Local nonprofit directors dedicate their lives to the common good. photos by Keith Borgmeyer Cheryl Howard, Nora Stewart Early Learning Center As a former graduate...
Being a “second mom” and loving every minute.
Spend less than five minutes with Stacy Gerau, and her passion for kids and the Precious Hearts Learning Center will convince you that you’ve picked the wrong profession. Stacy is not only the director and president of Precious Hearts Learning Center, but she’s also seen as a second mother to over a thousand children who have been enrolled.
Stacy and John Gerau have owned and operated a child care program for 28 years. What started as a small home provider program with 10 children is now a renovated and expanded facility with 119 enrolled children, ranging from infants to pre-teens.
Precious Hearts Learning Center’s identity lies in how the program is sustained: the enthusiastic employees inspire past students to return, either to visit or to enroll children of their own.
“We’re a big family here,” Stacy says. “It’s a family business, we built it from the ground up, and we love what we do.”
Every member of Gerau’s immediate family has a role in the daycare, whether it’s as maintenance staff, financial advisor, teacher, or assistant director.
The style of teaching is what Stacy calls “old school.”
“Old school, for me, is when the kids get to explore and learn on their own,” she says. “I really focus in on ‘hands-on.’”
The school-age kids are taken all over the state on field trips, and all the kids at the daycare are taught daily life skills. Based on their age and development level, they are taught how to cook, fold clothes, and use tools.
Precious Hearts Learning Center is designed to be a home-away-from-home for kids to learn, be loved on, play, spend time outside, and slow down the fast-paced lives we all live today.
“I can’t see myself retiring for quite a while, because I get to come to work everyday and I get to play, I get told I’m loved everyday, I get millions of hugs, I get told I’m beautiful from all of my 5-year-olds, and I get told I’m mean once in a while,” Stacy says. “But for the most part, coming and seeing the excitement in my kids’ eyes everyday and the joy, passion, and love they have to learn is what makes my job the best.”
6:45 a.m. – Stacy arrives at Precious Hearts Learning Center and gets a head start on paperwork.
7 a.m. – Working drop-off and talking to parents. Stacy says, “It’s very important to me as a director and owner to be at the facility from the time it opens to the time it closes, which isn’t very usual for an owner or director, from what I’m told.”
7:45 a.m. – Breakfast isn’t going to make itself! Stacy is cooking away, getting breakfast ready in the kitchen.
8 a.m. – Class is in session. From 8 to 9:30 a.m., Stacy is teaching her favorite age, 4- and 5-year-olds.
10 a.m. – Prep time. “My teammates and I are getting the cots down and getting lunch ready,” Stacy says.
11 a.m. – Lunch is served for 119 kids. The meals are always home-style cooking. Stacy laughs as she mentions, “I may have peeled and mashed 60 pounds of potatoes to make mashed potatoes for the kids the other day.”
11:30 a.m. – No time to waste! Stacy is cleaning dishes and rooms, putting down the kids for naptime, and coordinating breaks for the phenomenal staff.
1:30 p.m. – The afternoon routine gets started. We’re talking snacks, outside activities, inside activities — you name it.
2:30 p.m. – Everyone has outside time! Stacy plays for a little bit before sneaking downstairs to her office to get a head start on bookwork.
4 p.m. – Back to the action! “I’m up on the floor because I’m coordinating staff getting off, letting kids go, moving kids to different locations for the parents,” Stacy says. “From 4 to 5:45 p.m., I’m just being available for staff, parents, children, whatever I need to do.”
5:45 p.m. – The daycare may be closed, but the work isn’t over. Stacy spends a couple hours on bookwork, cleaning, laundry, and preparing for the next day.
9:00 p.m. – Stacy’s husband and sons are at the daycare, fixing the basketball hoop.
10:30 p.m. – Bedtime, a.k.a. the first time Stacy puts her feet up. Stacy says that during the school year, she tries to go to bed around 10:30 p.m. to make sure she’s on her “A-game” for teaching, but during the summer, bedtime can be pushed back as late as 2 a.m. when she’s prepping for all the summer activities!
The Geraus also own two other family businesses: JS Gerau Properties and Gerau Maintenance and Repairs. So within the typical day, throw in some calls from renters and more bookwork for Stacy.