The new school year brings exciting celebrations for Spanish Schoolhouse Fort Worth, including a new building and a 10-year anniversary! As they settled into their new digs, we took a few moments to reflect with owners Dusty Gotcher and Yolanda Armas on where they’ve been in the past decade and what their goals are for the next one!
Q: How did SSH Fort Worth Start?
A: Yolanda: Our oldest daughter attended the Spanish Schoolhouse Grapevine preschool (now Southlake). As parents, we fell in love with the Spanish immersion preschool concept. Dusty has a master’s degree in education and he really appreciated the strong curriculum of the school. I’m originally from Spain, so I really wanted our children to experience the language and culture. We heard that Spanish Schoolhouse was beginning to offer franchising opportunities, and the timing was just right for us. We were able to get in on the ground floor and invest in a concept that we truly believed in.
Q: How were the early days of owning a preschool?
A: Yolanda: In our original building, we had a little over 5,000 square feet of space and seven classrooms. We started with a small number of families that had been patiently waiting for us to open! Dusty was the hands-on partner, running the school, while I maintained a corporate career. As word got out about Spanish Schoolhouse Fort Worth, we gradually grew and filled our space, sharing the beautiful Spanish language and Hispanic culture with more and more students. We still keep in touch with some of our first families whose little ones are now 8th graders!
As we expanded, I eventually left my job to help with school operations. We started dreaming about a new facility where we could serve more families. In 2020, we started looking for a place. We were so pleased to find an available building on Camp Bowie Blvd. in the Ridglea Hills neighborhood that we could customize (just 1.4 miles from our first location).
Q: What new features are you most excited about?
A: Yolanda: For starters, we have almost 8,000 sq. ft. of space here! We are really excited to have more classroom spots to offer interested families. We now have two Centers Rooms for the children. One room is for Imaginative Play with dress-up, a home center, store, and reading center, and the other is Learning Centers with blocks, manipulatives, puzzles, and a magnetic wall.
Each individual classroom now has its own sink and bathroom, which is much more convenient for everyone! And we’re very happy to have more indoor open play space in our gym area for Music and Movement, indoor recess, or group activities (when permitted).
Our new playground, which will be finished in October, will be almost twice as large as our previous one! It will feature two playground structures of different sizes, a playhouse, and a bike-riding path, all with a poured rubber base for the safety of the children. Both play structures will have shade covers, as well.
Q: How thrilled is your team with the new school?
A: Yolanda: The teachers were really quite involved in the process of designing the new building. We have an amazing team and they contributed several suggestions to help improve the environment for the children. Our staff worked miracles when it came time to move. They really feel a sense of ownership and pride in their new space and everyone feels great!
I really have to give a shout-out to Ms. Mayra Martinez, our Supervisor/Teacher Coordinator. She is starting her sixth year at SSH, and she has really grown with us. She is super creative with the curriculum and helping all of the teachers come up with unique activities and lesson plans. Mayra is always willing to help in any way needed, and we are excited that she is now taking classes to get her Director’s Certification.
Q: What’s your vision for the next 10 years?
A: Yolanda: Our goal is to fill our school with laughter and continue to serve as many children as possible in our community. We just love to be able to share the Spanish language and Hispanic culture with the families in the Ridglea Hills and Fort Worth area. As a company and an employer, we want to contribute to the local Fort Worth economy as well as provide opportunities for teachers to develop and grow in their careers.
Dusty: For me, this new location is a symbol of the future of Spanish immersion in Fort Worth. There will always be a Spanish immersion preschool here now, and we want this legacy to live on even beyond our time here. That’s the impact we hope to make.
Q: What are some of your favorite memories?
A: Dusty: I think I would say the Christmas shows, picnics, and graduations are my favorites. These are the times when the whole school community comes together. I look around and realize that we are responsible for creating that community, for helping to create friendships among this group of like-minded people who value language and culture.
Yolanda: Our 2021 graduation was really special. We wanted to especially thank the long-term families whose youngest children were graduating. We called their names and recognized the families that had been with us 5,6,7 years. The older siblings were all there since it was an evening graduation ceremony. We recognized our alumni and thanked each one by name. We hold them all in our hearts. It was really special.
Dusty: Another really great feeling is that the elementary schools that our students feed into give us wonderful feedback. They say that they love receiving SSH graduates. We know that our teachers are preparing students to be their best as they go forward in their education.
Our congratulations and best wishes to the entire Spanish Schoolhouse Fort Worth team. We are proud to watch them grow into their second decade of providing early childhood education, language immersion, and cultural awareness to the families of Fort Worth.