It was during the early 2000s when Jamie Thomas, a teacher of fourth and fifth graders in Baltimore, MD, was faced with a rather difficult decision. As an expectant mother, Thomas made the choice to leave teaching when her first child was born. After having her second child, connecting deeply with early education and relocating her family to Chicago,IL when her husband began working for the Noble Network of Charter Schools in 2005, Jamie began caring for the children of friends who were both Noble teachers and parents in her home so they could continue their teaching careers.
In doing so, she began to feel a new motivation. Knowing what a difficult decision it can be to stay in the classroom or stay home with your child when you start a family, she wanted to do something even bigger to lend a hand to parents navigating this familiar struggle while continuing to improve education, and the idea of Noble Day Care was born.
Like many ambitious ideas, the vision of a Noble Day Care needed time, diligence and resilience to fully come to fruition. After locating the space the center currently occupies in West Town, there were several obstacles to overcome before Noble Day Care could have its grand opening. That didn’t stop the word from spreading, and some families had voiced their imminent need for childcare. In response, Jamie and her husband dedicated their living room as a space to be used for childcare each day for over a year.
This allowed Jamie to hire Yesenia Espinoza, a founding partner of Noble Day Care, who came to her house each day and cared for children while they continued working to get the new childcare center up and running. Finally, after two and a half years of preparation, Noble Day Care made its debut.
“When we first opened our doors, Yesenia and I shared a small office that was originally a closet,” recalled Jamie. “Fortunately, we were able to acquire additional space to create an actual office, conference room and staff break room.”
As growing pains subsided, growth persisted. What started with 11 children has since grown to 45. When Jamie transitioned to the center’s board in 2015, Yesenia took the lead as executive director.
“Being the director means wearing many hats, from nurse to accountant and even to plumber,” said Yesenia. “But the most important one is being a teacher, teaching and taking care of our little learners while making sure they have what they need to succeed in school.”
To aid in the administrative duties that come along with teaching and caring for so many children, Yadira Contreras, who previously taught at Noble Day Care, was brought on as assistant director after teaching English in Mexico. Having already developed a sense of home at Noble Day Care, it didn’t take long for Yadira to find even more to admire.
“I love the families that we service and the team of incredibly hard-working women that I work with. Being surrounded by this makes coming to work easy, but my heart is definitely with the children,” said Yadira. “Although a major part of my role requires time spent in the office, I love knowing that I can walk over to the classrooms and spend time with them at any point. Their presence brings me so much joy and they are always genuinely so happy to have you around.”
While quality childhood education persists as a central tenet of Noble Day Care’s philosophy, a unique emphasis on operating as a “family of families” remains woven into the tapestry of its decade of history.
“Many things have changed over time, but what has not changed is our culture and love for our families.” said Yesenia. “We are a family of families and we stress this to everyone that comes through our doors. Everyone in the center knows everyone from parents to children and teachers. It is very important to us and the development of our children to build those bonds with our families to better support each other during our children’s most important years of development.”
Whether it be holiday-themed celebrations, graduation ceremonies or seeing children come back to the day care years after graduation, still remembering their teachers, many memories are made across the span of 10 years. Facilitated by the deep connections that bind students, teachers and administrators alike – certainly – there are many more memories to come.
“I hope that Noble Day Care can continue to do what we’ve always done,” said Jamie. “Being a home away from home, creating a family of families, showing children the love and care they deserve and preparing them for a successful journey forward. We’re excited at the possibility of serving even more families in the coming years.”