Richmond Hill resident Audrey Singleton, owner of the Richmond Hill Montessori Preschool, recently was recognized by the Georgia Child Care Association. For her 20 years of service to childhood education, fellow child-care facility owners who felt Singleton had made a commitment to the industry throughout the year nominated her for the honor.
During the Georgia Child Care Association annual membership and board meeting, Singleton was presented with the Industry Service and Recognition Award for serving as a leader in her community and in the early child-care and education industry.
“I found out in the moment, as it happened,” Singleton said. “I was in the presence of about 200 other child-care owners — franchise and independent — and members from the child-care industry. It was very humbling in the fact that I have been a child-care provider in Richmond Hill since 1994.”
Singleton has been involved statewide through the Georgia Child Care Association and Bright from the Start. Since 1997, she’s been participating in focus groups to help the state make decisions regarding early education.
“It was definitely a satisfying feeling to be recognized for years of driven commitment to the entire state,” Singleton said. “I’ve enjoyed participating in how the state of Georgia looks at quality child-care and what the expectations should be for every parent and every child.”
When Singleton began her own family in 1994, Richmond Hill had only two child-care centers. Neither of them were what she was looking for, so she took matters into her own hands.
“The two child-care centers in Richmond Hill weren’t what I was looking for or what my vision for ideal child-care and early learning for my personal child would be,” Singleton said. “It prompted me to give to other parents and professionals what I, too, was looking for.”
The Richmond Hill Montessori Preschool moved to a new facility in February 2013, tripling its square footage and allowing for classrooms that are larger than what state licensing mandates. The school is licensed to serve more than 250 children. Currently, approximately 200 students are enrolled.
The Montessori Preschool has a staff of 40 teachers and support personnel, including the administrators, cooks, bus drivers and others. One of those staff members, Site Director Marcy Young, has worked with Singleton for nearly 16 years.
“She deserves this award because she is an advocate for children,” Young said. “She’s a go-getter. She sees a need and she goes out and gets it. She doesn’t just do that for the children, but also for her employees.”
The facility has 14 classrooms total — one private pre-K class, one private kindergarten class, three Georgia Lottery pre-K classes and nine child-care preschool rooms for children birth to 3 years old. The school also has two infant rooms, a media room and a library area.
There are four outdoor playgrounds that are age-specific for 1- to 4-year-olds, and an additional outdoor playground designed for children ages 5 and older for the after-school and holiday camps the school offers to children in kindergarten through seventh grade. The facility also has an over 3,000-square-foot indoor playground to allow for growth and motor activities when the weather is not conducive to outdoor play.
“My objective in the new center was to essentially put myself in the shoes of a teacher and provide them with everything they needed in their course of work through the day to be successful. That’s how the new school evolved and came to be,” Singleton said. “Everything was driven by me putting myself in the place of the teacher. I work in all the classrooms alongside them, and I thought, ‘How can I help them every day to do their position to the best of their ability?’”
Young said working for Singleton is rewarding.
“She helps you and pushes you to reach your brightest potential,” Young said. “She is also caring and takes the time out for her employees. She goes above and beyond not just for the business, but to make sure her employees are taken care of.”
The Montessori Preschool is both nationally and state quality rated and accredited. According to Singleton, less than 7 percent of birth-5 year-old child-care centers are nationally accredited.
“We were the first child-care center in Bryan County and Chatham County to become state-accredited,” Singleton said. “Both accreditations are voluntary, which proves my commitment as the leader of the program to our community, our parents, our children and our teachers. We are going to provide the highest level of care and education for the children that we care for and the families we are able to serve.”