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Working to Develop Child Care

Working to Develop Child Care | Jessica Johnsen

Jessica Johnsen

CEO of Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Centers

Even though 2020 was a year of momentous change for child care centers, out-of-school (OST) programs, and other child care-focused organizations, the industry adapted to these circumstances with spirit and resolve. A challenging economy and an international pandemic shuttered many child care operations across the U.S., in some cases for months, to comply with government orders to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As a result, many were forced to shut their doors permanently as enrollment and revenue fell. However, some child care businesses bounced back as they adopted flexible business models, such as offering part-time enrollment or 24×7 service to accommodate essential workers and parents working from home. These circumstances are part of what is driving 2021 to be a different environment for child care businesses: they’ll need to be persistent in taking the appropriate precautions if virus rates increase, assure parents that it is safe to send children back to child care, and continue adapting to the changing market. “The childcare industry took a huge hit during the pandemic, with almost 4.5 million childcare spots disappearing over the course of a year. Private childcare, not public, was what kept the economy going,” says Jessica Johnsen, CEO of Yellow Brick Road. “A global pandemic and economic crisis resulted in undeniable setbacks for child care providers, but it also has created extraordinary opportunities for 2021. We make it a point to continuously transform ourselves and offer more to the child and his overall development.”

Yellow Brick Road is a warm, nurturing environment rooted in the belief that every child deserves a safe place to learn, explore and grow. As educated professionals, they partner with families through a pathway of connections between home, early education, and the community. They aim to be recognized within the community as a great place to work, kind to the environment and support the local schools. Yellow Brick Road’s goal is to provide exceptional quality early education at a reasonable price while helping to bridge the gap between early childhood development and the first years of schooling. Yellow Brick Road provides quality early education in Plymouth, Minnetonka, Maple Grove, and Eden Prairie with over twelve years of experience. As the CEO of Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Center, Jessica and the Regional Director, Kylie Schrader, believe that choosing the right child care center for a child is one of the most important decisions parents make.

Jessica believes that every child is unique and will grow at their own pace. Hence, she points out that in Yellow Brick Road, the teachers spend time nurturing children’s strengths and encouraging them to reach new heights. Yellow Brick Road’s philosophical beliefs are based upon standards established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, knowledge of child development, theories of child behavior, and acceptable best practices for educating young children. “We are dedicated to helping your child grow at the pace that is right for them while always spending the time to nurture their strengths.”

Leading the team

Jessica is the design and creative force behind the company’s products and services. She is willing to “jump in” the day-to-day as needed but trusts her leadership team to make and execute decisions. Jessica is kind but firm in interactions with staff, and most importantly, fun!  When asked, Jessica would say it’s her relationships with her team, colleagues, and mentors that have gotten her company to where it is in such a short time. Her communication and commitment to having everyone rowing in the same direction are second to none.

As an industry-known speaker, trainer, and motivator, Jessica is constantly leading groups of other business owners across the country. She believes that there are no trade secrets, only execution. She is always willing to share any ideas – even with potential competitors. Jessica takes messages and calls from other business leaders to offer advice, share ideas, or even take a look at financials, policy, or practice.  Jessica believes that culture should be “top-down.” Jessica has a strong leadership team and believes that they should pave the way modeling hard work, fun, and implementing core values. “If our leaders aren’t on board, why should the staff be?

We listen to all ideas, and the “we’ve already tried that” mentality isn’t allowed. Instead, when presented with new ideas or ways of doing things, we take the “how can we apply this in a way that makes sense for us” mentality. Inspiring change is about to buy in, motivation, and clear expectations with accountability,” says the steadfast leader.

Jessica has many role models in the industry and her personal life and attributes most of her success to her mom and the life lessons she learned from watching her mom work every day. Jessica is from a rural farm town in Iowa and learned hard work and dedication from her parents and brother.  Within the industry, Jessica looks up to owners she has worked with from all over. Carol Gatewood of The Learning Tree in Michigan, Joanne Mooney of Apple Montessori in New Jersey, and Pete and Kristen Cromwell from Georgetown Hill continue to help Jessica reach her potential as an Early Childhood Business owner. Jessica makes it her mission never to be the smartest person in the room and believes she can learn from every person and what they have to offer.

Jessica Johnsen | Working to Improve Child Care

The Beginning of Care

Yellow Brick Road started 15 years ago in a church. Jessica didn’t join the organization until two years ago when the company wasn’t doing well financially or culturally. Because Jessica believed in the mission and the Regional Director, Kylie Schrader, they two have worked side by side to help the company become a sustainable business that offers high-quality care to children at an affordable rate!

Yellow Brick Road makes sure that the children are well cared for, educated, and have fun to build a love of learning.  “We pay our teachers well and offer them lots of benefits. We believe that happy teachers create happy children!  As a company Yellow Brick Road prioritizes spending to make sure our environment is high quality, but still affordable for young families,” she says. Yellow Brick Road also believes wholeheartedly in the importance of learning outside of nature. “We have spacious playgrounds with intentional outdoor learning provocations.”

Towards the future

Armed with their philosophical beliefs, Yellow Brick Road is surging ahead with pioneering ideas. These beliefs are based upon standards established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, knowledge of child development, theories of child behavior, and acceptable best practices for educating young children. The following are four critical understandings that must be present to accomplish this.

  1. Understanding children’s active discovery and the teacher’s role in guiding and facilitating cognitive, social/emotional, and physical development.
  2. Building relationships with children and families through dialogue, understanding, and interactive experiences.
  3. Encouraging children to make decisions while learning and to understand how their decisions affect others.
  4. Guiding children through teacher-planned and child-initiated activities based on children’s interests. The child-initiated activities derive from observations by the teacher.

Each of these activities enhances children’s skills in all areas of development. Yellow Brick Road believes in encouraging each child in the unique ways they learn. Their staff is compassionate and experienced in nurturing children to grow and learn more about themselves and the world around them.

As a company, Yellow Brick Road is looking to grow in opportunistic and intentional ways. They want to serve more children and families with their amazing mission. The company also wants to create much more opportunities for their staff. “We are looking at acquisitions and how we can serve the families in our areas and even in other states. In the past year Jessica and Kylie have added two more child care brands to diversify their offerings. They acquired a reputable program called Seeds to Seedlings which is a “back to the basics” approach to care as well as Sonnet Montessori. Our first step was to make sure our leadership team was ready and we have processes in place to be scalable and help eliminate possible growing pains. We know that growing pains will be inevitable, and we will face them head on, as a team,” says Jessica.

Jessica Johnsen award

“We are dedicated to developing children and staff alike by nurturing their strengths.”

Jessica Johnsen

CEO of Yellow Brick Road Early Childhood Development Centers

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