By Matt Mauney | Staff Writer
When David and Dianna Hinkley set out to open Autumn Leaf Academy, they didn’t want to be just another day care.
“That word carries kind of a negative feeling for us,” says David Hinkley, owner of Autumn Leaf Academy on 3007 Daniels Road in Plant City. “We are nationally accredited, and we focus on quality that comes from interacting with the children.”
Autumn Leaf Academy is nationally accredited by the National Association of Child Care Professionals and is a Florida Gold Seal Preschool. According to Hinkley, the aspects that sets his school apart are its teachers and limited turnover.
“You want the kids to feel comfortable with the teachers, and that comes from having stability,” he says.
Hinkley says the core teachers are all from the Plant City area and have been at the school for several years. However, finding the right group wasn’t an easy task.
“We probably went through 70 teachers in those first two years after opening in 2005,” Hinkley says. “We just didn’t have teachers who were dedicated to being teachers and who wanted to be professionals.”
Now, Hinkley has a staff of 12 teachers, with all of the primary teachers being certified by the Child Development Association.
Autumn Leaf Academy, which recently joined the Plant City Chamber of Commerce, serves children ages 3 months to school age and features the Gold Seal preschool, along with traditional child care for other ages. The philosophy at Autumn Leaf is that children should be interacted with using a hands-on approach to learning, not just with the preschool, but with all ages.
Autumn Leaf also participates in voluntary pre-kindergarten, a state-funded program that prepares children for school while enhancing reading, math, language and social skills. The program is eligible for children who turn 4 by Sept. 1 and is free for three hours per day.
Autumn Leaf features six classrooms and also offers breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks to its students.
Autumn Leaf Academy
ADDRESS: 3007 Daniels Road, Plant City
PHONE: (813) 752-4561
AGES: 3 months to school age