Running a textile business in Baroda, India (500 kilometers south of Bombay), Dinesh Patel never considered a career in early childhood education. He loved children, their smiles and their laughter. But, aside from the joys of raising his own children, the possibility hadn’t crossed his mind. 

He moved to the U.S. in 1987, by way of Fort Pierce, FL, and got into the retail business, running a convenience store and later a motel. Then, a close family friend invited him out to Houston to look at a franchise he’d just obtained — The Goddard School. 

The rest, as they say, is history, as he now owns The Goddard School of Wesley Chapel, located on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. across the street from the AdventHealth Wesley Chapel hospital.

Patel says his business experience and his love of kids made him a natural fit for a Goddard School, which uses a dual management system, incorporating both a business manager and an education manager at each school. 

Also to Patel’s liking was the school’s track record — The Goddard School is a 30-year old national franchise with 500 schools in 37 states (and in Washington, D.C.). 

“(Goddard) gives you knowledge and all directors have to go through the training,” Patel says. “Goddard (corporate) even assigns someone to your school for support.”

The Goddard School of Wesley Chapel opened in May of 2017. Patel brought on his second education director, Christie Lemar, in August of 2018. 

Lemar was the Director of Youth Development at Brandon Sports & Aquatic Center’s child care center, where she ran a Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) and after school programs, which consisted of roughly 180 children. The skill set lined up perfectly with the direction Patel was already taking the school. 

The Goddard School of Wesley Chapel added VPK classes in 2018, and recently acquired a small bus in order to expand into after-school care. 

“This spring, we hope to have three VPK classes,” Patel says. “VPK is important to prepare a child for kindergarten. It helps make for a soft transition. They go (into kindergarten) with computer time, sight words and math (knowledge) already.”

VPK is a free program for any family in Florida. All parents need to do is fill out an application with the Department of State’s Office of Early Learning. Patel also has applications at the school.

“The classes are for three hours, Monday through Friday, and the state pays tuition for anyone,” Patel says. “Normally, middle class people don’t qualify for any benefit, so this is a great opportunity.”

The Goddard School of Wesley Chapel offers three different times for VPK classes to accommodate parents’ schedules. There’s also a wraparound program that offers hours beyond the VPK time. 

There are even full-day options, that go from 6:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. The school also is open during many public school holidays. 

Patel says the summer camps, which were offered for the first time by The Goddard School of Wesley Chapel in 2018, will be expanded in 2019. 

The Education Side

“I believed in the quality of the instruction and I saw the activities that were planned,” says homeroom mom Faye Adams. “I saw how well organized they were. They had fun things for the kids to do. It’s not just child care; you know that they’re learning.”

Adams’ son Christian, who is 5, took VPK at The Goddard School last fall. Even as a third-grade teacher with more than a decade of experience and teacher ambassador & spokesperson for the Foundation for Excellence in Education, Adams was impressed with what Christian got out of his experience at Goddard. 

Now, Adams is the local Goddard School’s education specialist.

“I help teachers with their lesson planning, and help make sure they are hitting their standards,” Faye says. “There are seven domains, including science, math, motor skills, art, music and movement and our task is to find engaging activities, books and resources that will help target those skills and meet state standards.”

There are 14 teachers at The Goddard School of Wesley Chapel, and every lead teacher must have a Child Development Associate (CDA) credential, and oversight from the The Goddard School’s Quality Assurance program can be rigorous. The program stays in contact with the school on a weekly basis, assisting in every aspect, from the building to staffing to curriculum. 

Goddard representatives also stop by to ensure corporate standards are being met and to offer hands-on assistance. 

“At any level, if we have a problem or need guidance, they (Goddard) can always help us get through it,” Patel says. 

Additionally, there are bi-annual assessments from the state for the VPK program. Three months ago, Patel joined the Accredited Professional Preschool Learning Environment (APPLE) program, a national early learning program accreditation. In Florida, APPLE is accepted as one of Florida’s Gold Seal Quality Programs.

“APPLE has monthly training for teachers, helps with restructuring classrooms and also strengthens academics,” Patel says. 

Having Fun With It

Enrichment programs specific to Goddard include Spanish, sign language, yoga and B.A.S.E. (Balance, Agility, Strength and Endurance) for Fitness, which is specifically designed for preschool children with those four curricular goals, all of which address physical fitness.

Lemar and the teachers come up with fun ways to teach the programs.

“You wouldn’t even know we’re working on it,” Lemar says. “For instance, in our 12-to-18-month-old class, we use the word, ‘agua’ instead of ‘water.’ We use signs for, ‘more food’ or ‘I’ve had enough.’ This works particularly well for those who are non-verbal.”

It works well for those in between verbal and non-verbal, as well, she adds.

“Four months into the program and I’ve already noticed the progression,” Goddard Wesley Chapel mom Brittany Williams says. “She (daughter Savannah) was pretty much non-verbal when she got here. Now she knows all her colors and numbers.”

The FLEX Program, a Goddard standard, stands for Fun Learning EXperience. In the program, teachers are given the freedom to create their own lesson plans.

“They can create fun activities to achieve those goals,” Patel said. 

Extras…

The Goddard School of Wesley Chapel also uses the Tadpole app, an application parents can download to their computer or smartphone that shows lesson plans, snapshots of what their child did during the day, even on down to what they ate for lunch.

“The parent can still ask how the child’s day was but now they can actually look at the report,” Patel says. 

For additional costs, Mr. Tommy’s Mobile Music Bus comes to the school every Tuesday. 

Soccer Shots, a soccer program that is, according to its website, consistently recognized by Entrepreneur magazine as the top Children’s Fitness Franchise in the U.S., also comes in once per week. 

And, this past December, the school hosted its first Angel Tree Program, providing gifts for nearly 20 needy children. 

The Goddard School of Wesley Chapel is located at 2539 Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. The school’s hours are Mon.-Fri., 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. and prospective parents are welcome any time during business hours to schedule a tour of the school. For more information, call (813) 603-6100, or visit http://www.goddardschool.com/Tampa/Wesley-Chapel-Bruce-B-Downs-Boulevard-Fl. Or, see the ad on pg. 28. 

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