All-Star Kids Company is a half-day preschool program in Ballard, WA. They have about 65 students enrolled, four classrooms, and twelve on their teaching staff.
All-Star Kids runs a unique program because they don't follow one specific philosophy or pedagogy. They pull from Reggio, Montessori, High Scope, and general play-based learning practices, which provides a great blend.
They put a large emphasis on social-emotional development, creative expression, and problem-solving, which also sets their school apart from others.
I met Mellie, their Director, personally about a year ago. She joined the All-Star Kids team in 2018 as a teacher, and when the director position opened up, she was the first one chosen to take on the new role.
Before working at All-Star Kids, Mellie worked full time at another preschool center. She mentioned that her vision was majorly influenced by the people she worked with at her previous center. It gave her a real love and passion for promoting creativity in early childhood education.
She started working there as she finished up design school and realized that she loved finger painting with the children more than pushing pixels at a desk. From a single visit to her center, you can tell she has a genuine love for art, creation, and young children.
Although All-Star Kids had adopted Sandbox at the center before she joined the team, Mellie had prior experience working at a center without Sandbox and immediately noticed the benefits of having a great software system. "I think sometimes people don't want to pay for software like this, but ultimately time is our only non-renewable resource as directors."
All-star kids started small with just two classrooms. They weren't fully enrolled, and the school had very limited resources to grow. The leader before Mellie had successfully helped the center double in size. As they look to keep that momentum going, she explains they plan to open another classroom each year.
As Mellie leads the charge for the school, she explains that "having Sandbox means I can spend my time on the things that matter most - I get to support my staff and connect with families rather than slogging through the paperwork."
She found that when starting in her role and being new into management Sandbox has really helped her in effectively running her preschool. Mellie explains "Sandbox is a really effective way to keep everything organized - students, staff, billing, all of it. Also - nearly everything we need to operate can be kept paperless and takes seconds to pull up, which keeps my mind and my desk a little more sane/tidy"!
If there is one thing that really sets their center apart, it is their community. Mellie explains, "we have an incredible, passionate team and parents who love our school, otherwise we'd just be a building. The people are what makes all of this work. Everyone brings unique gifts and skills that ultimately enrich our children's lives". Mellie's drive to create a community-focused preschool is truly inspiring.
The other aspect I love, which I mentioned before, is how their center celebrates Art and Creativity. On my tour of their school, I noticed this right away when I saw that they had a specific room designated for art.
The kids enter the room barefoot, they paint on the walls and have the freedom to create. This is the true definition of free and creative play. Honestly, not many centers do this well, yet Mellie genuinely has it figured out.
When I visit centers like All-Star Kids, it reminds me of how impactful your preschool can be on the community. When we focus on the families and the kids, it makes a huge difference in the influence we as educators can have.
A huge thank you to Mellie for leading her center with love and for opening up her center to me! It is such a gift to tour and see what people are doing, and I am always amazed at how each center operates in its own unique way.