Naperville Sun

Prepping kids for kindergarten the goal, challenge for Naperville center

What does this business do?

“We offer part-day preschool for children ages 2 1/2 to age 5,” Folliard said. “In our preschool, our goal is to prepare the kids for kindergarten and have a positive school experience. Our longest program is three hours. We have a capacity of 68, and we have about 100 children enrolled. They come at different times for different programs. We also offer summer camps for children. In the evenings, we host in-service training for all early childhood educators within Chicagoland.”

What was the impetus for starting this business?

“The original owner was Joan Gibbson. She built the house and the preschool all at the same time for the specific (purpose) of being a preschool. I bought it in 2004 when Joan retired. My kids were going to school here at the time and I had substitute taught here and I fell in love with the school. So we bought the school and the house, the whole bit. The first year I was the director here, my son was still going here too. Now he’s a senior at Naperville Central (high school).”

What is the best thing about being in Naperville?

“It’s a wonderful family community. With being a very established business, we have now had past students who are parents and they are bringing their children to ‘their’ preschool. Full circle.”

What do you most like to do as part of your business?

“I love the relationships that we build with our attending families and watching the children grow and develop over the years at our school.”

What is your least favorite thing to do?

“Saying good-byes.”

What is the best thing about owning your own business?

“Being able to implement things and programs, and seeing them come to life. To watch your vision come true. And also, selecting people and staff members to work with to support the program every day.

“(For example) a new program we just started last year is ‘Jolly Phonics.’ That’s a great way for our children to learn letters and sounds. I researched it for a couple of years and figured out what’s the best thing. My staff is all on board, and now seeing it implemented and watching the kids learn that way. That’s just the best.”

What is the biggest downside?

“Not being able to meet everyone’s needs. For instance, this coming year we have two students who will not be returning. They are going to day care because the parents’ needs have changed. Realizing you cannot meet everyone’s needs is certainly the hardest.”

Tell us about your most memorable situation.

“We had, at one point, eight sets of twins and two sets of triplets here. … It was a lot of fun. Really, with these twins and triplets, they are terrific at sharing, which at this age for children isn’t always so easy. Those kids were just so used to it, they truly made every single class better because they were so good at that.”

What is the biggest misconception about your business?

“One of the misconceptions specific to us is that people think that this is a house converted to a preschool. People don’t realize it was built as a school and a home from the very beginning in 1981. … Another misconception is that people think we are a daycare.”

How would you describe your business philosophy?

“Our goal at School Readiness Center is to provide a positive first school experience while preparing children for kindergarten.”

How has your business changed over the years?

“Well, I think there’s a lot of choices now, all types of programs. I think the expectations (have changed). Once kindergarten became full day in our area, parents wanted more time in our program.”

What advice would you give someone thinking about starting a business?

“I guess before I started I never really realized how much I would love it. … When people say their business is their baby, it’s true. I never really understood when people say that, but I do now. And I’m continually impressed by my staff, and realize the importance of having the right people, the right pieces to a puzzle, to make it work.”

Daina Saleh is a freelance reporter for the Naperville Sun.

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