PORT RICHEY — People often tell Betty Jowers she is "a natural" when it comes to caring for and educating children. She began her career in child care about 40 years ago, at one point even opening her own home as a day care.
"I started caring for children in my home because I wanted my daughter to have a playmate," Jowers said.
Twenty years ago, Jowers started Miss Betty's Childcare & Preschool in Port Richey. And on Nov. 24, the Early Learning Coalition of Pasco and Hernando Counties bestowed its first five-star rating for an early learning center on the school, at 6926 Ridge Road.
Coalition representatives Jim Farrelly, executive director; Joe Mascaro, program manager; June Franco, provider specialist, and Audrey Stasko, communications specialist, visited the school to present Jowers, her husband and co-owner Hank Jowers and daughter and school director Deidra Jowers with the inaugural five-star banner, part of the agency's Sunshine Stars program.
"We wanted to let parents know the best place to enroll their children," said Farrelly. "Miss Betty's is the best."
Miss Betty's is a licensed child care provider for children ages 6 weeks to 12 years and also offers a Voluntary Prekindergarten program. About 60 children are enrolled at the center.
"We didn't get into this for the money," said Hank Jowers, who celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with Betty on Nov. 27. "We just wanted to provide the best care possible."
And the best education possible, according to Deidra Jowers.
"We provide students with a well-rounded education based on a creative curriculum. Children learn through play," said Deidra Jowers. "We teach them literary, math, art, social/emotional and motor skills, real-life lessons. We want them to want to keep learning throughout their lives."
And the kids aren't the only ones learning at Miss Betty's. At the Nov. 24 presentation, Farrelly praised Betty Jowers for her frequent attendance at educational workshops and conferences and for encouraging her staff to seek higher education degrees. Teachers Megan Blaise, Tammy Hodge and Lela Jackson are among the Miss Betty's instructors who credit Jowers with encouraging them to advance their education.
"You're never too old to learn," Betty Jowers said.
Jowers also is credited with providing employees with a pleasant, nurturing place to work.
"I wake up every day so happy to come to work," said teacher Sullynet Montanez.
"We're like family here," teacher Heather Williams said.
And at the coalition's presentation, Betty Jowers insisted that her teaching staff — which includes Beth Mason, Cory Jowers, Alan Baumann, Tammy Hodge and Lilith Jowers — pose for photos with their honorary banner.
The formula has worked well for the school, Hank Jowers said.
"We don't have to do much advertising," he said. "We get our students through word of mouth."
In the eyes of Betty Jowers, the success of Miss Betty's comes down to a single simple theory:
"It's all for the children," she says.