Preparing children for a bright educational future

by Candance Moore

Quality Christian education. This highly-sought service often requires long drives into the city, long waiting lists for admission, long hours away from home, and a hefty price tag for tuition. Later, when the time comes to transition to a public or secular school, students often find the change jarring. So, while many parents wish to provide their children with a Christian education, the obstacles sometimes seem insurmountable.

"Local parents shouldn't have to pay extravagant tuitions or make unreasonable sacrifices in order to obtain a Christian education for their children," Amy Brinkley declares.  As the Executive Director of Discover Learning Center in Chesapeake, she considers the center's work as a ministry to serve those families.

"We are a team of mothers, aunts, and sisters who truly enjoy working with children," she affirms. "Discover Church enables us to run this center in a loving Christian way that still provides outstanding education. Best of all, we can offer this to a rural community at affordable costs."

Conveniently located on South Battlefield Blvd. between Hickory and Moyock, parents have trusted their children to this team since 1993.

"We are a team of mothers, aunts, and sisters
who truly enjoy working with children.
Discover Church enables us to run this center
in a loving Christian way
that still provides outstanding education.
Best of all, we can offer this to a rural community
at affordable costs."
- Amy Brinkley

In the last two years, however, Discover Learning Center has experienced some major changes. Not only has the facility been renovated and expanded, but a rigorous new curriculum- aimed at helping students excel later in elementary school- has been introduced.

The new plush carpet, bright paint, and tasteful kid-friendly furniture create an atmosphere that is conducive to an excellent educational experience. Dedicated teachers, amid the buzz of cheerful students, keep their classrooms running smoothly. With its quiet, rural surroundings, the center offers students a spacious, private playground for physical recreation and other healthy outdoor activities.

Every visitor is greeted at the large reception desk that overlooks the center's front entrance, thus ensuring safety. In addition, a security code is required to enter the building. Although Amy's office is nearby, she is more often found in the hallways, greeting children by name as they pass by, or in the classrooms interacting with students.

A mission statement emblazoned on a wall in the lobby- "Love God, Love Kids, Serve Families"- reinforces the center's commitment to children and parents alike. Amy explains that everything in the center is designed to accommodate a child's educational journey.

"When children move on from here, they are quite well-adjusted, and ready to shine in other environments," Amy proudly affirms. "The strong foundation we provide carries them forward. For years to come, homework will be completed faster, and school days will pass with fewer setbacks. We have an excellent reputation among local schools for sending them confident, well-behaved students."

Of course, this kind of success does not happen by accident. Discover Learning Center, a ministry of Discover Church, is located on the church's 20-acre rural campus. While neither church membership or attendance are required for enrollment, Discover is unabashedly a Christian organization, and it is impossible to tour the center without feeling the church's reverential presence.

Executive Director Amy Brinkley is committed to making affordable high-quality Christian education available to area families.

Bible verses decorate classroom walls. A Christ-centered curriculum teaches science, math, and literacy from a Biblical perspective. Each evening ends with a devotional so that children leave for home in a calmer, more spiritual state of mind. This gives parents a chance for more meaningful interaction with them over dinner.

"This is definitely not a school where students are given a list of facts to remember," Amy notes. "We have demonstrated that our students retain what they learn, and that they see the bigger picture of growing into responsible young believers."

A child's educational journey can begin in the nursery of Discover Learning Center. A full-service day care offers all-day hours, from infancy through age two. Because of the center's low teacher-to-child ratio, each child receives plenty of personal attention.

By age two, most children are ready for standardized Pre-K schooling. Amy points out, however, that Discover does not use strict birthday deadlines to determine a child's readiness. The school evaluates each child as an individual in order to determine whether they might benefit from advanced (or perhaps less demanding) expectations.

"We limit our classroom size to ten students per teacher," Amy explains. "This gives us tremendous flexibility for personal instruction." Hesitant students receive plenty of assistance throughout the day. At the same time, teachers are able to keep the more advanced students actively engaged.

Discover Learning Center's Pre-K program allows a child to transition seamlessly from day care to formal schooling. The Pre-K program introduces a high-quality curriculum, complete with structured daily lesson plans. Many of Discover's experienced teachers, with backgrounds in the area of Christian homeschooling, are able to combine a fun, casual environment with activities and projects that require a more studious frame of mind.

The dedicated staff of Discover Learning Center. Back row, from left: Christina Johnson, Dedra Salazar, Janice Jones, Wanda Ramos, Zenaida Ramos, Jo Wilkes, Aimee Thomas, Mary Ann Smith, Holly Wynn and Lexi Goodwin. Front row from left: Sara Ramos, Amy Brinkley, Betty Dempsey, Kim Hanscom and Josie Brinkley.

"Most of us have succeeded in doing this with our own children," Amy reveals. "We are passionate about teaching these bright young minds."

Amy, who holds a degree in education from Virginia Tech, leads a team of seven senior teachers. Using the center's standardized curriculum, they work together to develop lessons that will resonate with all students. Hot lunches, included in the cost of tuition, fuel enough energy for a full day of playtime and learning.

Four-year-old students move on to a more-advanced level of Pre-K education. Since the different age classrooms are close together and overseen by the same administrative team, students progress from one level to the next in a familiar environment. A large central cafeteria allows for interaction with other age groups. Every social benefit of a public school is available to Discover students.

For five-year-old students, Discover offers a top-notch kindergarten program. Strong literacy skills- which are often called the single biggest factor in academic success- are a cornerstone of Discover's curriculum. By this time, Discover's long-term students are well accustomed to a full day of rigorous learning. Perhaps more importantly, these students have developed reading and study habits through a consistent curriculum. Developing long-term friendships and going through familiar routines in one location during a child's earliest formative years, helps them retain more of what they learn from one year to the next.

"Discover students consistently test
a full grade year higher than their peers.
But beyond the academic results,
there's that intangible quality
of the children being comfortable
in a classroom setting.
Area public schools look forward
to enrolling Discover alumna."

- Amy Brinkley

Although long-term students may get the most out of Discover, new students are also welcome to enroll in the center's kindergarten program. If a child is nervous about jumping into public school life, Discover's safe campus and small classes can make their kindergarten experience less daunting. While full-day extended care is included in the price, Kindergarten curriculum is completed by noon which allows a half-day option for families in the area. With more personal attention, students unfamiliar with formal lessons can learn more effectively. The center's summertime day care program may be beneficial in helping up-and-coming students develop social skills and deal with daily schedules.

"I know our program works because my daughter was a success story," Amy shares. "When she started first grade, she was reading at a level above her classroom's average. School did not intimidate her at all. She came home in the evenings, confident that she knew whatever material had been taught that day. As a parent, it made me happy to see her actually enjoying school."

Discover Learning Center’s peaceful 20-acre rural campus is located on South Battlefield Boulevard between Moyock and Hickory.

When the Tobey family made the decision to move to Currituck County from Virginia, one of their biggest concerns was finding something more than just a franchised day care center for their son. "Luckily, we found Discover Learning Center and Ms. Amy Brinkley," Zachary Tobey says. "Our child is being provided the best care I could imagine, in a setting that feels more like family than a service provider."

"We keep hearing similar reports, over and over again," Amy says. "Discover students consistently test a full grade year higher than their peers. But beyond the academic results, there's that intangible quality of the children being comfortable in a classroom setting. Area public schools look forward to enrolling Discover alumna."

Because of its positive reputation, the Discover Learning Center has forged a strong relationship with nearby public schools. After-school care for public school students is offered daily until 6:00 pm, along with direct transportation from Moyock Elementary and Chesapeake's Southeastern Elementary. This after-school care includes a snack, a short playtime, a formal quiet time for homework, an evening devotion, and a craft to take home. Since the teachers at Discover have been formally teaching all day, homework time provides a chance to ask for help on difficult assignments. By the time parents arrive, homework has been completed and their child is calm, quiet and looking forward to the next day.

Discover Learning Center is now enrolling for toddler day care, Pre-K school, and kindergarten for the fall semester. There are also still openings for our summer program, "How To  Be A Superhero."

"Discover Learning Center is about long-term investment in a child's education," Amy says. "We look at the full picture of how to do well in school and how to grow in faith. We look forward to serving more local families who want the best for their children."

Discover Learning Center

3232 Battlefield Blvd., South
Chesapeake, VA 23322