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Making the Grade

Think you have to be on personal terms with the likes of Elmo and Barney to run a preschool? Well, think again.

Angela F. Norman is not a teacher. She doesn't have a degree in education or early childhood development, yet she's running a preschool. Formerly a district sales manager for a pharmaceutical company, Norman, 33, is now the owner and business operations manager of The Goddard School of Centerville, a child-care and education center in Centerville, Ohio.

"As the owner of the school, I manage all the business operations, and the educational director manages all the educational parts," Norman says. "They're two separate entities, so I don't have to have an early childhood education background to be in the field." While her staff of 20 educators works with infants, toddlers and small children, from 6 months to 6 years old, Norman is in charge of the payroll, accounting, billing and enrollment-one of the most important tasks at the school, which serves about 120 children each day. "It's my role to make sure the school stays 100 percent full," she says.

Goddard's program is generally designed to prepare children for school. Norman's center-opened in 2001- in particular works with children on social, emotional, self-help, cognitive and motor skills. Babies at Norman's center learn sign language, and preschool-aged children learn Spanish.

Just because Norman's main focus is on the business side doesn't mean she's not interacting with and being affected by the children. "It's very rewarding because you get to be around little children and watch them grow," she says. "I see children in our program who [started as] infants and are now almost 2 years old-it's awesome."

Norman also gets the gratification of watching her business mature-the center has already achieved many of the goals she set for it two years ago. "In some regards, I feel I'm at a pinnacle of growth," she says. "What I'm trying to do now is maintain my 100 percent occupancy and make our program stronger."

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This article was originally published in the May 2003 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Making the Grade.

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