SPOTLIGHT: Melissa Smith


Job: I operate a licensed Family Childcare Home in Orcutt, CA that serves children 6 months to 5 years old.

Info: email

Phone: 805-268-8500


What is your background in education and teaching?

I have been in early education for 18 years! I started my journey at Allan Hancock College, taking classes as a single teen mother (I was 19 with a toddler who attended the ECE program too), and working as a student worker in the child development program on campus. I pursued a Child Development permit, and a certificate, followed by an Associates and Bachelors degrees in Child Development. I taught in all the classrooms on campus for about 6 years, ad then after graduation from the University of LaVerne, I wanted to work in a capacity that served a different demographic. 

I landed as a Lead Teacher and substitute Site Supervisor in our Early Head Start program. It was an incredible experience to challenge myself to learn more Spanish, guide families in reaching their personal goals, mentor teachers and student teachers, and also teach children. I was lucky to receive specialized training and certification in the ‘Outdoor Classroom’ teaching strategies, and lead our center in implementing these philosophies in our daily work with children.


What do you love most about running your learning center?

I adore directing and teaching in my own program. I love that I can set my hours to fit my family’s needs or accommodate other families’ needs. Not being tied to a company with hard and fast regulations is great. It means I can bend and change in a field hat is critical to the developing of little humans. I have experience with many demographics and I like that I am able to serve a diverse mix of cultures and ages. I love the freedom to find a groove with my students and allow my curriculum, lessons, and activities to emerge naturally, which is the most effective and creative way to teach early childhood. I also love the relationships built between children, families, my own kids, and me. I am able to get to know each parent and family in a way that fosters acceptance and belonging. When that is done, it truly frees us to learn, to create, to grow.

How do you nurture creativity in your little students?

Often we hear the word create and we think art. Art is certainly a staple in education, and I am a believer of process art and giving children opportunities to create art with varied mediums and materials, but creativity encompasses much more to me. I encourage children to create all day long. We create elaborate cities and structure with blocks, Legos and magnets. We make Styrofoam robots and garbage trucks and use books as ramps for our cars. We pretend to be animals, mommies and daddies, and firefighters. We use scarves and costumes and puppets to retell and act out real life or fantasy story lines. 

Our backyard has a variety of “loose” parts for children to use however they see fit–I have seen crates stacked up as they play Humpty Dumpty or lined up on the ground to be a train to the North Pole. There are tires for monsters. The swing set has functioned as a prop for pretend games. Our mud kitchen is a favorite place to bake cookies, make pizza soup, and hunt for buried treasure. 

Are there other areas of your life where you practice creativity?

I love to cook, and my concoctions and creations amuse myself and my family. I also really enjoy home decorating. I feel so much joy and energy when picking out a new rug, or creating a wall of family photos and quotes. I also love to paint and have painted (with the instruction and guidance of an artist friend) a couple beloved pieces that are proudly displayed in our living room. 

EduCare’s philosophy is that children learn math, literacy, science, social studies, social emotional skills and more through play. I try to nurture creative and pretend play to foster the development of all these skills.



Info: email

Phone: 805-268-8500



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s