When you talk to Stephanie Harris, owner of the new Discovery Time Learning Center, you can’t help but notice her enthusiasm for her work. The new business is opening at 1509 Leslie Ave in Del Ray, just around the corner from M.E. Swings, off of Monroe Avenue.
A native of Alexandria, Harris has wanted to have her own early childhood education center since she was 16 and has been saving for her dream since she was enrolled in the early childhood education program at T.C. Williams High School. Throughout high school, college, and her three years with Teach for America in southeast D.C., Harris saved enough money to qualify for an SBA loan, which she used to invest in Discovery Time.
The new center, which opens Monday, April 21, has space for 104 students from ages six weeks to 12 years, and 25 students have already enrolled. At capacity, the center will have 18 full-time teachers, with additional part-time assistants and floaters. Currently, there are nine teachers on staff.
Discovery Time Learning will offer full-time and part-time programs for infants and pre-school aged children. Both programs are full-day, from 7:00 am – 6:00 pm. Full-time programs are Monday–Friday, while part-time programs are Monday/Wednesday/Friday or Tuesday/Thursday.
The center will also offer before and after-school care for elementary-aged children. There will be 15 spaces available beginning in September. Harris has future plans for summer camp and flex care programs.
“I’ve seen what happens when children don’t have really good early childhood education,” Harris says. She wants to empower her students to be their very best and to provide an environment that supports children and their families.
Harris believes in a holistic approach to early childhood education, and Discovery Time will provide several engagement opportunities for parents. She also believes that it’s important to take advantage of Alexandria’s resources, so she will be partnering with the same T.C. Williams High School early childhood education program that got her interested in teaching in the first place.
Harris has been working to open Discovery Learning Time since 2010. After meeting with the Alexandria Small Business Development Center to perfect her business plan, it took Harris two years to find the right location for her center. She needed a place with an outdoor play area, parking, and lots of light. The former woodworking studio on Leslie Ave fit Harris’ requirements perfectly.
“I’m really happy to be in Del Ray,” Harris says. “I grew up here and am excited to be part of the community.”