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Woman has been taking care of island youth for 30 years

April 18, 2012
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Pine Island Eagle

A Pine Island resident of many decades has been taking care of the youngsters of the island for 30 years.

Gail Bradley, who was born in Tampa, moved to Pine Island when she was 10 years old. She attended Pine Island Elementary School and Franklin Park Middle School before transferring to Caloosa Middle School in 8th grade. Her school years finished at North Fort Myers High School where she graduated.

Bradley's career and passion developed at Center Child Care where she worked for a couple of years before she bought it from the owners. She said she ran the day care for a while before it became too much for her.

Article Photos

Meghan McCoy

Erika Romero, 4, sits with Mason Guyton, 3, on the horse, while Waylon Squires, 5, sits next to J.J. Ramirez, 4, and Lawson Guyton, 18 months, sits on the slide. Gail Bradley, who has been watching children on the island for 30 years is holding Creed Guyton, 18 months.

Unfortunately having her own business took her away from her true passion - working with the children.

"I got into it because of the kids and wanted to be able to spend time with the kids," Bradley said, which led her to running a daycare from her home after she bought the place in 1981.

Some additions were made to Bradley's house to provide her with the ability to have two rooms for the kids to run her business. She said she had help from her mother, sister and husband.

"My mom has been my biggest inspiration," Bradley said, because of the encouragement she provides when she has a tough day.

Although the rooms are now a part of the home, Bradley said she has always been an outside person, which is where she spends the majority of the day with the kids.

On an average day the youngsters may do woodwork, crafts, learn how to swim, go for walks and plant in the garden, as well as eating lunch outdoors.

"It is so important to get them a good start in school," Bradley said of why she provides so many experiences for her kids. "It is so important for them to be ahead when they start school."

Due to her dedication, most of her kids are in gifted classes once they enter elementary school.

"They are already working independently before they leave here," she said.

Bradley said her kids are well disciplined and they know how to sit and follow the rules. She said the teachers enjoy that aspect because they do not have to teach them anything.

Other simple tasks like teaching the kids to tie their shoes and learning how to read are also important to Bradley.

"When kids start reading, it is the warmest feeling," she said.

The ability to teach her kids has always been her number one priority because of her experience during elementary school. She said although she is a visual learner, she makes sure to tune into how her kids learn, so she can teach them in that direction.

"I've got to find out how they learn and go with that," Bradley said.

When she becomes stuck or needs new ideas, the teachers of Pine Island Elementary School point her in the right direction and provide her with the right resources.

"They are willing to help in any way they can," Bradley said.

Although she is with the kids for the majority of the day, she said the parents also have to have a part in the learning process to make it successful.

"I usually get a good group of parents," Bradley said.

One of her abilities to connect with the children stems from her not being able to sit still for very long.

"I guess that's why I get along with the kids because I can't sit still either," she said.

Bradley has watched three generations of youngsters on the island. She said it is fun because she sees a lot of the parents in the children she is watching now.

Bradley provides her daycare services from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, with occasional nights and weekends if the parents need additional help. She works with kids from newborn until 2nd grade because they can start going to Parks and Recreation.

Every year Bradley has to take a 10-hour class, along with CPR and first-aid, to continue to provide her services on the island.



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