History of Bright Beginnings | Bright Beginnings Preschool

    • 1984
      New mom and Bright Beginnings founder, Kathe Petchel, (BS, Early Childhood and Elementary Education, Penn State University) after teaching kindergarten and first grade in public and private schools for 5 years (including in Albemarle County) opens her Earlysville, Virginia home for morning pre school with 9 children enrolled allowing flexible schedules of 2, 3 or 5 mornings a week. The school is called Bright Beginnings.
    • 1986
      The Petchel family built a bigger home with two finished rooms to accommodate a second teacher and classroom. Meghan, now two, is in the two-year old classroom of the first employee, Suzanne Bourne, another at home mom and former public school teacher. The program continues to offer morning pre school programming utilizing a developmentally appropriate hands on active curriculum that is both child centered and socially based.
      School Philosophy is based on a combination of teachings including French educator Maria Montessori, American child psychologist David Elkind (The Hurried Child, The Power of Play), American developmental psychologist Erik Erikson (Theory of Psychosocial Development) Swiss Psychologist Jean Piaget (Theory of Cognitive Development/Developmental Stage Theory) as well as American Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Physiological, Safety, Belonging, Self esteem, Self Actualization). Finally, the highly acclaimed European Reggio Emilia philosophy founded in Reggio Emilia, Italy is recognized for the following core principles:
      Children must have some control over the direction of their learning
      Children must be able to learn through experiences of touching, moving, listening, seeing and hearing
      Children have a relationship with other children and with material items in the world and must be allowed to explore
      Children must have many opportunities to express themselves
      Parents are a vital component of the Reggio Emilia philosophy and are viewed as partners, collaborators and advocates for their child.
      Teachers respect parents as each child’s first teacher and involve parents in every aspect of the curriculum
    • 1988
      Earlysville Family Health Center, a 1400 square feet commercial building located 1 mile from the in home pre school comes on the market and Kathe secures financing to allow Bright Beginnings to expand to full day child care. Renovations are completed, playground built and full day child care license obtained to enroll 37 children which opens in September, 1988.
      Kathe’s morning in home pre school continues as the Earlysville community begins to grow. Staff now total 6.
      Kathe contacts the leadership of The Church of the Incarnation in an effort to secure rental space and begin the concept of pre school and childcare “in a neighborhood near you.” Plans are developed to renovate classrooms, add an attractive playground and upgrade the facility making it a positive partnership for both the church and Bright Beginnings.
    • 1989
      The third Bright Beginnings-Charlottesville opens in August of 1989. This facility is located at the Church of the Incarnation near Fashion Square Mall and the very busy 29 North area and is licensed for 120 children. Kathe now has a full time staff of 16 and begins partnerships with the UVA School of Nursing and UVA Curry School of Education encouraging student in both disciplines to gain valuable experience with young children.
      More new opportunities abound! Kathe consults with Frank Kessler (Founder Real Estate III, developer of Forest Lakes and later Glenmore Country Club) about owning and operating a large child care center at the new Forest Lakes community. Kathe works with architect Jim Grigg of Daggett and Grigg in designing the facility to be state of the art with a full service kitchen, vey large commercial playground, upstairs gross motor room and a total 4000 square feet of classroom and office space. The facility is licensed for 63 children. Shortly before opening day, Kessler and Kathe part ways and the Forest Lakes Child Development Center opens utilizing Kathe’s curriculum and program as well as all staff hired and trained by Kathe and students enrolled. Kathe continues her Earlysville program and Charlottesville location as well as the in-home preschool while looking for the next expansion opportunity.
    • 1990
      Kathe’s second child, Molly Elizabeth, is born in May. Meghan is now in kindergarten and Bob continues to coach football for the Virginia Cavaliers. Kathe continues to work full time at both locations with a new interest in developing infant and toddler programming. Both programs enjoy a strong reputation in the community with wait lists in all age groups.
    • 1991
      Kathe joins the Charlottesville-Albemarle Chamber of Commerce, The Discovery Museum Board of Directors and graduates from Leadership Charlottesville, a ten-week course sponsored by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Chamber of Commerce. The course goal is to connect and educate business leaders throughout the community, with the goal of developing community leaders to sit on local and regional boards and committees. Networking in the local community provides opportunities for staff training and development as well as working with other small business owners as part of the fast growing Charlottesville-Albemarle community.
      Curriculum development includes fully implementing Math their Way, NAEYC’s Developmental Appropriate Practices and Creative Curriculum as well as heavy programming on science exploration and the study of famous artists utilizing art print posters and post cards.
    • 1992
      Kathe maintains teacher licensure with graduate course work at both UVA and JMU. Earlysville location is accredited by the NAEYC and Kathe is a certified NAEYC Validator for Accreditation utilizing observation and documentation training.
      Curriculum development emphasizes bridging home and school communication with the use of attractive monthly curriculum calendars, which are sent home assisting parents with curriculum follow up.
      The Petchel family moves from Earlysville into Charlottesville and the original in home school closes in May 1992.
    • 1993
      Kathe completes STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting by Don Dinkmeyer, Sr.) at St. Anne’s Belfield School and implements STEP at all Bright Beginnings locations.
      Additionally “How to Talk so Kids will Listen” is incorporated in staff training on Positive Behavior Management. This positive Behavior Method combines knowledge of age and stage appropriate expectations with teaching children logical consequences for their actions. It encourages parents and teachers to set boundaries that help children develop a positive sense of self and to endeavor to determine the child’s goal of misbehavior: Seeking attention, wanting power, exacting revenge, conveying inadequacy. Other key concepts of this approach are learning to use “I messages” when speaking with children and distinguishing and applying the concepts of praise versus encouragement.
    • 1994
      Happy 10th Anniversary, Bright Beginnings!
      Local Developer, Hunter Craig, approaches Kathe about an expansion opportunity in Crozet, Virginia, which at the time is a very small village. The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has designated Crozet as a future growth area. Property is viewed and a purchase of land is completed. The plan is to wait several years before building to allow the density of population to grow and necessitate a full service child care center. At the time there are mostly fields, rolling hills and beautiful views but none of the present neighborhoods exist: Western Ridge, Cory Farms, Foxchase, Westhall, Parkside Village, Bargamin Park, Grayrock, Grayrock West, Waylands Grant, Old Trail, Wickham Pond and most of Highlands at Mechums River.
      Discussions occur about whether a child care center located in the southern area of Charlottesville might be a better first step and property at Mill Creek near the downtown mall is located and purchased. Kathe works with Hunter’s brother Sam Craig of Craig Builders to design and build the new location.
      Kathe joins Party Parade and participates as Party Planner for next three years. Party Parade is a Charlottesville fundraiser utilizing a series of unique events to support a specific charity each year. Kathe plans child related parties involving families such as Meet the Stars, an opportunity for children to meet and eat dinner with UVA Athletes.
    • 1995
      Bright Beginnings Mill Creek location opens in August 1995 as the areas largest and most beautiful child care center. Colorful paint, carpeted walls and two large playgrounds adjacent to the facility along with a large kitchen, nature trail and high ceilings are a few unique features. The location serves infants through pre-kindergarten and quickly grows.
      Governor George Allen, a local Charlottesville resident and father of two Bright Beginnings students, appoints Kathe to be a member of Virginia’s Child Day Care Council. The purpose of the council is to write and review child day care regulations. Kathe serves for a total of 6 years, first serving under Governor Allen and later for Governor Jim Gilmore.
    • 1997
      Developers from the highly popular Forest Lakes subdivision contact Kathe to purchase the facility and business Kathe originally began. Plans to secure financing and transition the entire staff and student community are underway.
    • 1998
      Purchase of the Forest Lakes Child Development Center is completed in March 1998 with the name now Bright Beginnings at Forest Lakes. All original staff continues employment with Bright Beginnings and a positive collaboration of curriculum, training and management ideas aids a successful transition.
    • 2000
      Construction begins on the Crozet school located in the now quickly developing village of Crozet. The school is located off of Route 240, convenient to Interstate 64 and Route 250 West.
      The Crozet Family Medicine office is opening across the street and the new neighborhood of Western Ridge is adjacent. The school property is almost two acres located in a grassy, open space with plenty of fields to run in, three playgrounds and a cute little Grandma’s Cottage outdoor classroom. The popular Pizza Garden is planted to include organic fresh tomatoes and herbs to top the fresh Sicilian style pizza served weekly.
    • 2001
      Bright Beginnings at Crozet opens in August 2001.
      The concept of “in a neighborhood near you” is perfect for the community of Crozet where innovative early childhood programming includes Passport to Crozet, the field trip oriented program by which the threes and fours travel throughout Crozet visiting local favorites and securing a passport stamp at each stop. Parks, playgrounds, lakes, doctors, dentists, pizza and ice cream parlors, eye doctor, grocers, and veterinarians are some of the stops in this program. The popular Pizza Garden is planted to include organic fresh tomatoes and herbs to top the fresh Sicilian style pizza served weekly.
      Church of the Incarnation program lease ends in August 2001.
      Closing the highly successful Charlottesville location while at the same time opening the Crozet School, allow many families the option of transferring to Forest Lakes, Earlysville or Mill Creek or Crozet.
    • 2002
      Bright Beginnings now operates four successful programs and focuses attention on providing the best early childhood experience for infants through pre-kindergarten children. With an emphasis on high quality kindergarten preparation within a full day licensed program, attention turns to recruiting, training and retaining excellent staff as well as strong communication. Family friendly curriculum calendars, age specific day notes and weekly parent newsletters are emphasized and a multitude of communication methods are implemented to ensure both staff (now averaging 40 full time) and families are continually informed.
    • 2003
      Management continues training to develop skills including staff training, marketing, computer competencies all of which assist in staff development. Systems are developed to maintain quality control in all areas including early childhood curriculum, health and safety, facility and grounds, licensing standards, staff evaluations, child portfolios and age appropriate evaluations as well as Human Resources best practice training, record keeping and planning. Staff and parents are recruited to share their particular skills and collaboration and innovation.
    • 2004
      Managing and meeting the needs of a large staff means focusing on challenging each member. One way is to encourage teacher training and allow teaching staff to develop classroom skills is through having them attend local and state conferences in early childhood education including the annual VAEYC conference often held in Richmond, Virginia. Typically 1-2 staff members from each location attend and prepare mini training sessions to share with the rest of the teachers.
      Happy 20th Anniversary Bright Beginnings!
    • 2005
      Curriculum develops further to incorporate outside specialty teachers to come into school weekly to teach a variety of additional classes based on the interests of the children and parent requests including yoga, Spanish, PE, cooking, soccer, computers, ballet and art.
      Safety measures added this year included front door locking systems that require pass cards for each family or staff member entering the buildings to use. Pass cards register within a computer system to allow us to know who exactly is in the building at any time.
    • 2006
      Utilizing the expertise of the local University of Virginia, Bright Beginnings hires the graduate students from OCI (Opportunity Consultants Inc.) at the Darden Business School to survey, research and analyze our program and make recommendations for going forward in a competitive market. The group worked on our project for 6 months and offered specific suggestions to us regarding program, pricing, marketing and customer service.
    • 2007
      Local news magazines and newspapers began running contests for local “Best of” using reader generated voting to publish local favorites in many categories including pre school, day care and teaching. Bright Beginnings is proud to be recognized year in and year out.
      #1 Pre School, Cville Weekly
    • 2008
      Curriculum Development emphasis including the innovative and creative Toddler Explorer authored by Kathe Petchel. This customized curriculum keeps toddlers in very small groups moving continually through the classroom for short (10-15 minutes) bursts of time interweaving quiet and active play, child initiated and teacher planned and guided activities between three main content areas: Music and Movement, Fine Motor and Art and Practical Living. Toddler Exploration utilizes a Bright Beginnings curriculum calendar with a strategy of teacher overplanning. The goal is for the teacher to have many ideas and plans for the day as well as a strong understanding of each child’s developmental stage, which allows planning to be targeted to encourage individual confidence, competence and growth.
      #1 Pre School, Cville Weekly
      #1 Best Day Care Center, Daily Progress
      #2 Day Care, Charlottesville Family
      #1 Pre School, Charlottesville Family
    • 2009
      Making a point to outreach with local public and private kindergarten and elementary teachers ensures that graduates of Bright Beginnings are well prepared for kindergarten success. Adding the University of Virginia’s PAL’s assessment screening, components from Virginia’s Standards of Learning as curricular programs such as Responsive Classroom and Creative Curriculum ensure parents that children receive a pre school education considered best practice.
      Reaching current and potential families using technology becomes the focus in 2009 with a web designer hired to provide an attractive, hands on informational website.
      Front lobby computers are purchased to provide double security upon arrival at sites. After parents or staff use their pass cards to enter the building, they must sign in on computer which tracks child and teacher attendance, allows us to better staff our classrooms and has a communication component letting parents know any daily important news as well as any balances on their account.
      #1 Pre School, Cville Weekly
      #1 Best Day Care Center, Daily Progress
      # 1 Pre School, Charlottesville Family
      #1 Day Care, Charlottesville Family
    • 2010
      Like us on Facebook! Bright Beginnings Charlottesville starts its own Facebook page, which allows instant uploads of pictures of children at work and play. We try to make our page fun and informative, explaining the purpose of activities we present. Parents, grandparents and family friends can keep up with school events and by following Bright Beginnings on Facebook, parents have another way to get current information.
      Joined Crozet Business Networking Group to connect with other local Crozet Business and the local community. Meetings are held monthly and educate small business owners and their staff about business and philanthropic opportunities. Bright Beginnings regularly supports local businesses and community helpers such as entering the fire department 4th of July and Christmas parades, and fun field trip for picking strawberries, peaches and apples at Chilies Orchard, and buying local in Crozet whenever possible.
      #1 Pre School, Cville Weekly
      #1 Best Day Care Center, Daily Progress
      #2 Place to work, Daily Progress
      #1 Pre School, Charlottesville Family
    • 2011
      Creativity happens at Bright Beginnings and nowhere is there better inspiration than on Pinterest! Our teacher’s love to sit in the staff lounge on their breaks and find so many creative ideas to supplement their lesson plans. Check out our Pinterest site for fun and easy to do projects for little ones.
      Recruiting, hiring and training got easier with Linked In and Craig’s List and we jumped on the bandwagon to keep our brand and employment opportunities out in the community, particularly for potential staff moving to Charlottesville.
      Fine tuning business skills is an ongoing process and it’s vital for business owners to stay relevant to current market trends and be open to new ideas, develop skills and be evaluated by outside professionals. Our management team worked with Action Coach, Bill Gilliland and had weekly Executive Coaching sessions in 2011-2012. Under Bill’s direction, we also attended the quarterly 90-day planning sessions with other regional business owners. During this time we developed family and staff culture statements, a stronger internal communication flow chart, improved our screening for potential hires and learned better planning and evaluation skills.
      #1 Pre School, Cville Weekly
      #1 Best Day Care Center, Daily Progress
      #2 Place to work, Daily Progress
      #1 Pre School, Charlottesville Family
      #1 Teacher, P. J. Gilbert, Charlottesville Family
    • 2012
      In June 2012 a small attic fire after forced the Forest Lakes School to close for one month temporarily relocating to Baker Butler Elementary School. The weather in Charlottesville hovered between 98-106 degrees much of June and July. Two metal joists rubbing together causing smoke damage caused the fire, which smoldered rather than flamed. The biggest problem was the precautions taken by the fire department, which involved the use of water flooding the floors and axes used on the walls to ensure complete safety. The challenge of having to instantaneously close with no notice was met by moving enrolled students to another Bright Beginnings location for the following week free of charge and opening four classrooms at Baker Butler School for the next three weeks. The management team came together to ensure the student’s curriculum remained consistent including the Bookmobile visits, Kona Ice truck and tie dying t-shirts. Added benefits included the use of the large gym at Baker Butler, which was especially beneficial given the heat advisories during this time. Additionally, the Forest Lakes building received a brand new look inside and out as we took advantage of the necessity to close allowing us to deep clean. On August 1st the school reopened with a brand new look, fresh paint, new flooring and new equipment including custom cubbies in the hallway. We took advantage of the closure to add a new roof and make heating and cooling upgrades as well.
      #1 Pre School, Cville Weekly
      #1 Best Day Care Center, Daily Progress
      #1 Place to work, Daily Progress
      #1 Pre School, Charlottesville Family
      #1 Teacher- Miranda Siers, Charlottesville Family
    • 2013
      Bright Beginnings purchased 2 acres of property adjacent to our Forest Lakes school in March 2013 with the intention of expanding to keep up with the fast growing the 29 North area of Albemarle County. Other factors included Greene County’s large population of pre school children and the continued growth of the University of Virginia’s Research Park, NGIC and DIA. Working with developers for the new Forest Glen neighborhood, site work, sidewalks, landscaping and underground utilities were added.
      Website is redesigned to update information and include multiple methods of social media outreach including links to Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Linked in. Better mobile readability and secure firewalls are added as well as the PayPal function.
      #1 Winner Best Day Care Center, Daily Progress
      #2 Winner Best Pre School, Charlottesville Family
      #1 Winner Best Child Care, Charlottesville Family
      #1 Infant and Toddler Program, Cville Weekly
      #1 Winner Best Pre School, Cville Weekly
    • 2014
      Happy 30th Anniversary Bright Beginnings!
      Completely redesigned and gorgeous, modern website is launched in May 2014 with better mobile accessibility and many bells and whistles. Visit the new website at: www.brightbeginningsva.com
      Maintaining three unique locations in family friendly and convenient neighborhoods has allowed Bright Beginnings to be Charlottesville’s early childhood leader since 1984.
      Looks forward to the expansion project at Forest Lakes with the completion goal of late summer, 2014. Staff longevity is a particular strong suit with one third of the staff continuously employed at Bright Beginnings over ten years. Another one third of the staff average 2-5 years. We find that combining long term professional staff with highly engaged, college graduates looking for their first teaching experience, we have the recipe for excellence in a team of teachers. Enrolling children of caring and engaged parents who are willing to communicate their needs, allows the school to provide the best possible care and education for our students.