After 55 years, Joan Ancker still finds joy in caring for children

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 4, 2022

 

LAPLACE — At 84 years old, Joan Ancker is still a hands-on director and one of the first smiling faces parents see when they drop their children off at Joan’s Daycare & Preschool in LaPlace.

Since opening her daycare on Carollwood Drive 55 years ago, Ancker’s love and guidance has had a role of raising three generations of community members.

Ancker has cared for children all her life, from the time she was a child herself, growing up on the islands off of Honduras. She offered free childcare to the poor families and even gave haircuts to children in need.

She immigrated to the United States 60 years ago after meeting her husband, a missionary of the Bahá’í faith. Prayer guided Ancker through the next steps of her life as she and her husband moved first to Kenner and then to LaPlace. Mothers came to her for childcare, and the need quickly outgrew her home.

When Ancker opened Joan’s Daycare on February 10, 1967, she became the first licensed daycare center in LaPlace. The weekly tuition was $12.50 in the early days. Since then, she has cared for the children and, now, the grandchildren of those who walked through her doors in the 1960s and 70s.

Joan’s Daycare remains one of the few totally private daycares. New regulations from the state have changed the daycare scene, but what hasn’t changed is the love and care shown to every child.

After all these years, Ancker still aims to keep prices reasonable and keep the doors open during times of need. Joan’s Daycare remained open to the children of essential workers during the stay-at-home mandate in Spring 2020. After Hurricane Ida struck St. John Parish in 2021, Joan’s Daycare was the first to reopen in LaPlace.

Ancker still spends 10 to 11 hours a day at the daycare and always keeps a watchful eye as families drop off their children.

“She likes to always be here. She’s a very hands-on director,” her daughter, Diane Broussard said.

Broussard added that Joan’s Daycare stands apart in the longevity of its staff. Many members of the team have worked there more than 15 years, and some had been there up to 40 years. Two of the staff members, Morgan Fabre and Celina Simoneaux, attended Joan’s Daycare as children.

“I know just from going to state daycare meetings that she probably has one of the lowest attrition rates for staff. Daycares are kind of notorious for high turnover, but at least half of her staff have been here for a very long time,” Broussard said.

Tashana Mason attended Joan’s Daycare as a child along with her brothers and sisters. Now, as a first-time mother, she trusts Ancker and the dedicated staff to care for her precious 1-year-old son.

“My mom and my grandmother told me the only person I could go to for childcare is Ms. Joan, and I can see why. They care for your kids. You are comfortable leaving your kid with the teachers and staff. Everybody is pleasant. It feels like family,” Mason said. “Ms. Joan is very patient with us. We always see her face. We always see her interacting with the kids, checking on the kids.”

It brings tears to Mason’s eyes to think about the progress her son has made since the first day he came to Joan’s Daycare.

“I see my baby growing up to be a big boy right in front of me, and I’m grateful that he’s really excelling here,” Mason said. “My baby was premature. He came months early, and to see his growth and development is not something I could have done myself at home.”

Daycare/ after school care services are offered for children ages 1 to 12. Next door to the daycare building, Joan’s Preschool offers instruction to children ages 3 and 4.

“When children leave our preschool, the teachers say they know a lot, and they are ready for kindergarten,” Ancker said, adding that the educational component begins with children as young as 1. Sensory play and exercise are incorporated to help children learn through exploration.

Ancker has also offered swimming lessons for more than 50 years. She still remembers how traumatic it was to be thrown into the water off the islands of Honduras, and she decided no child should have to endure the “sink or swim” method.

Enrollment started this week for Joan’s annual Swimming Lessons, offered in a covered, heated pool with a certified lifeguard and instructors.

Swimming lessons are offered for ages 3 to 12, and children must be potty trained to participate. Two sessions are available, and each session will last two weeks. The first session will be offered from June 6 – 17, and the second session will take place from June 20 – July 1. Session times are from 9 to 9:50 a.m., 10 to 10:50 a.m., and 11 to 11:50 a.m. The cost of each session of swimming lessons is $150. Payment is non-refundable and must be made at the time of registration to hold a spot.

Joan’s Daycare is also offering its 2022 Summer Camp from July 5 to August 5 for children ages 3 ½ to 12 years old. Camp registration is $50, and the camp fee is the regular daycare fee of $120 weekly.

To register for swimming lessons or summer camp, please visit the daycare office at 1708 Carrollwood Drive in LaPlace from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Daycare hours are from 6 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. For more information, call 985-652-2221.