Mary and Andrew Fratini did not initially see themselves impacting the lives of classrooms full of children when their two daughters were born. After Mary and Andrew graduated from the University of Iowa and the University of Dayton, respectively, they settled into the corporate world as planned. Nearly twenty years later, they would find themselves opening the doors of the first Goddard School on the North Shore, located on the border of Skokie and Evanston.
How did they make this jump? Their introduction into the world of early childhood development began with the personal education of their daughters.
“Our children attended the Lincoln Park Goddard School and we spent five and half years there as parents. Our oldest daughter was the first infant enrolled at the Lincoln Park school,” explains Mary. “It was very personal. We understood Goddard and had a phenomenal experience with our children. We saw the positive impact from a family perspective.”
After making the decision to move to the North Shore, the Fratini’s struggled to find a program which matched the quality of Goddard, along with providing year-round full-time programming. The self-proclaimed entrepreneurs discussed the franchise opportunity with other Goddard School owners, and knew opening a school in the Northshore was what they wanted to do. “Goddard is a proven brand in early childhood and has a great reputation, from both an educational and a business perspective,” says Mary. “We wanted to open a business which had a positive impact on the community, and we wanted to feel like we were part of the community. We see our students at the movie theater, at the grocery store, and at the pool. It’s a great feeling!”
With close to 500 Goddard Schools across the country educating infants through school-aged children, the Skokie location brings the school’s celebrated learning formula to the North Shore for the first time. “We were very fortunate to find a great piece of land in the wonderful community of Skokie,” says Mary, referring to the newly constructed 14,000-square-foot building with a fully enclosed 10,000+-square-foot outdoor play space. “Our location is ideal, east of I-94, near the highway and easily accessible to several communities such as Wilmette, Evanston, Skokie and Glenview.”
Within this space, the excellent teachers and professionals uphold the F.L.EX. Learning Program (Fun Learning Experience), which is based on academic research stating that children experience the deepest learning when they are engaged in play.
“It is very experiential, hands-on learning,” says Assistant Director Marisa Carbajal. Carbajal, who previously worked at a Goddard School in San Antonio, Texas, works side-by-side with Center Director Arianna Montes De Oca.
“Andrew and I are the on-site owners, so we manage the business and operations. That allows for our directors to completely focus on the children, the curriculum and the families,” says Mary. “They’re frequently in the classrooms conducting observations and mentoring our staff. This differs from how many programs are run where the business responsibility falls completely on the director, often pulling their attention away from curriculum, and the children.”
This summer, the students at Goddard are working as Kitchen Chemists as the teachers integrate cooking techniques into math and science lessons. “In addition to the math involved in measurements, we say ‘let’s hypothesize what will happen with this mixture’,” says Carbajal. “This process teaches them teamwork, patience while waiting for something to cook, and then there is also the enjoyment of receiving a treat they made themselves.”
During the school year, similar themes are upheld, varying from class to class. “Teachers are encouraged to include students in their planning. This way the lessons are tailored to the interests of each class,” explains Carbajal. “At the same time, these teachers are well educated professionals. We honor their experience.”
As Mary and Andrew reflect on the success of the school as the first anniversary approaches, they are extremely grateful. With the help of the school’s directors, they’ve incorporated a music program, a Language Stars Spanish Program, a Skyline Studios theater program, along with an organic and non-GMO food program.
“We’re using 11 out of our 12 classrooms and we’re planning to open our final classroom by August 1st. We’ve without a doubt exceeded our initial goals. The feedback and support has been amazing. We have an incredible staff and community of families and the success of the school has exceeded expectations.”
The Goddard School is located at 9651 Gross Point Road in Skokie. To learn more, visit goddardschool.com/skokieil or call 847-773-0200.