Ministry Village Early Learning Center Marks 1 Year
November 19, 2019 marked the 1 year anniversary for the Ministry Village Early Learning Center’s opening to students. Kristi Zagar, the ELC’s Director, looked back over the past year, how the ELC has grown, and how God has led her and her team every step of the way.
Looking back over the past year, Kristi Zagar can now see the patterns. At the time, in the midst of the long and hectic days of planning, licensing, interviewing teachers, and training staff, she was simply focused on getting through the days until the doors to the ELC could open. But having pressed forward and made it to the one year mark, she can take a breath and look back at how far they’ve come.
“The way the growth happened was just astounding,” says Kristi. “Each age group would grow in waves. Keeping the ratio numbers in line (something required by state licensing), we needed to have a specific number of certified teachers based on how many children we had in a classroom. We would have a waiting list of children of a specific age – growing every day – and we were interviewing for teachers. We just kept praying, ‘Lord, this class is ready. We have enough children. Now we need the right teacher.’ And each time, we would receive an application and find a teacher who was the perfect fit for that age group. Every single time. It was amazing.”
“God never provided the right person earlier than we needed. I would be on my knees praying, ‘Lord, we really need a teacher. We need the right person for this class.’ And God would bring to my mind the story of the Israelites from Habakkuk 2. The Israelites were standing on their guard post, keeping watch. God reminded them what He had done for them in the past. ‘The vision is for the appointed time…Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.’ So this story would come up in my personal devotions, and in Bible studies I was doing at the time. It was God reminding me that He had taken care of our needs before. I needed to be patient. And then, as I was becoming concerned, something would happen. A couple of nearby preschools suddenly closed, leading a wave of families who needed childcare to us. And each time, God would send the right teacher to contact us and apply for the position.”
During the early days of the ELC, just making sure each classroom had the materials it needed – toys, furniture, teaching materials, decorations – was a full-time job. The ELC also needed enough people to cover the entire school day — from early morning drop-off, through teaching time, and into evening care. Kristi’s main priority after licensing was staffing and preparing the school for the children who were to come. As word spread throughout the community, the families and children came. Now, one year later, the ELC is near capacity. Every classroom (from Infants through 4 year olds/VPK) was opened and staffed at the beginning of the 2019/2020 school year when the first VPK classes at the ELC launched.
While the ELC is fully staffed with teachers for each classroom, the focus has now shifted to hiring qualified substitute teachers and teaching assistants. “When someone calls in sick, you still need a teacher in order to stay in ratio for licensing. It’s not like other jobs where the work can wait until someone comes back. The children are going to be here, even though the teacher is out. It’s a constant balancing act. We are so thankful for the high quality of people who want to work here. They genuinely love the kids and want to show them God’s love. They are here for the right reasons, not just for a paycheck. God has blessed us with valuable people.”
Kristi is proud of the environment the teachers and staff of the ELC have created for the children. Teachers are forming strong, encouraging relationships with the children and their families, working hard every day to show how much they love and care for each child. In today’s society, many families simply have to work and need childcare. Providing nurturing care in a loving and educational Christ-centered environment has been the goal of the ELC since planning and construction began. “I hope parents feel confident, knowing their kids are safe and truly loved and nurtured every day so each child can grow to his or her potential.”
“As we’ve grown throughout this first year, we have worked hard to create that safe and loving classroom – to be here to support the whole family. When kids move up to the next age group, or a new class starts, we’re providing a place so parents don’t have to worry about their children’s care. We truly have their best interests at heart. We want to help families plant those seeds so kids will grow to do mighty things for God. And as teachers, it fills us up to know that we had a part in planting that seed.”