Jessica Tyrone spent years working in pre-schools, so when the time came for her to find one for her 4-year-old daughter, she knew what she wanted: warmth, friendliness and a curriculum that would best prepare her daughter for pre-K.
She says she found all those things, and even a little more, at The Goddard School Wesley Chapel, located on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. directly across from Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel. The preschool chain serves children ages 6 weeks to 6 years.
“They were so welcoming and friendly and so into getting to know my child instead of just sucking up to me,’’ Jessica says. “And the programs were just tremendous when it came to getting kids ready for school. They make everything fun.”
That fun even includes when parents drop off their kids. Jessica says that every morning, owner Dinesh Patel greets the students and the parents with a happy-go-lucky smile, and seems to know everyone’s name.
“I could probably gush about 10 billion things I love about the place,’’ Jessica says.
Prospective parents and children are welcome to stop by anytime during the week, 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m., to check it out.
The local Goddard School is owned and managed by Patel, with Melissa Jablonski running the education side.
Patel opened the early childhood education school in May, after buying into the franchise with some hearty recommendations from a close family friend in Houston who owns a Goddard School. The Wesley Chapel location is one of more than 400 franchises in 35 states across the country for the company, which is headquartered in King of Prussia, PA.
Although Patel, who graduated from college in his native India with a degree in engineering, doesn’t have a background in education (other than raising his two academically gifted children), he says his 30-year career managing multiple businesses in the Fort Pierce and Punta Gorda areas — including a convenience store and a motel — serve him well at The Goddard School.
“They (the company’s corporate office) want someone with good management skills,’’ Patel said. “As the owner, I manage the facility, control the finances and marketing, and I leave the education side to the education director.”
Enter Jablonski, who Patel says helped create “the perfect team” to run the new preschool. Jablonski says she has 22 years of experience in early childhood education and social work, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Human Services & Applied Behavior Science from Ashford University, an online for-profit university headquartered in San Diego, CA, as well as an Associate’s degree from Hillsborough Community College in Childcare Center Management. She also is a certified professional life coach.
“I kind of fell into his lap,’’ Jablonski says.
Jablonski adds that she was intrigued by the curriculum and the way The Goddard School is run. Two managers must be on-site at all times, and after years of juggling the business and education side of her job, she says she is happy to worry only about the teaching part. “There is usually so much paperwork that it takes up 90 percent of your time, but with Dinesh handling all of that now, I get to be the educator, look at lesson plans, be in the classrooms and help the teachers.”
The local Goddard School has 14 full-time teachers, and every lead teacher is required to have at least their Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential. A handful of the teachers at the local Goddard School also have a Bachelor’s degrees in Education or a Master’s degree. Jablonski, who says she is certified to teach the CDA course, notes that her teachers also take part in Goddard Systems University, which provides ongoing training through webinars.
The F.L.E.X. Program
The focus at The Goddard School is on the play-based F.L.E.X. Learning Program, short for Fun Learning Experience. The Goddard School curriculum is based on research that claims that children learn best while having fun, better forming the building blocks to future learning.
“It’s a fun learning experience,’’ Patel says. “Our teachers find out what a child likes and creates a lesson plan around their skills. The children seem to pick up very fast like that.”
The F.L.E.X. Program also could stand for flexible, as Goddard School teachers are trained to adjust lessons at a moment’s notice if the situation arises. One example given on the school’s website states that if a lesson on the solar system is planned, but the children are captivated by the rain outside, the teacher can instead change that lesson to weather.
Teachers at the school develop their own plans, which are required to lead the children to certain goals and standards set by Goddard. There are monthly themes they must incorporate, but otherwise, teachers are given leeway to reach those goals.
For example, a standard goal for a 3-year-old child might be to cut paper in a straight line. The teacher is responsible for creating activities to teach those children to do so.
When the classes carved pumpkins for Halloween, Jessica, who volunteers at the school, said she was impressed by the process. “The children were included and involved, not just watching,’’ she says. “There’s an undertone of learning in everything fun that they do.”
It’s an approach that keeps learning fresh for everyone, says Jablonski.
“I love that the teachers plan and do all that stuff, as opposed to a box that says on day one you do this, on day two you do this…,” she says. “Every part of what they do is a stepping stone to make sure when the children get to pre-kindergarten, they have all those prerequisites to get to where they need to be.”
The Goddard School plan strives to have its children achieve certain milestones across seven learning domains derived from S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Math) and P21 (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, which focuses on complex problem solving and teamwork).
The Goddard School Wesley Chapel also offers four enrichment programs, which are included in the tuition — Spanish, sign language, yoga and base fitness.
Jablonski says the focus on the learning process can be more beneficial than the product. “It’s not that your green frog looks like the green frog that’s in the book, it’s that you understood the color was green, that it has two eyes, it has four legs and it’s got webbed feet,’’ Jablonski says. “Whatever process you come up with to develop that, at the end, when you say it’s a frog, (the children know) it’s a frog.”
The school also encourages parental involvement. One way it does that is through a “Tadpoles” app, which allows parents to see what their child did all day, in the hopes they can reinforce some of those lessons at home.
They also hold a number of events for the children and their families. There was a trunk or treat event on Halloween that was well-attended, and the school hosted a food drive in November and is having an “angel tree” this month.
The Goddard School Quality Assurance (QA) program is in contact with each Goddard School on a weekly basis, and sometimes more, helping Patel through each step of the way, from building the facility to staffing it. Representatives also stop in unannounced to ensure The Goddard School’s standards are being met, and as a way of providing guidance.
“There is someone to answer any question we might have,’’ Patel says. “They have been very supportive.”
Since opening in May, The Goddard School Wesley Chapel has slowly expanded to roughly 80 students; almost half of those are registered in two pre-K classes. Patel had originally planned to have just one pre-K class, but had to add another, due to heavy interest. The school is considering adding a third pre-K class next year, and there are plans to add a kindergarten class sometime in the near future.
Patel also plans to add an after-school program as well, and is currently looking into buying a bus in time for the start of the next school year.
Patel, who is 58, worked in textile engineering in India before coming to the U.S. in 1986, and has run his businesses in Florida since 1988. He says running The Goddard School has been some of his most fulfilling work. “I think this is a very good thing we are doing, providing a good foundation for the children to help make them successful in life,’’ he says. “I love it.”
The Goddard School is located at 2539 Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd.. The Wesley Chapel location’s hours are Monday-Friday, 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, call (813) 603-6100, visit GoddardSchool.com/Tampa/Wesley-Chapel-Bruce-B-Downs-Boulevard-Fl, or see the ad on page 18 of this issue.