Little Tot Day Care celebrating 50th year with open house

  • Children from Little Tot Day Care painted a sign for the center’s 50th anniversary open house celebration on June 27. The young artists supervised by Team Teacher Kim Dubrule were Kyleigh, Hunter, D.J., Niall and Cabryn. At the head of the table is Little Tot Day Care founder Joyce Rousselle who enthusiastically pitched in. Athol Daily News/Kathy Chaisson

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2019 10:15:34 AM
Modified: 6/24/2019 10:15:31 AM

ATHOL – It was 50 years ago that Joyce Rousselle made her love for nurturing children an enduring career by opening Little Tot Day Care, the first licensed center in the surrounding area.

On Thursday, June 27 from 1 to 3 p.m. the half-century milestone will be celebrated with a backyard open house at the center at 107 Park St. A light luncheon will be served with entertainment provided by the children and a special farewell ceremony for the Kindergartners leaving in the fall.

Rousselle, now 80, said she was always a “kid at heart,” and when all the neighborhood kids used to go to her house, she’d encourage them to bring their friends along.

She didn’t want her husband to have to work several jobs to raise their five young children so she started a day care center in their home on Park Street, working a 12-hour shift starting at 6 a.m. Two rooms were designated for the day care, which was licensed for 12 children. The Rousselles later moved into a separate home and the center underwent improvements and additions over the years.

Rousselle ran the day care for 30 years and has been retired for 20. “I really enjoyed the kids,” she said. “It is so rewarding that it was an important part of their lives.”

A second Little Tot Day Care opened in 1985 in Orange and ran for 15 years.

Like today’s teachers, Rousselle was required by the state to take part in continuing education. “At one point, we were licensed for 52 children, and then the regulations became more strict,” she said. The fully enrolled center is currently licensed for 36 children from ages four weeks up to 7 years old.

Students from the early childhood classes at Athol High School used to visit the center as part of their study, and college students working on their practicums for their early childhood degrees have gone there to observe. Generations of families have attended the day care, and some “graduates” have kept in touch.

Rousselle’s daughter Lori Kaltner, who has been the center’s administrator for more than 20 years, said they follow a curriculum. “We could be teaching about ocean animals one week, reptiles or the moon and the stars another week.” She said the children make gifts for their parents for Christmas, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. “Circle Time” in the morning covers topics and songs related to the curriculum. The pre-school children visit the Red Apple Farm once a year in the fall. In addition to the basics of ABCs and 123s, shapes and colors and sign language are introduced to the children.

Kaltner said that the staff is invaluable to the center’s operation. “They all work as a team and get along great, which is key to a healthy work environment.” She also considers Coordinator Tracy Anzaldi’s position as equally as important as hers. They make all major decisions together.

During her 34 years at the center, Anzaldi said she has done everything from maintenance to driving the bus, filling in for a classroom, and cooking. “I love working here. It’s been a great experience working with all of the kids and the staff.”

There are nine full-time employees, three part-time and regular substitutes, several of whom have been part of the crew for many years. Sarah Blair has been Lead Teacher in the Infant and Toddler room for 24 years; Kim Dubrule, Team Lead Teacher, Pre-school, 22 years; Tim Cox, Maintenance, 16 years; Lisa Cosby, Bus Driver, 13 years; and Kristen Carpenter, Child Case Manager, 11 years. Also on staff are Joy Baum, Team Lead Teacher, Pre-School, 4 years; Stephanie Oakes, Teacher, Infant and Toddler, 2 years; Mykayla Coburn, Teacher, 2 years; Nicole Savoy, Teacher, Pre-school, 1 year; and Krystal Porter, Cook, 1 year.

Kaltner said they would like to see past employees and day care alumni attend the open house.

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