Story and Photo by Alice Gerard
Senior Contributing Writer
For Susan Muscato, who is serving as director of KinderKiddz Early Childhood Learning Center, one of the most important elements of a well-run school is providing training, encouragement and support for the teachers.
“My goal, ultimately, is to make sure that the kids are getting the very best education,” Muscato said. “We’ve got to build up the teachers. They have to be happy to come to work. They have to be excited about it. They have to be motivated to do well. When you’re teaching, it can be exhausting. If you have teachers who are run down, unmotivated, not feeling well, you’re not going to get the best product out of them, which means they are not going to do their best for the kids.
“That’s where we started. Speaking life, truth and encouragement, paired with training and mentoring. We get all of that into the teachers so, that way, they feel equipped and ready to go every day.”
“And coffee helps, too,” Muscato joked. “We have a nice coffee bar for the teachers.”
Shellina Patel, who co-owns KinderKiddz Early Childhood Learning Center with her husband, Barney, said she has several goals for the school: “My professional goal is to observe and see the changes, administer the growth here, and watch morale improve with the staff. On a personal level, I love to walk in a room and see the children run to me, calling out ‘Mrs. Patel!’ and receiving their hugs.”
Patel said “I’ve been a businesswoman for the last 30 years, owning and operating a retail outlet, along with multiple restaurants across the border in Canada. I see a niche in the market for a state-of-the-art learning center like KinderKiddz and am not opposed to giving a similar center to another community and fulfilling their needs. Expansion for KinderKiddz is inevitable. I know the growth Barney and I envision will happen!”
Muscato, who is certified in elementary education and in secondary English education, has taught in public and private schools since starting her career in 1994. She has also owned and operated a day care facility in her home. Her experience includes training both teachers and operators of home day care facilities. Her most recent position, before coming to KinderKiddz, was at the City Mission in Buffalo, “overseeing all their educational programming for the adults, staff, and the children.
“I learned to value seeing the growth in adults, as well. So many people have areas to grow. I find it a privilege when people confide in you and share things with you. That opens opportunities to be able to help them to grow, even as adults.”
“The little ones are definitely my favorite,” said Muscato, the mother of four. “I noticed it with my own kids, and my husband also noticed this is the area where I thrive.”
KinderKiddz has rooms for babies as young as 6 weeks old to school-aged children up to 12 years of age. This includes two universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) classes, partnering with the Grand Island School District.
“My goal, in the first two years they are with us, if they show up here as an infant, is that we have them in groups, in classes with cohorts that are within six months of each other,” Muscato said. “So that way, developmentally, they are with kiddos who are doing the same things that they are for the most part. By the time they hit the 2-year-old room, the toddler room, they stay there for the year. They are also grouped according to birth month and year so, that way, as those kids grow and develop, those will be the friends that they go to kindergarten with once they hit school age. That helps develop relationships, it develops consistency, it develops a community within the families because they’re seeing the same families and the same kids. They’re the ones going to birthday parties or invited to picnics and community events here on the Island. I think it’s important to keep the kiddos right where they need to be within that six-month time frame.
“Expectations are appropriate at every level. We can teach children the same concept at every stage, but it’s going to look different, depending on how old they are and what their abilities are. All the classrooms will be learning the same things throughout the year, but the teachers are focusing on the developmentally appropriate activities for their classrooms.”
Children are given the help that they need to succeed in school, Muscato explained: “We welcome everybody. We partner with the school district to make sure that any needed services are taking place here in the building when it’s at all possible, just to make this an easy transition for the little ones.”
Art and music are incorporated into every aspect of early childhood education at KinderKiddz, Muscato explained: “We now subcontract a dance class to come in every week for our older kiddos for families that are interested.”
Patel added, “KinderKiddz is definitely dedicated to working with children by helping them further their education and social skills so they can be successful is whatever path they may choose to follow.”
KinderKiddz also has a facility for educational experiences outdoors.
“We have a beautiful awning on the back of the building so, no matter what the weather, the kids can go out and spend time outside and get fresh air. The kids frequently go on walks around the building. Outdoor play is essential,” Muscato said.
Patel said, “I must add here that the immense outdoor awning is Barney’s pride and joy. He especially added it to the center during the construction phase to make it feasible for the staff, teachers and children to enjoy the outdoors in every kind of weather.”
Patel said she is thrilled to have Muscato as the director of her school: “She is an answer to our prayers. As soon as we met, she knew KinderKiddz is a great fit for her, and we also knew that we have a perfect fit for KinderKiddz.
“Our staff and teachers are rockstars, and I applaud their dedication and commitment to KinderKiddz. Barney and I are so excited and happy to be a part of the Grand Island business community, and we look forward to working with you and spending time with your children!”