by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff

WINTERPORT, Maine — Sharon Rowley has found a way to combine her master’s degree in teaching with the duties of family life. She opened A to Z Learning Tree, a daycare business, on Aug. 26 at her home at 35 Rabbit Hill Road in Winterport.

In 2011, she and her husband, Dale, who is the Waldo County Emergency Management director, lived in Thorndike. They decided to build a home in Winterport that would include a wing where Sharon could open a daycare.

“I had given up teaching to stay home with my children,” she said. “I loved watching my little ones grow.” But she missed teaching, even though she did home preschooling with her daughter and son. “Now I can teach on my own terms and still be with little ones,” she said.

The Rowleys moved into their new house in March 2012 and began construction of the day care wing in this spring.

Rowley currently has two toddlers, two pre-schoolers and two afterschool children in her care at A to Z Learning Tree, but the center is licensed for 12 children from ages 6 weeks to 12.

Assisting her at the daycare are Ashley Emery, who worked as a certified nurse’s aide before going to work at the daycare. She said that when she was a student at Hampden Academy, she participated in the academy’s nursery school program, which she really enjoyed.

Rowley’s mother-in-law, Liana Rowley, also helps out as needed.

The rules for the children at A to Z are taped on a door at a child’s eye-level and are simple and easy to follow: Be nice. Be safe. Follow directions.

The daycare facility is laid out in activity centers: discovery, which has a sand table and a place for water play; block and transportation, with cars and trucks, dinosaurs and Little People toys; dramatic play, where children can play at housekeeping, set up a pretend store and use a toy cash register; reading, with shelves of books; and listening, where children can listen to books on CD.

The five areas allow for differentiated instruction, Rowely said, depending on the age of the child.

Rowley uses the Itty Bitty Bookworm curriculum that focuses on early reading skills. “It ties activities into the books they read,” Rowley said. “It helps them get a love for books.”

A recent Itty Bitty Bookworm title the children read was “Pumpkin Time,” about a pumpkin patch. Activities relating to the book included planting a seed, making vines of paper and talking about how things grow.

Each day a new activity was added to show how a pumpkin evolved from a small white seed to the orange globe that can be carved into a jack o’ lantern or baked into a pie.

Rowley holds a degree in bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Maine in Portland. She is certified in both regular and special education. She taught school for nine years in public and private schools, including Troy Central School in Troy.

“Teaching, since I was little, is what I wanted to do,” Rowley said. “I loved babysitting and being around kids.”

A to Z provides breakfast, lunch and snacks each day. Meals are prepared in the facility’s kitchen, which is entered through a child-proof gate. A room off the classroom, equipped with baby monitors, provides space for naptime. Each child has his or her own personal sleeping mat, and children bring their own blankets and pillows.

A large, fenced-in outdoor play area provides ample space for running, jumping and active play. An added bonus is that the children can feed grass through the fence to the Rowleys’ pet chickens, Georgie and Sweetpea, who roam the yard outside the play area.

The daily schedule at A to Z is posted near the kitchen: breakfast, meeting, snack, cleanup, playground, lunch, centers (children choose which activity center they wish to play in), storytime rest, snack, playground, free play, cleanup, home.

Everything in the facility is handicapped accessible, making it possible for A to Z to accept children with handicapping conditions. Dale Rowley wrote the center’s emergency plan.

A to Z is open 6:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and offers fulltime and part-time child care options.

For information about A to Z Learning Tree, call Sharon Rowley at 207-525-3340 or go to