“Mom said I could … ”

How do all children at some time or another attempt this feat? Even two-year-olds hear ‘no,’ then turn to look at the other parent or adult with puppy dog eyes. At the heart of the matter: children are very smart. The only defense is teamwork.

Nati Shaeffer and Kristi Miller have been a team at the Scottsdale/Paradise Family YMCA preschool for well-over a decade. Shaeffer started at the Y 14 years ago and Miller has been there for two decades. It’s their teamwork along with fellow teachers Mariko, Kim and Rachel that has parents returning with their younger children after their first has attended.
“We have a remarkable team,” Miller said. “We have the same goals. We are all on the same page on how and what these children should learn.”

Teamwork and consistency are very important, but the Scottsdale YMCA team adds another ingredient needed for a child’s success: love.

“I’m here because I love what I do,” Miller said. “We think about these kids 24 hours a day. We are responsible for their future.”

“The classroom is the place where I belong,” Shaeffer said. “It is rewarding. It’s a second home.”

Along with providing growth and enrichment for children over the years, the Y has also provided opportunities for its teachers to grow. Shaeffer was initially a volunteer in child watch back in 1999 and as her own children became more involved in school, Shaeffer had more time to volunteer, then work and complete early childhood classes so she could run the preschool as its director. Miller has worked in numerous departments at the YMCA, but with her K12 physical education experience, she found teaching in the preschool was best for her and the children.

Recently, the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley Family YMCA preschool was recognized for doing what’s best for children. The program earned a four-star rating from Quality First, a program of First Things First, which helps make quality improvements in early childhood programs. Like great coaches of championship teams, Shaeffer and Miller are quick to deflect recognition.

“The children give us the stars,” Shaeffer said. “They are the main point of the preschool. They are the ones we focus on. We pay attention to what they need.”

Consistency, a strong team of teachers and love: it is very clear these kids are getting exactly what they need.

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