Archive for Thursday, October 2, 2008

Nonprofit daycare center created

Pyramid Place program director Rachel Torkelson does a math activity with Tyler Benoit, 3.

Pyramid Place program director Rachel Torkelson does a math activity with Tyler Benoit, 3.

October 2, 2008

It’s nine in the morning and the 12 children at Pyramid Place Early Education Center mill about like ants, each of them working on a specific task independently. Some are coloring at a table, while others clean up activities they’re finished with and then move on to new tasks.

The children, whose ages range from 2 to 5 years old, walk up to co-founder and program director Rachel Torkelson and voluntarily offer up nuggets of information ranging from one child’s realization that he is wearing stripes or another child’s epiphany that the words “camel” and “cat” begin with the same letter.

It’s clear this is not the typical preschool or daycare center, and that’s how Torkelson and co-founder Jennifer Middleton planned it.

After too many negative experiences while working at daycare centers in the area, Torkelson and Middleton decided to begin their own preschool.

They opened Pyramid Place in May 2007, and it operates out of Torkelson’s home.

“As I was growing professionally, I couldn’t shake the idea that something had to change,” Torkelson said. “I was getting a feel for childcare in America and how it’s such a huge issue. People are compromising and taking kids to places they don’t like because it’s so expensive.”

However, the preschool that operates out of her home soon will move to a large space at 1904 20th Street and also will feature an after-school program called the Cardinal Club.

The two women hope to receive licensure from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment by the end of October.

Torkelson also hopes to move the Cardinal Club in summer 2009 to a separate location — possibly in the vacant building immediately to the north of Coffee Talk — in an effort to provide older children an environment as conducive to learning for that age group as the early learning center is to pre-schoolers.

Where Torkelson believes Pyramid differs from most centers is that many places simply offer day care, but Pyramid teaches and develops each child according to that individual’s specific needs.

“We believe that children have the innate need to grow and learn on their own, and basically that they are driven to learn and to develop,” Torkelson said.

Teachers guide kids through learning by demonstrating lessons, but then allow the kids to practice it to the point of mastery. They also allow independent exploration, which can enhance a child’s cognitive abilities.

There are 32 learning centers throughout the preschool and children learn about geography, the senses, geometry, reading, science and other subjects.

They also learn practical life skills, which are essentially tasks people do on any given day and will develop a child’s work ethic.

There are also faith-based lessons, though they focus more on morals as opposed to the theological side of things.

It can all seem like a lot to learn in the first couple of days.

“A child who first comes here who was used to a daycare setting that isn’t as structured — where they are more entertained versus being educated — they do have a shorter attention span and it takes them a couple of weeks (to adjust),” Torkelson said. ”But once they become engaged in what we’re doing — and sometimes it only takes that one activity — then their attention span starts to grow.”

Stephanie Kacsir, whose daughters Sidney, 3, and Makenna, 5, attend Pyramid, echoed that statement.

“Once our girls started to attend Pyramid, we noticed a huge increase in their excitement to attend school and thus a leap in their education and learning,” Kacsir said. “The hands on, practical life learning structure definitely has been resonating well with our children. I have visited the school many times unannounced and every time I enter the room the atmosphere is calm, organized, positive and encouraging.”

The atmosphere also is what Jamie Baker enjoys most about Pyramid. Her children Kira, 4, and Gavin, 2, attend the program and she also works at the center in preparation for entering the teaching field.

“What I really liked about here was the structure, and I felt like it was very obvious,” Baker said. “I know other places have structure, but here the kids knew what they were supposed to be doing and how they should behave without constant reminders, which told me this was a consistent environment.”

Torkelson is licensed by KDHE to be a center director and is in the honors program in KU where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in behavior modification.

She said having a center with high standards also could help Eudora’s economy by drawing families to the area as a result of the availability of quality childcare.

Kascir is evidence of at least one family who embodies that claim.

“When exploring towns to chose as our home, we strongly considered the child care and education system of each town,” Kacsir said. “Rachel and Pyramid Preschool are one of the leading reasons we decided to settle down in Eudora.”

Eventually, Torkelson hopes to be able to affect public policy in terms of child care because she believes the state standards are too minimal.

“Our primary focus is the child in our care, but we also want to develop a model that works to improve child care,” she said.

Until then, she and her staff look forward to receiving licensure and opening their new location.


gymbooty81 7 years, 2 months ago

Seems that these 2 ladies have had some unfortunate experiences with daycare in Eudora. Too bad, there are some good ones here. I think however that those daycares who are licensed would agree the process is not easy. These 2 cannot change policies by themselves, they need to get off their soapbox for a moment.


pas1032 7 years, 1 month ago

they're actually great people who know how to run a daycare without having kids watch movies all day


pyramidplace 7 years, 1 month ago

  First of all we are very excited to have the opporuntiy to serve the children, families, and fellow Early Educators in our hometown, Eudora. We are seeking to provide a center-based option for families in Eudora and the surrounding area to compliment the existing quality care that already exitsts here.

Prior to beginning this venture, we did extensive research surrounding issues in all areas of childcare in our area. We felt driven to expand NOT because childcare in Eudora is of poor quality, but because there simply aren't ENOUGH options available for families in our growing community. Our research showed us that many families transport their children out of Eudora for care, so we are hoping to bring families back to Eudora, thus strengthen the infastructure of our community.
Our founders are in no way opposed to family childcare, and have been involved in Licensed Home Day Care for many years. In fact, it is our desire to help support and promote quality family chilcare in Eudora as we will be able to provide KDHE approved trainings for ALL Early Educators, provide materials for home-based learning enviornments, and much more.
We regret that this article led some to believe our past experiences in the field of early childhood ed. and childcare have been solely negative. We have had a lot of positive experiences in other centers as well as home-based environments. The "negative experiences," the reporter referred to were problems we've encountered with the childcare system over the years, as well as a some issues with large corporate childcare chains who seem to be more interested in the bottom-line rather than providing quality care and education for children. ALL Early Educators have the power and responsiblity to continue to improve the quality of childcare in the area they operate in. In no way are we saying our methods are better than anyone else's, but what we are saying is that childcare and early education is an important and valuable aspect of having a healthy community, and if any community wishes to provide the opportunity for a high quality of life for it's citizens, it needs to invest in quality programs for young children.
If you have any questions, concerns, or ideas you'd like to share, please contact us!
Thank You, Jennifer Middleton, Katie Unrein, and Rachel Torkelson Founders of Pyramid Place Early Education Center (785) 542-1296


skacsir 7 years, 1 month ago

Dear Gymbooty, My girls both go to Pyramid and I can firmly say that they work really hard to Educate our kids, not play with our kids. This is Rare and should be commended! To post a negative comment like you did shows a little bit of Ignorance to what they are doing in our community and how much they are making a difference. Even if you are a competitor or someone that is angry, I would suggest take your comments and anger and target people that deserve it. To the staff and owners of Pyramid...Keep up the great work!!!


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