Thoughts from a Preschool Pro

Katie Kuehner

Area Director
Amazing Kids Managment Group, Inc.
981 Dow Street
Pelham, AL 35124
(205) 620-1725

By Katie Kuehner

Can you describe a typical day on the job?

There really is no “typical day” for professionals in this career! Our day normally starts off early and may go until early in the evening. It’s definitely something you must be committed to. Our schools have a tremendous commitment to quality of life so our leaders don’t generally work more than 40 or 42 hours per week.

I have multiple meetings each day, such as Director’s meetings where I meet with each school’s Director and Co-Director to discuss the on results and opportunities from the last week and the plans for the upcoming week, as well as “Company Culture Meetings,” where we “set the bar” for new employees by discussing our Kingdom Purpose, Mission, Vision and Core values. I visit the schools on a regular weekly basis to conduct classroom observations, administrative audits and “walk abouts” to ensure all systems are being maintained and the school is running properly. I spend quality time with the staff to develop and maintain relationships with staff members to ensure that they feel valued and are given the opportunity to seek advice, ask questions and just chat. Currently, we have more than 110 staff members among our four schools, so that is no small job. I serve as a big part of the support system for everyone, as well as the Quality Control person.

How do you get parents involved?

This is a constant effort on our parts, because we think our “community” feel is one of the best things about our schools, and we do literally dozens of things to facilitate and foster this important element.  Each year, we conduct our “Parent Satisfaction Survey” offering our parents the opportunity to tell us what they love, hate, and wish to see. We see this as one of our best opportunities for us to increase in excellence and remain “relevant” to the families we serve. In the classroom, we conduct our RFL Assessments™ (Ready For Life).  Beginning at our youngest age group and continuing through graduation with us, this proprietary tool keeps parents in the loop by tracking their physical, emotional, social and academic development.  Our parents are given copy and an opportunity to meet and discuss the development of their child. Our parents absolutely love this, and it keeps them involved in their child’s development.  No surprises!  We also provide Parent Night Out several times per year.  We offer this for free.  It allows our parents to take an evening off and have the same great pros who care for their kids during the day take care of them for an evening out.

What do you like most about your program?

My favorite thing about our program would probably be the amount of training we provide for our teachers. Each room has a “Lead Teacher” supervising overall classroom operation.  She is challenged in her professional development and given opportunities to grow by taking classes such as “Difficult Conversations” and “Developing the Leader Within You”. As our teachers are equipped to be excellent and growing in excellence, our program reflects this, and our teachers feel valued and appreciated. In addition to being the right thing to do, it has multiple benefits for the schools in which they serve.   Working with kids is tough.  Our teachers deserve to enjoy coming to work each day.  We want them to  know that we’re here to help them through challenges and tough times, as well as to celebrate their successes!

What resources, information or support do you think most families need today?

Probably the topic I am asked about most often involves discipline. Our families know that “positive” discipline is the only type used at our schools, and they often seek our advice on how to shift to more positive discipline at home.  It is a good feeling to know that the difference we’re making in children’s lives is apparent and desirable to the parents we serve. I feel it is so very important for families with young children to have the support they need to know that the “science” of parenting isn’t a science—it’s an art!  It’s hard! And, it’s a “moving target”. Encouragement is the key. New parent groups are great for advice and support. We make ourselves available to help families through the challenges of raising great children. For example, a mother the other day was stressed about her daughter’s eczema and voiced to me she just didn’t know what to do to make it better! Since I’d dealt with this myself, I shared a suggestion to her that worked for me.  I ran into her a couple of days later and she was ecstatic, mentioning how wonderfully it had worked for them!  It all goes back to encouragement and a sense of community that facilitates sharing solutions. Our schools have a “family feel” where our parents consider us trusted advisers and almost a part of the family.

What are some things you want families to understand about your program?

That’s a great question.  The vast majority of parents who visit our schools focus on academic development for their children.  We know how important this is, but academics is only part of great care for children.  Interestingly, the path to a smart kid isn’t worksheets and homework at the preschool level.  Instead, it’s about finding ways to help children fall in love with learning delighting in new experiences, tactile sensations, smells and sights. To help grow smart kids, it’s about social and emotional development, the ability to share and communicate, to listen and follow instructions. Many of the parents we serve are teachers in public school, so we hear what they say about us.  It’s great to hear them share about our great reputation. We’re frequently told that kindergarten teachers can tell which children came from our Schools for Amazing Kids. It’s encouraging to us to know that Kindergarten teachers like having children who graduated from from our schools in their classes!

If you could change one DHR standard, what would it be and why?

As much of a challenge as it can be to abide by the detailed, complex DHR regulations, it’s our experience that they protect parents and families and are important.  While many religious schools choose to be exempt from regulation, we can’t imagine why.  They can choose to be included in regulation, but most do not do so.  The document that governs with regard to our state is called, “MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR DAY CARE CENTERS AND NIGHTTIME CENTERS”. It’s detailed and intricate, but after thirty five years in the industry, it’s clear that an excellent school will keep these standards and remember the word, “minimum” in the title! Okay… I’ll admit it… it’s a pain having to get signed medication forms by the parents every Monday just to be able to administer topical cream, lotion, even chap stick.  But the fact is, it keeps children safe by emphasizing the importance of care with all medicines. In the end, we are thankful that the standards exist to keep the children safe, and are proud of the reputation we’ve earned with our DHR Representative.  Whatever school you choose for your child, make sure they’re put their money where their mouth is and are actually regulated by DHR.

The most current brain development research shows that the first years are critical to a child’s lifelong capacity for learning.  Given that, what qualities do you look for and attempt to develop in the teachers you hire?

From birth to age 6, it’s been suggested that as much as 80% of the capacity for learning within a child is established.  Preschool Pros shoulder a lot of responsibility to ensure this time is utilized well to foster amazing kids who grow up to be amazing men and women.

Probably one of the most important traits we look for in teachers is exactly what we want to instill into children—a love for learning and continual growth.  Whether the applicant’s highest level of education is a high school diploma or an MS in Early Childhood Education, the degree to which the candidate buy’s into the idea of continual learning and growth is what will determine her success with us. Vince Lombardi said, “Strive for perfection and you’ll achieve excellence.”  We agree. our core values say it best.

  • Kindness—Demonstrate care for each person, no matter what.
    • Being, “…as good as an umbrella on a wet day.” —H. E. Bates
    • “Be kind to each other, sympathetic, forgiving each other as God has forgiven you through Christ.” –Eph 4:32 (GWT)
  • Excellence—Do it right, giving it all you have.
    • “Whatever you do, work at it wholeheartedly as though you were doing it for the Lord and not merely for people.” –Col 3:23 (ISV)
    • “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”—Vince Lombardi
    • Kaizen—Continual, incremental, never-ending improvement.
  • Creativity— Looking upon the world with anticipation through the delighted eyes of a child, presenting ideas and information in ways that are new and exciting.
  • Communication—“…speaking the truth in love.” –Eph 4:15
    • Over-communicate
    • Positive Interaction
    • Effective Confrontation
  • Positive Attitude—“… whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Phil 4:8