By: Tammy Curtis, Managing Editor

Anyone who knows Shalynn Lane knows one thing… she loves children and her community. Lane, who is a Sharp County native and owner of Mrs. Sha’s Daycare was a little bit surprised when a group showed up at her Ash Flat Preschool on April24. She thought it might be to talk about grants, but really wasn’t expecting what came next. The visit was actually a surprise visit from Tonya Williams, Director of the Division of Child Care and Early Child-hood Education (DC-CECE) to inform Lane she was the co-winner of the Arkansas Out-standing Early Child-hood Professional of the Year award, through the Arkansas Department of Human Services. The award was given after the department received several nominations from parents of children Lane has had in her program over the years. Both Lane and Shenitta Sheppard of the UAMS Head Start in Little Rock were the only winners of the award. It recognizes individuals who make a significant contribution to the early care and education field in Arkansas. The winner is announced each year around Arkansas Children’s Week (ACW).While Lane has operated a preschool for over 20 years, her love for keeping children predates that by several years when she operate a home babysitting service, then home daycare before becoming certified and opening Mrs. Sha’s Preschool in1999.“There are so many devoted educators across this state working to ensure that young children are ready for a lifetime of learning,” said Tonya Williams, DCCECE Director. “It’s never easy to pick one, and this year we simply couldn’t limit it to a single winner. I’m honored to recognize both Shalynn and Shenitta, who have each gone above and beyond to make lasting impacts on countless children. They each deserve this honor, and I thank them for their dedication to the critical work of early childhood education.” “We love what we do. We love the kids. We love involving our parents, our community and it takes a lot of work to do that. Our parents thank us. They know what it takes. We have a lot of parent volunteers who help us so to be recognized for that, makes me feel good that people realize what we’re are doing. We are making a difference for our children. I could never imagine myself doing anything else. I love it and I think I get excited to talk about stuff. I was excited you guys were coming to-day. I was going to show you what we spent our grant money on, what we had done with it, how we had improved.” Lane said grasping the award and choking back tears from the combination of the award and element of surprise. As she stood in front of her preschool with her award and students helping her hold it, she said, “I now have children in my care that I kept their parents when they were children. I don’t think you realize the difference you make until you have repeat people coming back, children you have kept coming back and they tell you how much they love you and how much it meant to them and the difference you made. Tome, the biggest compliment is them wanting to bring their children to me. That proves we did make a difference for them.” Shay and her husband, Monte have a long history of loving kids. When their children, Logan and Sloan were just toddlers, they pair could always be seen locally with a few extras in tow on weekends and trips to Branson. The number of kids Lane has kept and had in her preschool over the years is in the hundreds. Most will all agree they would have moved in with Monte and Shay. Tausha Ingram’s daughter Gracie, who will be 21 this year is one of the many, who would share this sentiment. Ingram said she first met Monte as a child when she rode the same school bus. “There was a kid on there who was picking on me and Monte stuck up for me, then he just sat by me on the bus,” she said of her long-time friendship with the Lanes. Tausha later met Shaylyn when working at Town and Country in Ash Flat while the two were in high school.“ She would stay with me in the winter when there was snow instead of going home to Evening Shade so she could work and we became good friends an ran around some together,” Ingram explained, It was natural that when he needed child-care, Lane would be her first choice years later. She now has Ingram’s grandson Maverick in her program. While she kept Maverick’s father, Clay, who was the same age as Lane’s son, Sloan, after school along with his brothers, he was never a full time Mrs Shay kid like Gracie and Maverick. During Arkansas Children’s Week, each year, Mrs. Sha always goes above and beyond with her themes to ensure the children enjoy, learn and remember their time in her school. It is easy to see how the impact she has had on so many local children’s live is continuing to a second generation. Monte and the couple’s neighbor Fred Buckner are always eager to come forward and work on her many ideas. This is often a lot of physical labor but well worth it in the end. Last year, a zoo theme was complemented by a “train ride” with a lawnmower reinvented with seats to carry the students about the property. This year for Arkansas Children’s Week, Monte and Fred and a cast of other volunteers got to build a pirates ship for Pirate Day. The children even had a costume contest and got a visit from pirates Sloan Lane and Meghann Lane. Shalynn is always quick to give credit to all who have been with her and helped her through the many years, including Anne Walls, Mary Hambrice and Hannah Gibson who all work for her. A job they would all say is very fun. Other theme days this year included So-lar Cooking Day, A Day at the Races, Teddy Bear Picnic with families and Outdoor Movie Night that had to be postponed due to the rain but was held to involve the families and as Mrs. Shas way of including them in their child’s early educational process. Besides operating the preschool, Lane is also very active in the com-munity and has participated in the Stuff the Squad Car, various drives to benefit New Beginnings Pregnancy Center, has helped organize swimming safety lessons for children, Shop with a Cop and various Christmas drives to benefit local children in need. Anyone who knows her will testify to the fact she would literally give a child the shirt off her back and wants nothing more than for the children she teaches to grow into responsible and well meaning adults.“ My job is about raising children in a developmentally appropriate manner,” Lane wrote. “Too many people fail to realize how important the first five years of life are for children. What we doin the first five years can make or break that child as an adult. What happens in childhood will definitely carryover to adulthood. ”Ingram was not surprised her longtime friend and childcare provider won the state-wide award. “I am tick-led to death that they got it. She would take any kid in she could. She is wonderful at what she does and with kids and is one of the most caring people I have ever met. We put Maverick on her list when he was just one year old and he didn’t get in until he was two or three. That is how long her list is. Maverick loves Mrs. Sha so much, just like Gracie did.”