If you live in Vernon, you are most likely familiar with this business. If not, it's the little white house with rainbow shutters, otherwise known as The Academy of Art and Learning. This building may look small from the outside, but inside it's mighty.
The Academy of Art and Learning was purchased in October of 2006 by Pauline Fortier, and how she stumbled upon this journey is quite the story. After receiving her bachelor's degree in education, she found that actually finding a job in that field would prove to be difficult. So, she went into sales and did well, until she was laid off in 2003. When her husband was promoted and transferred to Massachusetts, she, in the absence of teaching jobs there as well, decided to open a home day care.
Then, in 2006, her husband was transferred back to Connecticut and Pauline once again found herself unemployed.
One day while browsing through a local newspaper, she came across a for sale ad that sparked her interest. "Daycare for sale", it read. With trepidation, she and her husband went to look at the site, and knew it was meant to be upon arrival. So, they purchased the building and within four months went from 23 kids to 56.
Parents in town were enrolling their children, and business was good - so good, that by February of 2010 they needed to expand.
Pauline took her head teacher Renae with her to hunt for a new site and found it in record time. By June 2010 the second center was up and running just down the street on Route 83. In August 2010, they opened a second room right next door, and in June of 2011 their third room was opened on the other side of that. Pauline decided to make these three rooms the school aged center, called Academy of Art and Learning, Too. Included at this site are 80 kids aged Kindergarten to 14.
Many features of this center include musical instruments, a foosball table, and outdoor area with picnic tables and a basketball hoop, in addition to the basic amenities found at the first site as well. One thing is certain, The Academy of art and Learning centers are never short on arts and crafts, books, educational play areas, and especially love and attention.
One might ask how Paulines centers flourish while others struggle. According to her parents and staff, its the unlimited resources and access to activities, field trips, education, and arts and craft that many kids wouldn't have access to if not for this business. For example, during the summer months kids have a field trip scheduled at least once a week to places like the Rockville Public Library, a local museum, or apple picking.
In addition, each summer the staff works in-depth with the kids to learn songs and dance routines for an "End of Summer Celebration" performed at Manchester Community College every August. This show is at no cost to parents, and provides dinner and desert to families, as well as awards and flowers for the kids.
Pauline is also a Mother, which makes her what she refers to as "partners with parents", meaning she works with parents for the better of the kids and comes from a place of understanding and compassion.
What some may not know is that Pauline is the Mother of a 14-year-old autistic son who attends Daycare Too. She also has a 6-year-old son who attends the day care as well. This is one reason she has started accepting children up to the age of 14. As a parent of a special needs child, she knows how important it is that every child is safe, healthy, and productive.
As a member of The Vernon School Readiness Council she has contributed to the success of so many kids in school. Because of this, Pauline was asked to chair the infant/toddler committee, which is a sub-committee of the SRC. She explained to me that the SRC.'s motto is "All children, age birth to 18, are safe, healthy, and productive," as she proudly showed off the plan booklet which she helped write.
Each month the sub-committee will sponsor something to help either parents or providers, such as training for staff and parents on the topic of "safe, healthy, and productive." The Ready, Set, School Fair is set for March, and they are planning a Community Baby Shower to take place in Central Park in Rockville in May.
If you are interested in enrolling your child at The Academy of art and Learning, please contact Pauline at:
or visit the website at www.academyofartandlearning.com