember the giggle-monster (Michelle put all of her hair over her face and and then put her glasses on top)."
Gillian K. Age 28
"Reflecting on Michelle's time with us, she was incredibly creative, often times entertaining us for hours with games she would invent at what seemed to be spur-of-the-moment!"
Ryan K. Age 29
"When Michelle became the nanny of my brother, Michael (then age 2), I didn't realize, at the lofty age of eight, that she was taking care of me as well. This is a huge testament to Michelle's energy and wit and deep sense of how to relate to children of all ages--I thought I was too old for a nanny--instead she treated me like the grown-up kid I was longing to become. It is a rare gift to be around someone who can see the person you are wanting to be, not just the person you are. Michelle is just such a person. Now, as the Mama of two kids of my own, I know how impossible it is to find someone as uniquely talented as Michelle. I've hired a lot of caregivers and, besides the one who came dressed in full princess garb, not a one has even come close."
Kaethe S. Age 35
"I remember when you used to pull your hair over your face and chase us around making monster noises. Good luck."
Michael T. Age 28
"Thanks for all you've done for me. I hope your new business is a hit and helps people around the globe. Good Luck!!!"
Zoey NB age 11
*These Kids gave their permission to be included in the "group Testimonial"
Alex K. Age 27, Kyle R. Age 24, Michael H. Age 24, Louis and Eliza L. Age 8, Quinn A. Age 9, Angie L. Age 15, Meerah T. Age 12, Finn V. Age 5
I supervised church nursery programs in Minneapolis, Charlotte and Milwaukee for 25 years and have remained friends with some of the teen volunteers.
"It's not hard to tell what influence Michelle has had on how I work with kids, because she has been my main influence. I started working in the nursery sometime in middle school, and only stopped when I left for college. I learned how to engage very young kids in fun activities from watching her do that every Sunday with story time, art projects, and just joking and playing around. I didn't realize until I started working with older kids that I also knew how to interact with teens because I had taken for granted the way she treated me as a responsible, mature person even though I was a teenager. I spent 2 years doing AmeriCorps in a Minneapolis Public School, working with 2nd graders through 8th graders, and the only reason I was able to really connect with students of all ages was because I had Michelle as my model."
Kate B. Age 25
"I have been an elementary school teacher for 16 years. Michelle's influence on me when I worked as a teen volunteer in a church nursery in Minneapolis with her was instrumental in how I developed my philosophy of classroom management. Her ease at engaging kids through enthusiasm, use of positive reinforcement, and gentle redirecting allow my current students to participate fully and be willing to take risks. I would recommend her to families without hesitation."
Sarah B. Age 39
"The mentoring Michelle gave to me as a teen most definitely impacts how I raise my three year old son and helps me have an energetic positive attitude when trying to get him to participate in activities."
The following are dearly loved cousins and children of friends whom I have known since birth. I included them even though I did not need extra testimonials, because they are such an important part of my world.
"I've known Michelle my whole life as a friend of the family. While she was never my caretaker in a professional sense, she was a continuous positive, fun and inspiring influence as I grew up. Michelle is unique and exceptional in the way she connects with people. Positivity, individuality, creativity, confidence and exuberance are traits Michelle backs with years of experience and skill. Michelle will bring positive influence and change to any setting she works in."
Danielle E. Age 27
"Michelle stayed with me and my family for awhile when I was younger and she made life so much more fun. She wasn't really like a nanny to us but rather just another one of our friends. We'd play pranks on her and chase her around our house and she put up with all of it with nothing but the best, most positive, and most playful attitude. She is amazing with children."
Arianna T. Age 14
"Michelle has been a wonderful influence on me. When I was a child she kept me entertained with adventures. As I have grown up she has a been a source of support, comfort, and a caring listener. I have never felt belittled or unvalued when I have discussed personal angst with her as is often the case when a young person needs support from an adult. Her empathy makes her a remarkable woman."
Shelby P. Age 20
"Michelle! You have impacted me and still impact me with so much goodness! I love knowing you and all of the wonderful things we did together! I loved being one of your 'kids'."
Travis P. Age 24
"Michelle is a perfect human being who put my brothers and I on the right roads in life."
Matt F. Age 18
"Michelle has been a part of my whole life, and I cannot imagine who I'd be without her! She has, and continues, to influence my life in unbelievably positive ways, and I'm so very glad that she still takes the time to brighten up my days. Her guidance has helped me to become a better, more loving person. Michelle is simply the best!!"
Michael F. Age 18
As Michelle's 24-year-old cousin, I can speak to her warmth and enthusiasm. She always brought cheer to family celebrations. She was also good at connecting and being supportive of me during life transitions. Michelle cares deeply about humans big and small, and the individual traits and gifts that we each must cultivate in order to thrive.
Eric F. Age 24
"Michelle has ALWAYS supported me through dark and light times. Her mentoring has helped me grow as a person and my childhood had delightful fun memories because she was and is in it!!! Any parent would be lucky to have Michelle work with their children and help to nurture their strength and happiness:). I wish her all the luck in the world with Sparks and Leaps, even though I know once the parents and children meet and get to know her, she won't need luck! Michelle has a positive influence on EVERYONE she meets and touches the hearts of all of us."
Emily D. Age 42
"I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor, not that you need it! As you well know, if ever our parents were out of town it was you that we all begged for! No one else could be more fun amd loving and have that magic ability to coral and engage 5 different little personalities at once! You have amazing gifts!"
Jen M. Age 43
"Michelle has been a part of my life since I was born! Since toddler-hood I can remember looking forward to spending time with her for her big smile, warm hugs and especially all the fun characters and wonderfully silly songs she taught us. She brought a touch of magic to my childhood that I've carried with me and hope to pass on to my own kids, who also so look forward to big fun when Michelle comes to visit."