Love first, then lessons


Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 11:49 a.m.
Teaching kids, not baby-sitting, is the forte of a local day-care academy.
"Where children are wrapped in the arms of learning," is the motto of Kuddly Kids Academy, 1023 SE 4th Ave. A second Kuddly Kids is located at 4241 SW 34th St.
"We are dedicated to the overall success of the students we have in our care," said Monique Driskell-Jones, owner/director of Kuddly Kids Academy. "We are not a day-care or drop-off facility, but a teaching school. We pride ourselves on providing knowledge and education to our students, including our infants."
She said that children in the academy's care are loved first, then taught lessons that will cultivate their lives for future growth.
"We want our students to have open minds and be compassionate about their learning experiences," said Jones, who is very active in the east Gainesville community, although she prefers to avoid the limelight. "Our commitment is to give every child we serve the desire and opportunity to learn by providing fun, enjoyable activities, and high academic standards along with an excellent curriculum."
She went on to say that the academy encourages positive behavior and Christian values that will contribute to the development and growth of good character, sportsmanship, and cultural development.
"We proscribe to the Montessori style of teaching," said Jones, a 1993 FSU graduate, who majored in criminology and minored in religion.
She explained that the Montessori method is a system of training and teaching young children, devised in 1907 by Maria Montessori, which emphasizes training of the senses and guidance, rather than rigid control of the child's activity, so as to encourage self-education.
"I prefer for our teachers to be facilitators," said the 34-year-old Greensboro, N.C., native. "Kids learn at different levels, and we stress that kids should not have limits set on what and how much a child can learn."
Jones started Kuddly Kids five years ago, with her partner Edwin Dix, as a result of her not being satisfied with the child care options that were available when she was seeking care for her then 4-year-old daughter, Donjhae.
"I thought to myself, 'I can do this,' " said Jones, flashing a wide, friendly smile. "And anyway, I just love kids. It is all about them."
Jones, leader of the largest African-American Girl Scout troop in Alachua County, said all of her graduates are in advanced programs once they enter into the county school system.
Jones said the biggest obstacle she faces is maintaining a quality staff. She said she has core teachers who have been with her for two-three years, and she credits all of her teachers for the success of the students. She went on to say that she encourages her teachers to get their CDA (Child Development Associate) certificate, and to further their education.
"It's a tough sell," said Jones. "You are asking somebody to spend two years getting an associate degree that will only allow them to make no more than $8 an hour, with no benefits."
Jones, who also operates Kuddly Kids Day-care 2, located at 4241 SW 34th St., said most day-care schools can't provide benefit packages and things of that nature.
"This is not a very profitable business, but it is a necessary one," she said. "You have to love kids, and you must have a lot of patience. And again, you must have a passion for teaching."

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