SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As the trees start to bud outside Bright Beginnings Clubhouse, inside, new seeds are being planted.

Debbie Mays has spent the last 37 years caring for kids in early education. You could say she is watering the seeds that have been planted in her home.

“I have this art area [behind me here] where we started in 2009 having children put their fingerprints on it,” Mays said.

Her tree has grown so much over the years because she’s helped more kids than she can count.

“Oh, I’m sure it’s been hundreds,” Mays said. “I’m sure it’s been hundreds. “

She’s also seen it all come full circle.

“One of my former preschoolers was a teacher’s aide with me, a paraprofessional with me,” Mays said.

Mays’ teachings go beyond academics. She focuses on her kids learning about their feelings, expressing themselves through art, and enjoying the simplicity of childhood.

“I love when the kids come in, being able to help them adjust and feel safe,” Mays said. “That’s important to me.”

Mays’ hard work has paid off in more ways than one. Bright Beginnings is a nationally accredited childcare home and just received the highest rank in the state from the quality ratings improvement system.

She wants others to help lay down roots in their communities, so she formed a cohort to get more people nationally accredited in Arkansas. She also serves as the chairman of the Arkansas Early Childhood Commission, all for the kids.

“They deserve the funding,” Mays said. “They deserve the laws and regulations that are going to support them and keep them safe.”

Meanwhile, in her home, the goal is to help her kids bloom. She keeps track of their growth in a weekly letter she sends to parents.

“I’ll give you an example,” Mays said. “Lucy came in at the beginning of September and she’d never been in group care and she was so timid. This week I was able to write a story that says Lucy the leader, she is confident, she’s well adjusted, she feels safe here, she’s growing.”

So that they too can become successful leaders.

“I don’t replace parents,” Mays said. “I just complement them. I think that’s a great word for that.”

A family tree that just keeps growing, with no plans of stopping it anytime soon.


KNWA/FOX24 also had the chance to interview a couple who went to Debbie’s preschool 17 years ago. They are getting married this summer.

You can watch their interview below.