Fulfilling a Wish
Stepping Stone School began not as a business plan, but as a mother’s need to provide better care and education for her own young children than what she could find in the community.
In November 1979, Bill and Rhonda Paver, M.A., Child Development, had just moved their young family from the Pacific Northwest to Austin so Bill could launch his career at The University of Texas. Like so many parents, the Pavers struggled with wanting to spend as much time as possible tending to their children, while facing the increasing financial needs of a growing family. Rhonda simultaneously began a job hunt and a search for childcare she and her husband could feel good about.
But the more daycare centers she visited, the more anxiety Rhonda had about leaving her three children – ages 4, 3 and 7 months. The facilities were all too chaotic, too cluttered, too cold. They lacked not only the depth of education and care she and Bill expected for their children, but also a sense of heart and a feeling of home.
So when she came across a nice little home-based school in a middle-class neighborhood, Rhonda was hopeful. And when she discovered the facility was closing, Rhonda – with Bill’s support – decided to create what she had not been able to find. Rhonda Paver moved her family into 1710 Richcreek and reopened it as Stepping Stone School.
Growing a Business
At the new Stepping Stone School, Rhonda created a balanced culture between school and home. She established an environment that was calm, clean, neat and nurturing. Her first students were her own three children and a nephew, plus three who transitioned from the old school. And as the only employee, Rhonda performed every function herself – she was the school administrator, teacher, caregiver, cook, janitor, bus driver and bookkeeper.
She was also the school’s only sales tool. With no brand or marketing materials to back her up, Rhonda used her own passion and relatability to forge strong, personal relationships with other parents and help the school begin to grow.
Keeping the Vision
Ultimately, this mother’s wish for her own family has grown to 19 Stepping Stone Schools and provided more than 50,000 Central Texas children with the most advanced child-development program available.
Yet the heart of Rhonda Paver’s vision is the same today as it was three decades ago. Today, Rhonda still trains her expert staff to welcome families into Stepping Stone Schools as they would welcome visitors to their own homes, and to give their students the same quality of education and care as they would their own children.
Using her graduate research and Master’s Degree in Child Development, as well as her decades of experience-based expertise, Rhonda continues to stay involved in the day-to-day management of what she has shaped into a national model of early childhood care and education excellence.