"Lissa" is a constant presence at the preschool and is now just the Owner, not the Owner and Director. At the beginning of December of 2021 she turned over the role as Director to Angel who has more than earned it!!!
Lissa comes in for at least two hours every morning to help and make sure everything is going smoothly. She will step in and take over Angel's role so Angel can step into a classroom if a teacher is gone. Lissa runs errands for the school and is spending more time with her family.
“The twos and threes are wonderful, like little sponges you can soak so much into. The classroom is fun, energetic, exciting, and I enjoy every day.”
Elaine has always liked working with kids, starting an in-home daycare that hosted multiple ages, while an associate taught preschool upstairs. She’s been working with children ever since, including fifteen years as cook and head cashier with the Meridian School district.
“Everyone knows me as the Lake Hazel lunch lady,” she says.
Elaine returned to daycare, working in a large, corporate facility.
“That’s where I found that corporate was not really my thing,” she recalls, “I worked hard, and took work home, too, because everything had to be so perfect. It was a situation where I just did it, because it was my job. I eventually took some time off for a while, and then I met up with Melissa…”
“I can be myself at Lissa’s, and I love it. If I have an idea, Melissa says, ‘go for it’, and gets me whatever I need. At the corporate daycare, it took about a month to get things for our classrooms. Since materials were needed sooner than that, we wound up buying things ourselves, which wasn’t so great. I tell Melissa what I need one week in advance, and she gets it. It’s amazing.”
Well-versed in preschool requirements, Elaine is big on things like word walls, displaying words two- and three-year olds can pronounce and learn the definitions of.
“Literacy is deeply rooted in me, and I’m helping the kids soak it up, too. I make sure they see their names every day. Parents get excited over that, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, words! And the kids know how to write them!’”
“When I’ve done initial walk-throughs, the parents are flabbergasted. They say, ‘Did kids do these? You do this with them? You teach them their colors and how to write their names?’”
Elaine adds, “I also hear, ‘My child is talking more at home, when he hardly talked at all before.’ I feel it’s the stimulation with the other kids, the conversations we have, and our constantly speaking to them in a positive way. We have children here from seven a.m. until six p.m., five days a week. During those hours, positivity is the best possible thing you can offer.”
Elaine helps those children turning two transition into the “big room”.
“To me, they’re a ‘young’ two. I bring them into my room permanently, but let them visit their former room, knowing it’s only a visit. Then I get them interested in art, writing, and coloring. They’re ready for that. In the one-year-old room there isn’t as much touching of messy things, but in the two-year-old room, it’s encouraged. I want their hands in paint and glue. It’s a good feeling for them, it’s texture, and it’s fun!”
When in Elaine’s class, there is a high likelihood of salsa dancing.
“I love to dance,” she laughs, “We turn that music up when it’s dance time. I teach the kids salsa moves, they use their handkerchiefs, and we go around the table. They learn their shapes, their colors, their names, they get a little messy…and they learn a little salsa.”
Angel Madrill has a soft, sweet way of making children feel comfortable. Lissa’s Learning Ladder kids of all ages have already formed a special connection.
“Because my mom has been a daycare and preschool worker for years, I’ve grown up knowing hundreds of kids,” says Angel, who is more than capable of watching over the babies and toddlers in her charge.
“I also have a niece and second cousin that have been close to me. I helped raise that second cousin, who’ll soon be twelve, and my niece, who’ll soon be turning six, has lived with us since she was born. I love kids.”
This is what made Angel a natural choice for Lissa’s Learning Ladder. Once assigned a room of her own, Angel went to task, organizing the space her way, putting children’s initials in baby block form on their cubbies, and creating an art wall with personalized picture frames of each child.
“I like decorating,” she says humbly, “and Lissa lets me use my ideas. This is an amazing place, I love it here.”
One of Angel’s greatest rewards in her position is to be in place to see children going from babies to extremely aware toddlers that are experiencing so many “firsts”.
“Those that are getting closer to turning one know which cubby is theirs. They’ll look at their picture and realize, ‘that’s me!’ They really start ‘getting it’. I get to see that. And for some, I’ll witness some of their first words, and some of their first steps, too.”
Angel encourages walking for the babies who are ready, taking a few minutes with each of them daily as they stand and lean on toys especially designed to foster the activity.
“Just so they can get into the groove,” she says.
Another thing she likes to do is to let the younger children spend a little time with the older class of two-and three-year-olds for a short time during the day.
“They’re in their walkers and can go where they’d like within the room. The two-and three-year-olds get to have that baby experience, and it’s interesting to see how they react to each other. Both older and younger children think that’s a real treat.”
Though stimulation is important to growing children, Angel also appreciates the beauty of down time between teachers, infants, and toddlers.
“I have a lot of fun with them, just getting on the floor and playing,” she tells us, “I think that people who are new to being around babies tend to be unsure. The best thing to do is to get down on a baby’s level, pretty much be a baby with them. Isn’t that what you’d like, if that were you? Babies will just light up when you do that.”
“I have one little baby,” she shares, “That, once I’m on the floor, crawls straight to me.”
Although there are a lot of plans for upcoming arts and crafts, Angel still holds to the beauty of the simple moments, something not everyone gets enough of.
“…being on the floor with the kids, watching them roll around, acting silly, allowing them to crawl on me. Whatever they want to do. I’m just enjoying being with them as we relax, listen to the classical music, and play.”