by Dennis Dalman
When Ashley Anderson was a pre-schooler, the teacher asked her and other students to draw pictures of what they would like to be when they grow up.
Ashley didn’t hesitate. Using her color-crayons, she drew a picture of a woman in a rocking chair holding a baby.
“I’ve always loved infants and kids, ever since I can remember,” Anderson said. “And I love to teach them.”
Her love for kids is no news to anyone who knows her, especially to those who sent in raves about her after she was nominated as Stearns County Daycare Provider of the Year. She recently won that honor, an annual award given by the Benton-Stearns Daycare Providers Association.
“I was very surprised,” she said. “I was very humbled, grateful and honored. It was so nice to learn the daycare parents who wrote good comments about me noticed the many things I do for the children – things I didn’t even think the parents noticed.”
A Sartell resident, Anderson owns and operates a daycare center on the lower first level of her home. It’s called Ashley’s Boys and Curls Day Care,” also known as ABC Daycare. She cares for 10 children, including four of her own: Ava, 6; Paisley, 5; Gavin, 3; and the 6-week-old newcomer, Bentley. Most of Anderson’s daycare clients have been school teachers, and most of the children are infants and toddlers. It works out well because Anderson can take off at least two months in the summer, like her teacher clients.
During her first two years of daycare, Anderson did her job year-round, but eventually she enjoyed the advantage of having some summer months off.
“I wanted it to be more like a school setting with children coming during school months,” she said.
Anderson was born and raised in Buffalo. After graduating from high school, she took two years of college courses, planning to become a kindergarten teacher, but in midstream she changed her mind and decided she wanted to do her teaching in a daycare setting of her own. By then, she and her husband, Dustin, had moved to Sartell because he landed a job in the area.
Some daycare operators start their businesses so they can stay home with their own kids. Not Anderson. She opened her business in 2006 two years before her first baby was born.
“Oh, sure, I love to be home with my kids, but that’s not why I started it,” she said. “I started it because of my love for teaching pre-school kids.”
Anderson’s daycare is focused on fun and educational activities throughout much of the day. It is, in fact, a virtual school, with games, songs, blocks, art supplies, a little house with a little kitchen, a tool bench and lots of other fun surprises and projects.
“It’s quite structured,” she said. “I put a lot into it. My own family knows all the children, and they know my family. We are all very personable.”
The key to becoming a good daycare provider, Anderson said, is “to truly have a passion and love for what you do. You can’t fake it. You are in it with passion, energy and creativity for the love of the children. If your heart’s not in it, it’s not for you.”
Stearns County Daycare Provider of the Year Ashley Anderson and her little clients play a game of sorting little bears into groups of colors. Clockwise from lower left are Levi Magnusen (red shirt), Ashley Anderson, Grace Magnuson, Annie Koch, Gavin Anderson, Lucy Koch, Paisley Anderson, Bryce Willardsen and Mason Willardsen.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.