"I love preschool!" chirped Callee, opening a book to point out triangles, squares and stars.
Debbie Mitchell brings many years of experience to her new venture, Step by Step Child Care & Learning.
Mitchell worked at DePauw University from 1989-2000 -- first in career planning and then in the Chemistry Department. She went back to school at Ivy Tech in 1998 to study early childhood development, and became licensed for childcare in 1999.
For many years, Mitchell owned Kids Corner childcare in Coatesville. She recently sold the business to her daughter, who had worked with her for six years, and launched Step by Step.
For children 3 and older, Mitchell offers a preschool curriculum.
"I actually sit down and work with them," she said.
If younger children show an interest in what the preschool children are doing, Mitchell also allows them to participate.
"I will bring them to the table," she said. "I will never say no to a child who is interested in learning, no matter how old they are."
Mitchell stressed basic social skills for all her young charges. The children are expected to raise their hands and wait to be called upon when they need something. They ask to be excused from the table.
"We work a lot with manners and respect," Mitchell said.
Mitchell feels that balance of social skills and academics is very important for young children.
"I aim to build a strong foundation for future learning and well-rounded social skills that children may carry into adulthood," she said. "Child care is caring for a child's daily needs, plus a whole lot more. It is the beginning of a journey into building the character and minds of our children."
Mitchell has never regretted her decision to make a career of caring for and educating children.
"You have youngness around you constantly," she said. "This job doesn't allow you to grow old or feel old. The children come in here with their youth and innocence, and there is so much to learn from them if we just listen.
"This job is very rewarding," she continued. "When children make progress, I can tell that I've made a difference."
Mitchell said while building a business such as Step by Step from the ground up after already being established in another location is daunting, she understands it will take some time to build clientele.
"It will take a while, especially in a smaller community," she said.
Mitchell currently has openings for full- and part-time children. For more information, call (765) 522-3300.
The center is located at 101 E. Maple St. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and evening and weekend hours are also offered on an as-needed basis.