By: William Morris
April 28, 2017
In a field where annual turnover can reach 30 percent, there aren’t many early childhood care providers like Daniel and Jennifer Buck.
The executive director and education director, respectively, of Kid’s Korner Educare have built the center together since it opened in 1991, and today serve about 210 children with 55 to 65 staff members, depending on the season. And though it’s run by a nonprofit board, it is in every sense a small business, one of thousands across the state being honored from April 30 to May 6 for National Small Business Week.
“One of the things I’ll tell families is, it’s a personal choice to enroll in Kid’s Korner, but I would want to take pride everything I can, in my best ability, to have a superior program for them to enroll at,” Daniel Buck said.
Kid’s Korner has rooms for infants and toddlers, a full on-site kindergarten, and after-school and summer care for children up to third or fourth grade. The center prides itself on a strong educational component, and Daniel Buck said it holds the highest possible four-star rating from the state Parent Aware program.
“We’re not about what I term oftentimes the ‘glorified babysitter,’” he said. “We want families enrolled with us to understand we’re doing everything we can to educate their children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, Mayo Health System and Early Childhood Indicators of Progress.”
The couple share many of the responsibilities running the center, although curriculum and lesson plans are coordinated largely by Jennifer Buck, who said the staff work to engage and encourage children of all ages and various special needs.
“It’s all done in play formats,” she said. “In theory, you take the child where we’re at, we know where they’re at, we document where they’re at, and then we push them forward. Then you make their foundation so strong and so solid that they have that base to come back to.”
And over the years, the center’s work has expanded far beyond what happens in its Florence Avenue location.
“When we opened in ‘91, it was intended to provide childcare, which makes sense, but we ended up providing family care, giving families the resources they need to meet the needs of their children,” Daniel Buck said. “We also have families that have service needs they’re unable to fill, whether that be connecting them with the right doctor or physician, [or] some people are looking for housing assistance, so we help them find that.”
Kid’s Korner has been in operation long enough that some of the children from the early years are now returning with children of their own needing care.
“Equally as fun, is to have the kids that we watched as infants and toddlers and preschoolers, working for us,” Jennifer Buck said. “That’s been quite a trip.”
From their office, surrounded by the sounds of children shrieking with laughter and teachers encouraging or admonishing (“We don’t hit. That hurts”), the Bucks say they treasure the place they’ve built and partnerships they’ve developed in the community.
“We don’t want to be a replacement for the family; we want to be an extension of the family,” Daniel Buck said. We want families, when they’re at work, they’re at school, to know their kids are being cared for, but they’re also being educated, they’re being engaged, so they’re developing those social emotional and cognitive skills.”
William Morris got his start in the newspaper trade as a recurring editorial intern in Wisconsin and has been writing about business, government and crime at the Owatonna People’s Press since 2015. He is now taking the reins of Forge as Associate Editor.