Imagine Spotlight: Linda Leslie
This week, we are thrilled to spotlight Linda Leslie, owner of Sweet Pea’s Early Learning Place in Yelm, Washington.
Linda is a family child care provider and a state-approved peer Mentor who started her business 23 years ago!
Linda grew up in Washington State and has lived in many communities in Western Washington. She worked as a preschool teacher before building her home in Yelm. Linda was seeking child care for her own two children when she decided to make her dream a reality. Just three months after her home was built, she became licensed.
When she connected with the Imagine Institute, Linda was thrilled to find great resources for providers that she’d never had before.
“Imagine offers everything: helping people before they start their business, programs to help with everything providers need, like TA and grant support and the substitute pool. Things that helped me most was really great training and opportunities to become a mentor with Imagine U.”
BECOMING A MENTOR
While attending an Imagine training, Linda was offered an opportunity to express her interest in becoming a peer Mentor with Imagine U.
Becoming a Mentor changed her business. Along with her years of experience and professional development, her experience helping her Interns determine their policies and the reasons motivating them to start a business helped her deeply examine her own program.
“The relationship-based professional development and the experience of helping another really helped me grow. When you help someone else, it helps you examine your own program and take a deeper look at the what, how, when, and why.”
Linda’s transformation included changing her hours, reducing her paperwork and back-end responsibilities, and seeking accreditation in the Curiosity Approach, which focuses on seeing, hearing and understanding the individual child. This philosophy aligns with her mission and offers providers support implementing this method.
It was a lot of work to get through accreditation, but Linda said she finds it a valuable approach to the children’s development, and it has reignited her passion for early learning.
THE JOY OF CHILD CARE
Linda finds the most joy in her child care through observing the children as they learn. She loves witnessing the “aha moment” when things come together, and a child realizes how something works.
Linda has experienced all kinds of relationships with families, supported them through struggles, and joined in for celebrations and milestones.
“What I want from my families is to be respected and considered as a partner in their children’s development.”
While early childhood education has made big improvements and Imagine has built programs to support providers in their careers, Linda said there is still a need for recognition, professional respect and a serious public investment in early learning as many families struggle to pay for child care.