In the classrooms of the Little School House Learning Center in San Juan, there are various classrooms filled with the sounds and sights of young students. Each one tackles a new lesson or completes an activity. Every room is filled with life.
The Little School House Learning Center is an educational institution that encourages school readiness from birth to 12 years old. Certified by the Texas Rising Star Program as a four-star TRS provider, the learning center has four academic programs dedicated to the different stages of their students. The four programs are Infants, Toddlers, PreK, and After Schoolers.
Each program has been designed to create a safe and inspiring environment to promote each child’s natural development. Rather than emphasizing a particular lesson plan, the learning center implements a combination of exploration, play, and learning. The unique blend of traditional and less conventional teaching creates a style of teaching that is both structured and organized but also flexible and highly adaptable to each child.
Macarena Chavez, the director of the Little School House Learning Center, previously worked in finance for a corporate enterprise for 15 years before receiving the opportunity to join the administration team of a child learning center in 2008. Little did she know, she was taking her first steps into founding the Little School House two years later.
In addition to working at the learning center, Chavez has four kids of her own, which helped her realize the importance of early childhood education and its impact. This realization later pushed her to obtain a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a certification in Coaching and Change of Habits to continue to improve her understanding and capabilities in education.
“I came to the realization of the importance to have a deeper understanding and develop expertise in the areas of child development, early language, and literacy development, and developmentally appropriate practices,” Chavez said.
Rather than purely focus on the academic aspect of education, Chavez and her team also take a more holistic approach by promoting a healthy understanding of emotions. This summer, they held a camp created by Assistant Principal Sonia Campos. The camp was called “Amo mis Emociones” (“I Love my Emotions”).
Over these past 11 years, the Little School House has established a high-quality type style of learning and noteworthy credibility. However, the journey to their current success was not an easy one. When Chavez first founded the learning center, she had to deal with economic limitations. Luckily, she was not alone and had the help and support of her husband, Paulo Parra. Chavez would serve as a director with teaching responsibilities, while Parra would be both the driver and cook.
One crucial event to the developing center at the time was that they had yet to meet the “Minimum Standards” set by the state of Texas when a state representative visited. These standards are guidelines for child learning centers around the state to ensure complete safety and standard of care for the attending children. Taking the challenge, Chavez and her team were able to meet the standard within one month after the visit. Now, she is an avid advocate for the operation.
“I consider myself passionate in the Minimum Standards, which is now my specialty being a regular speaker of this topic and a private consultant for daycares who want to have the success we now have,” Chavez said.
After 11 years, all of their efforts were recognized when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra came down to the Rio Grande Valley and visited the Little School House. He toured the learning center and later spoke on a panel with the other members of the administration about the importance of early childhood education.
“I was truly excited and honored to be selected,” Chavez said of the visit. “It’s been a long journey since 2010 that Little School House Learning Center was founded, and this event has been a great reward for all the hard work and dedication from our wonderful staff.”
More than just education, the learning center’s administration is dedicated to providing children with the skills and tools to be able to best succeed not only in school but in their daily lives as well. With their students as the top priority, the Little School House has created a unique mix of both traditional learning and more holistic approaches that have been recognized by the community, the state, and the country.