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Childcare pros hit the spotlight

Meadow Vista couple’s business featured on PBS
By: Loryll Nicolaisen Journal Staff Writer
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MEADOW VISTA — It’s time to set your TiVo. Pat and Jeannette Witz, of Creative Kids Preschool and Child Care, are being featured as “Childcare Provider of the Week” on the PBS program “A Place of Our Own.” Their episode airs at 1:30 p.m. Friday on KVIE 6. “The first phone call, I thought we were getting pranked,” Pat said Monday. Here’s the synopsis, available at www.APlaceofOurOwn.org: “Northern California childcare providers Jeannette and Pat Witz are known for turning their home-based program into an active, creative and exciting animal adventure for preschoolers. The couple uses animals as the foundation for practically everything they teach. They say it’s an effective way to educate young children in a playful and imaginative way. Giving the children the chance to have fun and learn in a pressure-free environment is what motivates this married couple to work together.” “A Place of Our Own” and its Spanish counterpart “Los Niños en Su Casa” is a daily television show, Web site and outreach program catering to those who care for children, sharing ways for caregivers to help children with literacy development and the development of social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills, according to the show’s Web site. The process for the segment, which is only a few minutes long, has been months in the making. The Witzes learned they had been nominated for the program back in August, and began participating in phone interviews in the fall. It was one week to the day after learning they’d made the cut that the Witzes welcomed a film crew to their home-based center. “They were here for nine, 10 hours for four to five minutes of show,” Pat said. “What amazes me is the volume of tape and time it took to sound-byte it down.” “The kids loved it,” Jeannette said. The Witzes opened Creative Kids in October 1993, after moving to Meadow Vista from Southern California earlier that year. “We wanted a different life for our children than the city life,” Jeannette said. “We just felt Meadow Vista was a great place and we lucked out.” “It was a small, developing community back then,” Pat recalled. Creative Kids is accredited by the National Association for Family Child Care, and the Witzes can also add “Childcare Provider of the Year” to their bragging rights, as they are one of nine providers throughout the state recognized by “A Place of Our Own.” One thing Creative Kids offers that the Witzes said stuck out in the PBS segment is their use of animals as a way to teach children about different areas of the globe. “I love to teach them about the world through animals,” Jeannette said. “I think they focus on the animals because I think that is a little different than the typical preschool.” For the Witzes, preschool is all about being prepared, and excited, for kindergarten. “I have always wanted to make learning fun,” Jeannette said. “We want them to be learning, and they don’t even know they’re learning. When it comes to the academic end, our children are prepared for kindergarten and they are excited.” This was the case for E.V. Cain Middle School principal Randy Ittner’s children. “My kids, by the time they got to kindergarten, they were just ready to go,” he said Monday. Ittner’s daughter Maddison, currently a sixth-grader, and son Taylor, a third-grader, have attended Creative Kids for many years. Ittner said it’s no surprise the Witzes have been chosen for “A Place of Our Own.” “It’s very positive and that’s why they deserve this,” he said. “It’s very structured and very caring. It’s like a home away from home.” Both Pat and Jeannette said the filming process was quite interesting. “Surprisingly it didn’t take us very long to get comfortable,” Pat said. The film crew told the children not to look at the cameras. One little boy, Troy Sarantopoulos, followed the directions literally, but still couldn’t help but watch the crew. “He was watching the boom mic moving around,” Pat said. “He was following the rules. He was very literal though.” Jeannette said the extensive interviews were very thorough, and emotional at times. “You put your whole life into this business,” she said. “It’s not your typical Monday-through-Friday job, and your whole heart is into this. It’s a whole life. It’s not just a job — it is a very rewarding life.” The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at lorylln@goldcountrymedia.com, or comment online at auburnjournal.com.