One of the most difficult things for new parents is deciding on child care options for their children. The many choices facing them can be daunting and with the health and welfare of their children at stake, many parents struggle with the decision.
One local business woman has set out to redefine how child care is approached and how her facility tackles the challenge.
"I worked in centers early in my career, and I just felt like there was a real opportunity to make a difference," said Aleta Mechtel, owner of Children of Tomorrow. "With two learning centers now open, I know I'm living my dream, and I I feel like it's everybody's school and not just my school."
Mechtel opened her first center in Chanhassen in 2000. In 2007 she opened her second in Waconia. With so many options available for care, Mechtel concentrated heavily on making her centers complete learning environments with involvement from all the families she works with.
"The parents are very involved with the teachers and helping us with the curriculum and the the day-to-day," she said. "My families are my No. 1 asset. I feel like the sky is the limit when it comes to education and how a child will learn and we center our teaching techniques based on the individual needs of the child and their families."
Another key element in the success of Children of Tomorrow has been the kindergarten option for families in lieu of the traditional school district options. With a private, full-day kindergarten curriculum, Mechtel is providing parents with a different approach to early childhood education.
"The biggest thing is we really do have a full day kindergarten curriculum here at Children of Tomorrow," Mechtel said. "A full day really becomes a full day of learning, and we can get creative and really prepare them for the next stage of their education. The student to teacher ratio is very low, with only 10 students in the program currently, and we can provide that one on one approach that a child entering the school year needs."
With all of her teachers having degrees in elementary education or special education, Mechtel also has a group of teachers she can point to with the experience, knowledge and tools to offer their families the most comprehensive child care options.
"I thought it was essential that all of our teachers had the highest knowledge level they could have when working with the kids that come to our learning centers," she said.
Each teacher was recently bought a laptop because families had expressed through surveys that they wanted direct communication with our entire staff.
"This will enable them to have the tools they need to reach parents and provide them with that personal and direct communication that they desire," Mechtel said.
Having families come to Children of Tomorrow from many communities around Lake Minnetonka is another testament to the success that Mechtel and her directors, Melissa Semira and Judy Thomas, have brought to this model of child care. Expansion and other ideas are top of mind as Mechtel sets her sights on the future.
"We've expanded three times since opening in 2000, and we have families attend from all over the Western suburbs," she said. "I know if we continue to concentrate on making everyone part of the process here and really make everyone that comes here feel like part of the family that we will continue to be an attractive option for all families. We've been blessed with low turnover rates with our teachers and high retention rates for our families, so I feel like we've been really doing what we set out to do and I'm so lucky that I get to live my dream every day."