WonderHere has grown so rapidly over the course of our first year, and we feel so honored that our beautiful Lakeland community continues to be so receptive of our unique learning style and business model. The families that we currently serve, and the many new families we are excited to welcome this Fall, are the very reason why WonderHere exists. We cannot wait to unveil all this good stuff when we reopen our doors in mid-August!
With many of the new programs that we are providing to meet the growing demand, and with the restructuring of some of our more popular programs to better serve our families, we were provided with the great opportunity to grow our team! We are over-the-moon to introduce you to these incredibly creative, skilled, and passionate professionals! We are truly honored that they’ve become part of our WonderHere Team! These instructors have been busy preparing for each of their classes and are eager to meet the families to begin working alongside each parent in helping them in their homeschooling journey.
So, here are the following newest members of Team WonderHere, as well as *returning members of our team.
*Mrs. Amanda Thenor
Lead Instructor/ Support Staff
Amanda graduated from Florida Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education and she is certified through the state of Florida to teach Elementary Education K-6, with an ESOL endorsement along with extensive Montessori Training. Before joining Team WonderHere, she taught in multi-aged classes at a public Montessori school in South Florida. She is a true believer in WonderHere and loves her time spent at the studio. When she is not teaching at WonderHere, she is taking care of her baby boy, Cameron, who is 6 months old and spending time with her husband of four years, Dimitri. She loves baking, cooking, sports, and her family!
We’re thrilled to have Amanda return with us and coach our new teachers in the WonderHere way! Her Montessori training and experience have helped (and continue to help) pave the way for our multi-aged classes!
Mrs. Autumn Harvey
Minis Instructor-Ages 3 & 4
Autumn graduated from USF with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education and is certified to teach K-6. She also holds an ESOL endorsement and is Kagan trained. Before WonderHere, Autumn taught 1st grade at South Mckeel Academy. When she is not teaching the amazing Minis class, she is spending time with her husband and 4 year old son. In her spare time she loves creating items for her home business, “The Little Print Closet”, being adventurous outdoors, and watching HGTV. She also started a mommy blog and playdate group in Lakeland called “What’s ‘Happening’ for Mommy’s”. Her motto is “Don’t just be alive, LIVE”.
Autumn’s enthusiasm is truly contagious, and her creativity knows no bounds! We cannot wait to see how she extends her love of learning to our toddlers!
Mrs. Amy Sanders
Ages 5-8 The Core Instructor
Amy graduated from Southeastern University in 2010 with a Bachelor in Science Degree in Elementary Education. She is certified to teach Elementary Education K-6 with an ESOL endorsement. She had spent 5 years teaching 1st grade at Berkley Charter School before moving to Lansing, Michigan where she taught Kindergarten at a Title 1 school. Amy’s experience teaching at a Kagan model school sparked her passion for creating an actively engaged classroom where students learn to problem solve, work together, and develop a love for learning. When she is not in the classroom, she enjoys running, decorating, crafting, and traveling. She has been married for nearly 6 years to her wonderful husband Joel, and together they have a busy 9-month old daughter named Cambree.
We are blessed to have someone as dedicated and just down-right sweet as Amy teaching this class! Her experience with Kagan and cooperative learning align perfectly with our learning philosophy.
Mrs. Renata Brooks
Primary Instructor – Loosely Grades K-1
Renata graduated from Southeastern University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education. She is certified through the state of Florida to teach Elementary Education K-6 with an ESOL and reading endorsement. Before WonderHere, she spent the past 3.5 years teaching at a local Title 1 school and two years prior to that teaching Pre-Kindergarten in upstate New York. She loves teaching and is excited to join the WonderHere community! Renata has been married to her husband Daniel for five years. They have a two-year-old son named Rowan and a Yorkie-Poo named Cozy. She loves spending time with her family, crafting, and shopping at the Target Dollar section.
Renata was made to teach this age group! Her organizational skills and ability to plan ahead will be a huge asset to our team!
Ms. Marissa Cutrone
Post-Primary Instructor – Loosely Grades 1-3
Marissa graduated from Southeastern University with her degree in Elementary Education in 2016 with Reading and ESOL endorsements. She then pursued a Masters of Reading Education from Southeastern University and graduated in 2017. Marissa is so excited to teach with WonderHere in the post-primary class and can’t wait to work with her students to create unique and engaging lessons! When she’s not teaching, Marissa enjoys going to the beach with her friends and cooking! She cannot wait to start this school year!
Marissa is truly a breath of fresh air to this team! Her passion for teaching is inspiring to us, and her dedication in pursuing her Master’s degree will be an asset to us as we develop and grow our curriculum.
Mrs. Debbi Balach
Comprehensive Instructor – Loosely Grades 4-6
Debbi graduated from Southeastern University where she received a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Exceptional Student Education and her Master’s of Education Degree in Exceptional Student Education. She holds a teaching certificate through the state of Florida in Elementary Education, ESE K-12, and Math Grades 5-9. She also holds endorsements in Autism, Reading, and ESOL. She considers it a blessing to have spent her first year teaching at Pace Center for Girls as the 6-11th grade Math teacher, and most recently she taught at Lake Gibson Middle School (go Sharks!) teaching 6th grade Resource and Inclusion Math. When she is not at WonderHere, you can find her spending time with her amazing husband, Rich and loving on their sweet four-month old daughter Abigail Joy. In her spare time, she loves to sing and play the piano, enjoy time with her small group from church, and journaling.
Debbi’s extensive experience in the higher grades and sense of humor make her an integral part of our team! Her personality is perfect for teaching our 4th – 6th graders!
Ms. Amanda Terry
Amanda graduated from Southeastern University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. She has an extensive background in working with kids from her time nannying, working at the YMCA, and interning at Grace City Kids and Florida Baptist Children’s Home.
Amanda’s ability to manage and organize helps make WonderHere a smooth sailing ship! She’s calm under pressure and is wonderful with children… so she’s just in the right spot!
Ms. Summer Adams
Minis Assistant Instructor / Mommy & Me Instructor /
Letter of the Week Instructor
Summer graduated from Lakeland High School and then attended Florida Gulf Coast University. She is now continuing her education at a local college while working at WonderHere. When she is not at WonderHere, she enjoys watching movies, spending time with her family, eating sour gummy worms, and catching up on episodes of This is Us.
Summer’s sweet disposition, coolheadedness, and love of working with the little ones is just what these programs need! We know she’ll be a hit with our toddlers.
*Mr. Jonathan Gautier
Sound House Studios Owner & WonderHere Music Instructor
Jonathan Gautier is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with an B.A. in Digital Media and a Masters Degree in Music Technology. He has taught music in the classroom as well as private lessons for 14 years. He enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, and playing basketball.
We have loved having Jonathan teach our music classes, and are so glad to have him return! Our kids enjoy being able to flex their creative musical muscles in his classes!
*Mrs. Becky Yohe
ArtCentric Studio Owner & WonderHere Art Instructor
Becky graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University with a Bachelor of Art Degree in Studio Art with an emphasis in ceramics. She holds a Florida State teaching certificate for Art K-12 and is the owner of ArtCentric Studios in Dixieland. She is the mother of two beautiful daughters, Avery and Haysley, and the wife of Mike. Her father is a stained-glass artist and her mother an elementary school teacher, making her the perfect mix of them both! Becky loves slurpies and kettle corn and enjoys the beach and wake boarding.
There’s no one we’d rather teach our kids art than Becky! Her passion for the arts translates into every lesson and project, and our kids love her!
*Mrs. Jessica Zivkovich
Founder and Co-Owner of WonderHere / Homeschool Enrichment
Jessica graduated from Southeastern University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Exceptional Student Education. She holds endorsements in ESOL and reading instruction and will graduate with her Master’s degree in Reading Education in December. She loves to spend her time dreaming and scheming with Tiffany about ways to make WonderHere the best place possible for kids and families, as well as relaxing with her sweet husband George and their Labradoodle pup Henry. You can often find her hanging out on her family’s farm in Dade City, with her nose in a book, or binge watching whatever show she’s interested in at the time (currently, 30 Rock… subject to change).
*Mrs. Tiffany Thenor
Founder and Co-Owner of WonderHere / Homeschool Enrichment
Tiffany graduated from Southeastern University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education. She holds an Elementary Education K-6 teaching certification with ESOL and Gifted Instructor endorsements. She loves going to the park with her little boy Jeremiah and watching reruns of The Office with her husband Jeffrey. When she is not working with Jessica dreaming up new ideas for their beautiful business, she is trying to unplug and spend quality time with her family and friends. She loves all things sweets and playing board games.
We believe that our learning style and the programs we offer are both innovative and necessary, and that they are making a beautiful difference across the landscape of education. These instructors embody everything WonderHere stands for, and our team is stronger and more creative because of these additions and returning team members. Please help us in welcoming each of these instructors when you meet them at our studio! The very heart of WonderHere beats to cultivate the love of learning within each of your children, and our team is ready now more than ever to serve your family and encourage each young student to wonder and grow in wisdom. Thank you for dreaming and believing with us!
March snuck up on us, and we can hardly believe this school year is more than half way over. Each day is filled with laughter, memories, friend-making, and intentional and lasting learning. We are loving doing “school” with our students, and our moms and dads and we have been working hard to make sure WonderHere is as wonderful as the students and families we serve. That is why we are just over-the-moon to share with you this most wonderful news…
WE ARE EXPANDING BOTH INDOORS AND OUTDOORS!!!
(This AWESOME sketch of our expansion was done by the one and only Beck Yohe from Art Centric Studios!)
Now, we know what you are thinking… expanding? To where? No, we are not moving. Instead, the business to our left is. And with that, we believe that this is the perfect timing to expand our walls so that our students, both current and future, have the space and room to continue to grow and play, create and explore. This decision was not an easy one, but we know in our hearts it is the right one. We love being a part of Downtown happenings and we couldn’t trade it for anything. But, we have been listening to you and knew that our location limited us on some necessities. So, we set to work on problem solving, and the solution was right in front of us… well, right beside us… all along.
A major part of our vision for WonderHere is to revitalize and redefine play in our community. We believe that the best learning a child can do happens through laughter, games, imagination, and creativity. We wanted to be the space where kids came and learned new and exciting things without desks and tests and the “scary” things traditional school has to offer. An indoor playground is an essential part of that, we just didn’t have the square footage to make it a reality from the start. BUT… now we will 🙂 HOORAY!
In our new space, we will develop a “deconstructed playground” of sorts – a place where slides and swings and climbing equipment is matched with inventor’s tools, fashion designing sketch and development materials, technology and a creation station. A place where play meets creating meets inventing and exploring. A room where kids can climb and chase, sit and read, or think and create something new. This room will be the place where the real WonderHere “magic” will show, and we cannot wait to get the doors open and have our kids step foot inside.
Now we have been listening to our sweet mamas who have asked us to solve the outdoor play aspect of our studio stat, and we didn’t think a viable solution would ever present itself in our location. But, we have a big God and the most wonderful property managers and have been continually shown favor by them, which we are ever so thankful for! When we take on the next-door space, they have given us their blessing to fence in the back parking lot area so that we can create an outdoor oasis… the WonderHere Urban Garden!
This quiet, green space will give our children the much-needed opportunity within their learning day to sit under the open sky and extend their learning, creating, and exploring to the great outdoors. We will have free time outside, frequently hold classes in the garden, and give our students plenty of time to explore the raised beds, vertical garden, mud kitchen, sand box, and all the play elements incorporated into the garden design.
Now, since we are expanding the square footage of our building, that does also mean that we now will have the space to offer additional classes. Beginning this upcoming 2017-18 school year, we will be extending enrichment classes to Friday, providing classes for students ages 0-14, and also moving our enrichment classes from a subscription-based model to a one-time payment per selected 6-week learning session with each week class lasting 1 ½ hours. Some of these changes are major, but we know that they were necessary to offer the highest quality learning opportunities to our Lakeland homeschool population without having them need to commit to an entire school year or go outside of our WonderHere facility to get what they are needing for their child learning-wise.
This expansion is slated to begin immediately following the close of this school year in June and we are confident that it will be completed before the end of summer. At the end of this blog is a portion of our vision board, and we would love for you to explore it so that you can get a glimpse into what our space will look like next school year.
If you have any questions regarding this expansion, our current programs, or next year’s enrollment which is now available online. Please email us at info@WonderHere.com or come to our next Open House, Wednesday, March 29th between 5:00-7:00. Space is limited… there are only 10 spots left in our full-time program, 7 spots left in The Core (reading and math), and 6 spots left in the Minis Track (3 & 4 year old program). So secure your spot today!
We want to extend to you the warmest thank you for cheering us on as we continue to walk this road, and please continue to send all your prayers our way. We are so excited to see WonderHere take on its new shape and form, and strongly believe that each member of our WonderHere family has had a hand in lifting this company up and carrying us on. We look forward to sharing our new space with you when it’s ready!
– Team WonderHere
Indoor Expansion Photo Gallery
Outdoor Expansion Photo Gallery
Hi WonderHere friends & fam!
So, this is not the blog post I originally intended to post today. However, my heart is so full that I just had to write this and get it out there. Full of what, you ask?
Full of gratitude for all that’s happened within the last year…
especially getting to know and partner with our amazing WonderHere parents!
From the beginning, Tiffany and I said we want WonderHere to be more than just a place where kids learn and play. We want our little corner of Lakeland to be a place where genuine community happens… with our kiddos, with our parents, with our team. We want everyone who walks through our doors to feel like they belong… because they do! We’ve been intentional about making this happen on a daily basis, and we’re blessed to serve families that make it easy to be in community with.
One of our favorite things about our day-to-day operation is that we have no car line for drop off / pick up (it would be impossible to do so in the bustle that is South Florida in downtown), so our parents come into our studio to drop off their kids in the morning and come back in to pick them up in the afternoon. We LOVE these parts of the day. We love chatting with parents in our lobby, checking in with them as their child lingers to play just a bit more, joking around (our parents are HILARIOUS), and teaming up with them on a consistent basis to provide their kids with the best learning experiences possible. We’ve also loved hosting fun family events like our Friends-Giving and Christmas party. Doing life with these people has been a joy 🙂
As awesome as it’s been from the start, we feel like our parents have taken their commitment and support to a whole other level since the start of this semester… and I think it’s because we’ve allowed them to. We must admit, Tiffany and I tend to try and do everything by ourselves. I don’t know if that’s just a teacher thing… we’re used to working in isolation, and we know (through experience) that it’s “easier” to do things alone than have to explain to others what needs to be done and feel like we’re burdening them with extra tasks. We also wear a lot of hats lately… business owner, teacher, mom, student. Sometimes it seems simpler to power through and get it done than rely on others.
Well we’ve been dead wrong, and it’s taken our super mamas stepping up to prove it to us.
You see, a year ago today was WonderHere’s debut as a legitimate business when we had a booth at First Friday for the first time ever. We were so excited… Tiffany and I took a personal day from work to prepare everything. It was exhilarating! We met so many people who were excited about what we were starting. To talk about WonderHere to strangers and get positive feedback meant the world!
Since then, we’ve obviously transitioned into actually running WonderHere, and towards the end of last semester our stamina began to slow down. No longer could we take the day off from work to prepare for an event… we’d simply push through, just the two of us, tackling anything and everything alone. Our parents began to notice how full our plates were. After attending our vision casting meeting and hearing our BIG, EXCITING news (that we can’t share publicly just yet… but wait for it!), they understood that we can’t pull off something so big on our own. They also heard in passing that we weren’t going to be at the next First Friday because of how tired we were. So, they decided to take matters into their own hands and create a Parent Involvement Committee.
In a short amount of time, they organized a huge yard sale, they’ve brainstormed fundraising ideas, they completely planned and ran last night’s beautiful First Friday booth (and wouldn’t even let us stay the whole time!). They’ve met together multiple times already to put into action our vision for 2017 and think and create on our behalf. Most importantly, they’ve breathed new life into us.
Our parents truly share from the gifts and talents and resources they possess. Some mamas volunteer their time to watch the kids during lunch so Tiffany and I can have a quiet lunch time. Others bless us with a stock load of cleaning supplies and ink from SAM’S Club and new vacuums. Some bless us with their daily words of encouragement that fuel us more than they could ever know. Some have taken on the huge responsibility, alongside their son- our esteemed student body treasurer, to raise funds and awareness towards our school being built in Guatemala. Some bless us with their artistic skills, others by helping to spread the word about what we’re doing. I can’t think of one WonderHere family that doesn’t give back in some way. All differences aside, they have one common trait: they bless us by trusting us to teach and care for their children, and they help us be the best we can be.
So, parents, all this to say… WonderHere would not exist without you.
Cheers to you 🙂
We haven’t had the chance to sit down and write a blog in quite some time. We have been busy bees working in our studio, connecting with parents, building community, and developing curriculum… making our learning space just right for each and every one who enters our studio. But we have missed the conversation that was started through our blog, and now have just the right blog to pick the conversation back up again for this special season we are in right now. Though this process of discovering what WonderHere should look like – exploring what we value as educators and what we believe as instructors – has been messy (as learning of any value usually is), It has been so rewarding. We are feeling ever so THANKFUL that so many lovely families have chosen to join the journey of WONDERing alongside us. So, here are some specific things we’re thankful for…
- We are thankful for our class size.
The amount of students in a classroom matters. It matters, because the more students within a classroom often translates into how divided a teacher’s attention has to be. No matter how excellent the multi-tasker, juggling a classroom full to the brim cannot help but limit how individualized the instruction is. At WonderHere, we strategically limit all of our classes to 12 students. And our full-time students even receive one-on-one attention regularly. Individualizing instruction is our jam! It is what we are most passionate about. We believe each child is unique and should be treated as an individual. With that, they should be able to work on their own level, at their own pace, and study based on what is interesting to them and where their wonders begin. Limiting our numbers, especially in our full-time program, has allowed for the individualizing to take place. And it has been a beautiful thing.
- We are thankful for our multi-age classrooms.
Our students work in a community of learners with diverse backgrounds and with various abilities and talents. Much research supports our belief that having students work among people different from themselves (different in age and different in experiences) is both beneficial and positively impacting to their personal development. From his review of the research, Miller (1990, 7) notes, “When it comes to student affect, the case for multi-grade organization appears much stronger, with multi-grade students out-performing single-grade students in over 75 percent of the measures used.” Though data is not everything, it is encouraging to know that this concept is not foreign and also has a measurable effect on the type of learner we are investing in. In this atmosphere of multi-aged peers, children have the room to learn from peers without competing. They are given the opportunity to mentor AND to be mentored by other children. They learn empathy, self-awareness and develop a sense of belonging. This, we feel, is where much of the WonderHere magic takes place. Here in our classrooms where multi-aged and diverse children mingle, mix, and wonder.
- We are thankful for the freedom and flexibility to use authentic resources and curricula to teach in the most effective and inspiring way we can.
We are unapologetic about the way we do “school” and we have 16 collective years of teaching expertise to back it up with the teachers we have on our WH team. As we mentioned earlier, individualized instruction is high on our priority list. It’s a blessing to be able to use curriculum and learning resources that fits our students’ individual needs, and adjust it as they grow and develop.
- We are thankful we have the room for Growth & Elasticity.
With this new way to do school that we are pioneering; there is so much “figuring out” that no one can do for us, but US. It is awesome having the platform and opportunity to stretch and rethink and consider the “how” and “why” involved with making WonderHere the best…. And we are growing so much. This is how learning happens… and we too are very much in a learning season. Anyone in the business of working with the human mind (and the human child mind, at that) has to be constantly willing to grow and learn and evolve as our world does. Learning is a beautiful, breathing, fluid BIG thing and so much of it happens so much deeper than the eye can see.
- We are thankful for our location.
At first, when we were looking for a home for WonderHere, we were unsure of what that would look like. One thing we knew for sure was that it had to be in Downtown Lakeland. Why? Because there is something simply magical happening in our Downtown Lakeland neighborhood. We wanted our students to be a part of this neighborhood and to be in walking distance from this upcoming urban community. Then, when we first walked into our studio space, we knew this was it. We love all of our rooms, and the transparency provided to us by our random windows, and our sweet little play space where our kiddos get to be kids every day. We love taking field trips to Munn Park and the ice cream shop and the museum and Palace Pizza. This studio is home and we love, LOVE being in the center of all this electricity being generated by the glorious movers and shakers of this little BIG town.
- Lakeland Community
We can say with confidence that WonderHere would not be a reality without the support of our community. There is such an intense entrepreneurial energy in this community that makes you feel like you can succeed as a small business. But it doesn’t just stop at the “feeling” of success… there are actual supports put in place for us to succeed. Organizations like Catapult, We are Curio, and State of the Spark (just to name a couple) are experts at coming alongside and championing people to make their dreams come true and make our community better. Then, we participate in events like First Friday and The Big Event and we’re re-energized all over again. The educational community is strong, too. The homeschool community is getting stronger by the year, and we are hopeful that the newly elected life-blood in our School Board will help our public schools thrive in a new way. This city is home!
- We are thankful for our WH Parents.
We could spend all day talking about how amazing these parents are that have partnered with us this school year. We are loving the connections we are able to have as we work together as a team to make learning really catch fire for their children. It has been so fun developing plans for each child, discussing new class ideas and catching up and checking in regularly during drop in- and pick up. We can say with sincerity that we have a genuine relationship with each and every one of our parents! They continuously bless us with their support.
- Our Team (In Studio & Extended)
We mentioned that one of the things we’re thankful for is our Lakeland community. Well, it just so happens that some of the best businesses in the community are in our corner! We are so grateful that We Are Curio and State of the Spark have taken us under their wing… they keep us inspired, fueled, and seeing the bigger picture. We’re also grateful that we’ve gotten to team up with Art Centric and Bricks for Kidz to provide awesome learning experiences for our kids! Then, of course, we could not do what we do without the people who put in the work every single day… our Amandas! Amanda Simone is the most kick-butt studio assistant we could ever dream of. She’s a master multi-tasker and does whatever crazy thing we throw her way with a smile. She’s our arms and feet so we can focus our brains on our kids. Amanda Thenor is grace personified as a teacher. She’s so gentle and patient when she works with our kids, yet the learning she facilitates is so deep and meaningful. Whenever we walk into her classroom when she’s teaching, we just want to pull up a seat alongside her and join in! We love our team to pieces J
- Our Family & Friends
Taking a risk as big as leaving our secure teaching positions to take part in revolutionizing education could have never happened without the support of our family and friends. We remember holding our breath after spilling our crazy idea to them, but being met with nothing less than support and affirmation and encouragement to chase our dreams. Of course, it’s easy to support a dream when it’s in its beginning stages, but our families (husbands in particular) support us each and every day. On great days, on hard days… we are so thankful that they believe in us.
- Each Other
I am oh so SO thankful that I get to do this with one of my dearest friends, JESSICA! She is one of the very best educators I know! She is creative and compassionate and she eats, sleeps, and breathes WonderHere. When she is teaching, the children are not just learning “stuff”… they are learning how to love LEARNING. She takes the additional time it requires to make the learning hands-on, and she is not afraid of doing what is messy and time-consuming (both in prep and in planning) in order to make a lesson really STICK for the students. WonderHere is not a job for her…. It is her passion. Without Jessica, this studio would not be even half as great as it is. NOT to mention all of the beautiful graphics and marketing images she creates. She is so talented and so humble and so “boss” and I am so lucky to get to dream, create, and build alongside her! – Tiffany
When I say WonderHere wouldn’t be a reality without Tiffany, I literally mean it. It would still be this grand idea floating around in my brain. I’m grateful for a friend who is bold, who I can dream with and take risks with. Tiffany is one of the best teachers I know. She cares so much about kids and seeing them reach their potential. She doesn’t accept anything less than the best from them, but the best thing is she makes them believe they can be the best. She is great at connecting with families and making WonderHere a collaborative effort, and her ideas for community events are brilliant. She is my better business half, but more than anything she’s my best friend. We pick each other up when we’re down, and we whole heartedly celebrate our successes. I’m so thankful for her. -Jessica
We are mostly so thankful for the opportunity to educate your children, to be a beacon of hope for the world of education, and to exist in this community.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!