Kelly Gilligan named ELCA Early Childhood Director of the Year

  • Kelly Gilligan, director of the Celebration Children's Center in Naperville

    Kelly Gilligan, director of the Celebration Children's Center in Naperville

Submitted by Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church
Posted7/15/2019 10:53 PM

Kelly Gilligan, director of the Celebration Children's Center in Naperville, has been selected as the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association's 2019 Early Childhood Director of the Year.

ELEA is the national membership association of private secondary, elementary and early childhood schools throughout the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran church body in the United States.


"Director Gilligan was nominated by a colleague and selected by her fellow administrators through a national search process conducted by the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association", said Gayle Denny, executive director of ELEA.

The Celebration Children's Center is a ministry of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Naperville, serving not only the educational and spiritual needs of young children, but also supporting parents through a welcoming and nurturing faith community.

The Children's Center provides a wide range of early childhood programs, including half day and extended day preschool programs, Parent's Day Out, pre-kindergarten, enrichment classes and summer camps.

Graduating with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, along with obtaining a Master's of Science in Education Curriculum and Instruction from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, Gilligan has served as director of Celebration Children's Center since 2011. Her teaching experience dates back to 1985.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Criteria for selection of the ELCA Early Childhood Director of the Year program require that the honorees are active administrators of schools where programs are designed to meet the physical, academic and social needs of all children served and where there are firmly established community ties with parents and local business organizations.

Gilligan has a long list of accomplishments at Celebration Children's Center, but one area in which she seems to shine the most is in creating a loving, nurturing culture in the school, for children, families and staff alike. She is seen as a leader who goes above and beyond to make sure the preschool is welcoming to all children and families.

Pastor Brian Wise of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church which operates Celebration Children's Center, says, "Kelly's approach to leadership is centered in Christ's call to 'Let the little children come to me.'"

One of her classroom teachers says, "To work for Kelly is a dream … she WANTS her teachers to be happy and WANT to come to work."

Gilligan will be honored at the Feb. 4-6, 2020 IGNITE ELEA National Administrator & Pastor Conference being held at Bally's Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada, along with the recipients of the 2019 ELCA Elementary Principal of the Year Award, the 2019 Distinguished Pastor of the Year Award, and ELEA's Donald A. Vetter Educational Service Award.

Since 1988, the Evangelical Lutheran Education Association has served as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's professional educational association and now represents more than 1,400 early childhood programs throughout the nation, along with about 100 elementary and secondary schools. ELEA is also an active member of CAPE -- the Council for American Private Education.

Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.