Terri is Co-Owner, President, and has been the Director or Executive Director at Millard Children's Academy since its inception in January 2000; she has worked in the child development field since 1985. After finding a lack of quality, loving, safe, and educational care available for her and her husband Mike's first child, she opened her own in-home child care business. Her desire was to create an environment where the children would feel safe, secure, and loved - like they were in their home away from home throughout each day. She wanted the parents to know and trust that their children would be loved and cared for like they would for their own children. These remain Terri's main goals to this day.

Terri's background also includes employment at various-sized child care centers and preschools. Her experience consists of working with every age-group of children, from infants and toddlers to preschool and school-age, and five years as Assistant Director at a large child care and preschool facility. Terri is responsible for overseeing the entire child care and preschool operation at Millard Children's Academy.

Terri is well-loved by the children, staff, and parents alike - it's obvious she has a genuine love for children! Many children seek out Miss Terri if they arrive in a bad mood, had a difficult morning, or just want a hug to start their day. She always laughs when people say, "How can you work around so many children?" Her reply is, "They are the best part of my job! They are the main reason I go to work each day. No matter what mood I'm in, the kids will always find a way to brighten my day by just being themselves!"

Terri has been happily married to her high school sweetheart, Mike, for over 39 years. They have lived in the Omaha area their entire lives and have three sons. All three have worked at MCA at various points, with Justin still here after starting in 2002, and all share our love of children.

CO-OWNER: Mike Shapland

Mike is Co-Owner, Senior Vice-President/Secretary/Treasurer, and has been involved with Millard Children's Academy on a full-time basis since mid-2001. Mike's background includes construction, glass work, rail-traffic coordinating, customer service, business, and eight years of computer programming. Mike's main focus is more on running the business side of the Academy, along with being responsible for the maintenance of the facility. Mike is quite handy and can fix most anything, but we use licensed professionals for the big stuff (electrical, major plumbing, HVAC, fire safety and security, etc.).

When MCA was started, Mike and Terri's intent was to have Mike work part-time at the Academy and keep his programming job. After being around the children for only a few months, he fully understood why Terri loved it so much. The children truly brighten each and every day with their smiles, laughter, never-ending curiosity, and constant energy. He quit his "day" job and hasn't looked back. We feel Mike brings a much needed male presence to our Academy, and one of his favorite sayings is, "Can we keep it professional for five minutes?!" It is such a fun atmosphere to work in that he sometimes tries to "refocus" the management team on the work at hand if they are having too much fun.

DIRECTOR: Jennifer Hufford

Jennifer has worked at Millard Children's Academy since March of 2000, shortly after we opened; she has worked in the child development field since 1997. Her background includes experience in Nursing (BSN), starting an in-home child care business, and working in two child care centers with every age-group of children. She has worked her way up from being a Teacher in our Toddler and Preschool areas, Supervisor of our Infant and Toddler areas, Assistant Director, Senior Assistant Director, and was promoted to Director in September of 2011.

Jennifer is responsible for the day-to-day operations of our center and is fully in charge in Terri's absence. Due to her experience, and knowing exactly how Terri and Mike want their center to run, along with her commitment to uphold our values, she has earned our complete trust and we have the utmost confidence in her. Her unique ability to handle the most delicate or difficult situations with poise and professionalism makes her the right person to lead our team and center.

Jennifer started in center-based child care because she wanted her then three year-old son to be in preschool. Due to his Type 1 Diabetes, she had difficulty finding a place that would accept him. She applied for a position at MCA but was unsure of the long commute that the new job would require. On the way home from her interview and tour with her son, he said, "I like my new school mommy!" So she took the job and fell in love with it. Now he's a college graduate and she's "had the privilege of caring for other people's children at MCA ever since!"

Born and raised in Omaha, Jennifer has lived here for nearly her entire life. She has two children, both of which attended the Academy as youngsters. Her daughter worked in our Toddler area over several summers as a teen, and came back to work full-time for several years starting in 2012.


Jenni has also worked at Millard Children's Academy since March of 2000, shortly after we opened; she has been in the child development field since 1993. Her background includes experience with infants, preschool, and school-age children. She has worked her way up from being a Teacher in our Preschool and Schooler areas, Supervisor of our Preschool and Schooler areas, and was promoted to Assistant Director in May of 2005.

Jenni is in charge in both Terri and Jennifer's absence and is fully capable of it. She is one of the most energetic people we've had the pleasure of employing and is quick to help out, taking charge of any situation that comes up. She is well-connected within the community due to the multitude of sports and activities in which she and her children have participated through the years. Jenni started working in child care because "I wanted to be with my kids and watch them grow up. Now, I love watching all of 'our' kids grow up."

Jenni was born and raised in the Elkhorn area of Omaha and has lived in Nebraska her entire life. She has five children. All have attended the Academy as youngsters and both of her daughters have worked at MCA.


Justin has worked at Millard Children's Academy since early 2002. His background includes working retail, modeling, and education in civil engineering and mathematics at UNL and UNO. He began working at MCA as a custodian, then eventually as an afternoon Preschool and Schooler teacher throughout high school. During college, he worked as the Math, Computers, and Lead Schooler Teacher, as well as planning and running the School-Age Summer Day Camp. He was promoted in January of 2016 to his current position.

Justin started in child care as an after-school job and fell in love with being around the children and watching them grow. "Witnessing a child encounter a difficult problem or situation and discovering a solution, not through an answer given to them, but by applying the skills and knowledge that they have acquired through their education, is so incomparably rewarding." Even throughout his education, Justin kept working with the kids and had difficulty envisioning a future that did not involve working directly with children and making an impact by being a positive and encouraging male role model in their lives. Justin was born in Omaha and has lived here his entire life.

SUPERVISOR - Infants & Toddlers: Saren Gillespie

Saren has worked at Millard Children's Academy since September of 2003. Her background includes working as a clerk and in human resources. She started as our Language Arts teacher, and has since substituted in every age-group throughout our center when needed. Saren was promoted to her current position in November of 2017.

After having her second child, Saren started in child care as a way to get back to work while still being near her children. She finds it rewarding when "the children learn to write their names with her and seeing them get smarter and gain confidence as they grow." Saren was born in Cambodia and has lived in Omaha since 1998, has been married for over 17 years, and has three children. All three of her children have attended the Academy, and her oldest worked for MCA for several years.

SUPERVISOR - Preschool & Schoolers: Beth Bald

Beth began working at Millard Children’s Academy in the fall of 2016, a couple years after moving to Omaha. At the time, her oldest child started in our preschool and her second child was in our Infant 1 room. She and her husband have since had a third child who also attends MCA. Before making the shift to child care, Beth worked in sales. In college, Beth studied medical billing and coding.

While employed at MCA, Beth has primarily worked in our preschool area, eventually becoming our Lead Preschool Teacher. She also has experience helping in our infant rooms, and as our substitute cook, but preschool remains her favorite. Seeing the children’s personalities develop and change as they grow is what she finds most fulfilling about her job and keeps her coming to work each day.


We have been blessed to have a group of dedicated, loving, and creative teachers stay with us for a number of years. Many of our full-time Preschool Teachers have worked here between 5 and 10 years, some even more. The majority of them have had their own children attend the Academy, many still do. A few of our teachers were parents of children attending the Academy while they worked elsewhere, but decided they wanted to be around for their kids more. They have fallen in love with working with children and have become some of our best teachers. Our staff takes great pride in providing the quality of care and preschool activities they would expect to have for their own children.

It has been endearing to watch as many of our younger afternoon Teacher Aides have also fallen in love with working with children. They have often stayed with us throughout high school and even while attending college, with some coming back during their winter and summer breaks. Many have gone on to choose a career in teaching or education. Some will leave to work at jobs where the hours better fit their schedules, but they almost always come back to visit the children they miss being around. The children definitely have a way of finding their way into your heart, and, once there, they never leave!

Over the years we have had the unique pleasure of employing 62 (and counting!) staff members that attended here as children. Many began working as soon as they were old enough and stayed until they left for college (or longer). We've also had numerous previous child attendees bring their own children here once they started their own families. It makes all of us very proud that these kids cherished their memories at MCA and have continued to contribute to the family atmosphere we've strived to create.


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