Little People celebrates 15 years of caring for Liberty Hill children
By Dana Delgado
Her father did his best to talk her out of it.
Leaving a secure job at Liberty Hill High School after teaching for six years seemed like a mighty big risk. But, Debra Brown had other thoughts and some very definite ideas about what she wanted to do with her life. Teaching home economics to high school students was not one of them.
She had grown up in Liberty Hill and lived her entire life in town, but her heart wasn’t in the high school even though she had ties to her high school principal who had been a teacher of hers when she was a student.
Despite her departure, Ms. Brown continued her relationship with LHHS and operated a child development center at the high school over several years for children of school district employees.
Now 15 years later, Ms. Brown is very much at home after following her dreams. She beams with pride as successful owner and Director of Liberty Hill’s oldest child care center, Little People Learning Place.
“It’s amazing just to see how wonderful everything is and the fact that it happened from the ground up,” said Ms. Brown. “It was a major leap and is pretty incredible, but I knew I could be successful and build it. It makes me happy to walk in the door.”
Located at 150 Bluebonnet Lane, Little People Learning Place is licensed for 40 children, from infant to school age, and is on the threshold of expanding its facility by adding another building that will double its space. Construction will get underway over the next 12 months as well as other upgrades to the facility — the site of the center since it opened in 1999.
While Director Brown looks forward to the expansion to better meet the needs of a growing town, she relishes the feeling within the walls.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s wonderful. I love the kids and the atmosphere. It’s just a joyful place to be and very much like a home and family.”
So successful, Little People Learning Place has been serving children from throughout the region. Besides local children, Liberty Hill’s longest serving child care center has cared for children from Georgetown, Leander, Bertram and Florence.
Ms. Brown earned her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood at Stephen F. Austin State University and has developed a premier pre-school age program with a customized curriculum she designed and developed.
“We personalize everything and practice play because of its importance in learning,” Ms. Brown said. “It’s still so good for kids to learn this way. We use centers with toys and manipulatives and guide and intercede as necessary. The best part is seeing the kids learn and grow.”
Brown is also taking a lead in professional development for day care workers in the area. She presented a workshop this year for day care workers at Fellowship and is planning a conference for all area day care workers in 2015.
Kaylene Vickers, a LHHS graduate and former hair dresser, is Brown’s business partner overseeing financial operations while Brown manages the children, the curriculum, and the staff.
“We complement each other well,” said Ms. Vickers. “We both teach a class and can read each other’s mind and have the same ideas. But Debra (Brown) is so good with the kids. They love her and take to her.”
The two were business partners from the beginning and put in the long hours to build the business.
“We started with five kids including our kids and worked long hours, 6 a.m.-6:30 p.m.,” Ms. Brown said. “Because we spend many hours together, we laugh a lot together. We are very proud of our business.”
“It was hard getting started,” said Ms. Vickers.
“But we had connections and knew everybody in town especially the teachers who needed day care for their kids,” said Ms. Brown.
There were challenges, however, but the business managed to grow.
“The down economy hit us pretty hard, but word of mouth has kept us going,” said Ms. Brown.
Another key to their success, according to Brown and Vickers, has been their dedicated staff. Onboard since the business opened are Bruce Krueger who has taken care of the facility’s needs while Kay Teague has cared for the infants. Rachel Hamilton, who is responsible for the pre-school class, joined the company in 2000 while Mara Thompson, a toddler’s teacher, became a staff member in 2001. Haley and Brady Krueger and Kelsi and Makayla Vickers, children of the business partners, also worked faithfully at Little People Learning Place while they were in high school. Other high school students have the opportunity to work with the staff because the business participates in LHHS’ work program.
Little People Learning Place is scheduling an Open House in October as well as its traditional Thanksgiving lunch. A website for the business is also in the works.