Deborah Zuelow

Deborah Zuelow is pictured in front of UNK’s new LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center, which is scheduled to open this fall. The longtime educator will serve as the center’s director.

KEARNEY – Deborah Zuelow ends each email with a quote from former President John F. Kennedy.

“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future.”

These words are fitting for someone who has dedicated 20-plus years to a career in education.

Zuelow, who has taught at PK-12 schools across Nebraska and Kansas, was recently hired as director of the University of Nebraska at Kearney’s new LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center. She joined UNK on July 8 and will work from the existing Child Development Center as construction of the new facility nears completion.

“I’m very excited about this opportunity and I can’t wait to begin serving UNK, the Kearney community and greater Nebraska through our work in a truly transformational facility,” Zuelow said. “My husband and I have always loved Kearney and we’re proud to call south-central Nebraska home.”

Named after longtime early childhood education advocate LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck of Omaha, UNK’s Early Childhood Education Center is scheduled to open this fall on the University Village development south of U.S. Highway 30. The $7.8 million, 19,900-square-foot building replaces the Child Development Center, a dated space inside the 64-year-old Otto Olsen industrial arts building.

As director, Zuelow will manage day-to-day operations and collaborate with various campus departments and community organizations on learning, child development and research initiatives. She will also assist in the development of programs within the center.

Zuelow, who reports to the director of business services, called the position a “nice balance” between working with children and conducting business operations.

The Hickman native holds bachelor’s degrees in elementary and special education and master’s degrees in early childhood education and curriculum and instruction, all from Doane University. She earned an associate degree in business administration from Central Community College.

Zuelow has served as a preschool and development center director and taught students at all levels of PK-12 education, including special education. Before joining UNK, she was an early childhood educator for Central Nebraska Community Action Partnership in Schuyler. She and her husband Terry, a retired teacher, have five children and eight grandchildren.

“Deb has a great amount of experience in early childhood education, child care management and various early childhood training and development programs,” said Michael Christen, director of business services at UNK. “Her background and education will continue to assist with the growth and mission of the current Child Development Center and the future LaVonne Kopecky Plambeck Early Childhood Education Center.”

Zuelow replaces JoAnna Cordova, who has served as director of UNK’s Child Development Center since August 2002. Cordova is leaving UNK on Aug. 2 after accepting a position as the district preschool teacher at Wood River Rural Schools.

“I am so honored to have had the opportunity to work with the children, families and staff at the Child Development Center and UNK,” Cordova said. “I have worked with some wonderful people who have made such a lasting impression on me.”

UNK’s Early Childhood Education Center will provide developmentally appropriate early education for up to 176 children from infant to age 6, including those with special needs, while preparing future educators to enter the workforce by training undergraduate and graduate students in a hands-on setting. The facility, which will promote interdisciplinary collaborations among UNK’s three academic colleges and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, features 11 classrooms dedicated to three research-based philosophies for early childhood education – Montessori, project-based and eclectic.

One of three projects replacing Otto Olsen, the Early Childhood Education Center is funded by state appropriations through LB957 and a financial gift from Plambeck.