Island Prep, Get to Know Us!
Maybe you have a child at one of our campuses, or maybe you stumbled upon this website by mistake, but while you’re here, we thought it was a great opportunity to tell you a little bit more about us! How many locations do we have now? Who is running the place? Read on to find out!
Island Prep was founded by Dani and Michael Gwiazda in 2010. Dani was a kindergarten teacher at the time, and felt a calling to create a school that was environmentally friendly, family oriented, and supportive of each child’s unique development style. The first location to open it’s doors was the Island Prep Preschool, casually referred to as Green Whale. This campus has toddlers up through VPK-aged children.
The Director at the Green Whale campus is Rachel Almonte. Mrs. Almonte joined Island Prep just six months after we opened. She began her career with Prep as a lead toddler teacher, then moved over to lead VPK, and now we are thrilled to have her in an administrative role. Mrs. Almonte is creative and enthusiastic, she is wonderful at providing structure in a nurturing way, and overall she is just FUN! (Also, she can braid like no one’s business, which immediately made her my child’s favorite person on the planet.)
The overwhelming support from the community made it clear that there was a need and a desire for this type of school, which led Dani and Michael to open the primary school in 2016. This campus, now known as Blue Whale, started with VPK and kindergarten. However, as the students progressed, the requests for additional grades came pouring in. Blue Whale now offers kindergarten through fourth grade, with plans to add fifth grade as well.
The Director of the Blue Whale campus is Kate Batzel. Mrs. Batzel is originally from Pennsylvania and has a background in educational administration. She became the Director of the Green Whale campus in 2015, but when Blue Whale opened in 2016, we knew she would be the perfect leader for our primary grades. Mrs. Batzel is passionate about early education and relentlessly researches and implements innovative and rigorous academic programs for our students.
I want our students to leave our elementary program owning who they are as a person and being a leader, and a good person to boot.Kate Batzel, Director, Blue Whale
At this point, with both Green and Blue Whale bursting at the seams, Dani and Michael knew it was time to expand again, this time venturing off of Anastasia Island. Island Prep West was a labor of love that opened in the spring of 2018. This campus is located on US1 South, and offers toddler classes up through kindergarten. My child will also tell you that this campus has the best play structure, although I’m pretty sure ‘the best!’ just happens to be the one on which she is playing at the time. (So take her opinion with a grain of salt, they’re all ‘THE BEST!’ at some point to her.)
Sarah Lindsey is the Director of Island Prep West. Mrs. Lindsey has dedicated her career to child care. She is an enthusiastic advocate for developmentally appropriate practices and individualized learning. She pushes her teachers to challenge the students, and feels strongly that young children are capable and resourceful when given the opportunity. Mrs. Lindsey started with Prep as a toddler teacher. She moved to the administrative side in 2016 as the Director of Green Whale. When the West campus opened in 2018, she made the move off the Island and has been an outstanding leader for this location.
In the Fall of 2018, the opportunity arose to add one more campus to the Island Prep family. This cozy, newest location is called Bayside Preschool and offers toddler classes up through VPK. We have been so happy to have a more convenient option for families on the northern side of the Island.
The Director of Bayside is one we all know and love, Melissa Stevens. Mrs. Stevens was a VPK teacher for 7 years before taking the helm at our new campus. Her energy is infectious and she has built an outstanding team of teachers who love the students and the creative process. She has created a family-oriented atmosphere where everyone feels welcomed and where each student’s unique qualities are celebrated.
Whew! Did you make it all the way to the end? We can hardly believe it ourselves that this little idea Dani had 10 years ago has grown into this amazing Island Prep family! We are unbelievably grateful to everyone who has supported Island Prep and helped grow it into what it is today.
Now, we would love to hear from you! How long have you been with Prep? Pop on over to Instagram or Facebook @islandprep and let us know!
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