Finding a preschool for my summer birthday child that also worked for my schedule proved to be a bigger challenge than I expected. I attended a Pre-K/Kindergarten last January and learned a lot about of the area schools and various programs. It was that point that I became more informed about Goddard School. During our tour, we met Paula and on-site owner of North Ridgeville’s Goddard School. Read about her career transition and what it means her to help our kids on their educational path.
Where are you originally from?
I was born in Lancaster, PA, but spent much of my first 25 years moving around. I have lived in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida – sometimes more than once in some of the states!
Where did you go to school & what is your current profession?
I spent my first two years of college at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, IL and then moved to Tampa, FL and finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of South Florida. I worked for 22 years for Energizer in various roles, include Quality Engineer, Technology Manager, Package Design Manager, and New Product Development Director. During those years, I obtained a Master’s Degree in Positive Organization Development and Change at Case Western University. While going through my master’s program, we had an assignment to write a life plan and in thinking about what my future could look like, wrote that I thought owning a Goddard School might be an interesting career (my oldest was an infant in a Goddard School at the time). Ten years later and for multiple reasons, that scenario became a reality – we built our own Goddard School, where I currently work as the on-site owner.
Where do you live today and how long have you lived in this area?
I have lived in this area for almost 20 years, the first few of which were in North Ridgeville and the rest in Columbia Station.
How many children do you have & what are their ages?
I have two daughters, aged 12 and 13.
What is your favorite thing about Northeast Ohio?
I know many people don’t enjoy winters in Northeast Ohio, but I really don’t mind them. After going to school in Florida for 3 years, I was ready to head back north where there are distinct seasons. I love the fall and all of the activities that are available in our area. It is a short drive to a variety of different activities, both indoor and outdoor!
What is one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
I think people at work would be surprised to know I am an introvert and not just a little bit introverted, but a lot! I do love making connections with people though, as they either tour or become part of our Goddard family.
What made you decide to open a Goddard School in North Ridgeville?
Things started changing pretty dramatically at my previous job and I knew for the financial stability of our family that I needed to find something else to do. I have a passion for education and learning and think that these early years are so important in forming the foundation for who we grow up to be, so pursuing opening a school seemed like a natural fit. North Ridgeville is one of the fastest growing communities in Ohio and there is a definite need for high quality early childhood education in the area.
What is it like to watch all of the kids and families come through the doors?
It is so fun to see my little friends come in each morning! I often tell tours that while it sounds like a sales pitch, we truly do have more children that cry when they are getting picked up than when they are dropped off. Our friends are busy all day long learning by playing that they don’t want to stop or leave their friends!
How is “graduation” day for you each year?
Graduation is so much fun and such a great opportunity to look back on how much our friends have grown since they started with us. They all get dressed up in graduation caps and gowns and march down the aisle and up onto the stage at Lake Ridge Academy’s Bettcher Convocation Center. We play a slide show of pictures that we take throughout the childrens’ time with us and it is so amazing to see they have changed and grown up since starting. It truly brings tears to my eyes to look out on the audience of about 200 people and think about how many lives we touch in doing what we do each day.
What does the 5 Star accreditation mean and how do you maintain that standard?
Being 5 Star Step Up to Quality rated is a big deal at our school as it is the highest rating possible for Early Childhood Education in Ohio and we are the only preschool in North Ridgeville to be rated 5 stars. I suppose it is a holdover from my days as a Quality Assurance Engineer that maintaining a high standard in best practices every day is important not just for the status, but because it is the right thing to do for the children at our school. We maintain higher standards for hiring and developing teachers, which is important to me as my passion for learning doesn’t stop with the ages of the children at our school, but extends to growing our teachers as well.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I would have to say I am most proud of our daughters and the terrific people they are turning out to be. It takes a lot of effort to work full time and raise responsible young people these days, but it is well worth it!
What is your biggest failure?
I don’t know that I would consider any of my life experiences failures, but there are certainly times that I have learned a great deal from an experience. Probably the biggest thing that I struggle with and continue to work on is asking for and accepting help.
What is the one thing you’re most passionate about?
I would have to say learning and growing as a person. I love seeing my own children learn new things and grow into the people they have the potential to be. Having the chance to also see that happen to all of my little friends at school is an awesome thing, too!
Can you give us one pearl of wisdom?
I would say that making a life change like I did in going from a safe, corporate career to a totally different occupation was risky, but so very rewarding at the same time. I talk to so many of my friends that feel stuck in what they are doing and are scared to go try something else. If you are following a passion, you really can’t go wrong if you just make the jump and don’t look back.
If you could encourage more people to take an action in some way, what would it be?
Related to the item above, I would say that if you aren’t happy in doing what you are doing, take the time to figure out what your true passion is and find a way to make that a part of your life plan. It can be scary, but it is so much better than just putting in time somewhere that doesn’t bring you joy.
Is there anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?
My husband, Bob, has been there in so many ways since our older daughter was born while I was in school for my master’s degree. He took care of her for a week when she was six weeks old (not really knowing much about newborns) and was there while I traveled often for work during their early years. He supported me in so many ways when we headed down the path of owning The Goddard School and still picks up the pieces when doing it all gets to be too much. I can’t imagine the last 13 years without his support!