Growing Leaders Early Learning Center

Welcome to Growing Leaders Early Learning Center!

“Learners Today, Leaders Tomorrow”

Our Philosophy:

Growing Leaders ELC offers a supportive, nurturing, and safe environment that focuses on the development of the whole child. We build strong kids, strong families, and strong communities by enriching the lives of individuals in spirit, mind, and body. 

Growing Leaders ELC is dedicated to providing a FIVE STAR early learning program. Working towards achieving Oregon’s Spark program’s highest rating, we strive to create an environment that provides rich experiences, promotes cognitive, social, and emotional development, and ensures children have the solid foundation needed for lifelong learning. 

Our staff understands that children develop at different rates and that belief guides every aspect of Growing Leaders ELC. With a student-centered approach, students are active participants in their own learning. Our early learners will engage in developmentally appropriate activities that are designed to allow children to explore, discover, and learn at their own pace. 

What’s Included?

Growing Leaders ELC will provide nutritious meals for your child while in care. Meals include; breakfast, lunch, supper, and 2 snacks/day. 

YMCA Membership Discount

All Growing Leaders ELC families will receive a 25% discount on their YMCA membership.


At Growing Leaders ELC we want every child and family in need to be able to access quality care for their child(ren). Please feel free to contact our Director for information about current rates and programs we offer. We accept ERDC as well as Employer paid benefits. We will be offering Preschool Promise as well as Scholarships as the funds become available and as the need arises. Please give us a call and we can discuss rates and all of the options we will be able to offer.

NEWS: Growing Leaders Early Learning Center has been awarded a grant which will allow us to have 40 preschool-age children attend our preschool program for free! Preschool hours are M-F 8 am – 1:30 pm. Fill out the Preschool Screening Form to see if your child qualifies!If you are interested in enrolling your child in the preschool promise, please fill out this form (English / Spanish) and send it to the Early Learning HUB of Linn and Benton County at

Our Staff


Hi! My name is Ashley Thomas and I am the Director of Growing Leaders Early Learning Center! I have my masters in early childhood education and over 10 years of experience as a teacher/director. My passion is early childhood education!

It has been my dream to become the Director of an amazing program such as the YMCA and I’m thrilled to be on this journey with our incoming teachers!

I am from Sublimity and travel here daily with my two children Cass and Chloe. We are all three excited to become a part of the community here in Albany and get to know the families that surround us! 


Hello! My name is KyLee Woodley. I am a lead pre-k teacher working at the Mid-Willamette Family YMCA’s Growing Leader ELC in Albany Oregon. I Have a Bachelors in Elementary Education from Liberty University. I’ve worked in elementary (including special ed), pre-k, and childcare.

In my spare time, I tend a rescue mutt—Lucky Dog—and a feisty feline named Hazel. I enjoy listing to country music and K-Love, reading books to my children, and watching Marvel movies with my husband who might resemble Superman. 

We live in Oregon, which is perfect for hiking, camping, and just spending time together in this beautiful country.

My name is Derek Jordan, and I am one of the new Lead Pre-kindergarten teachers at the YMCA ELC. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and love to camp and enjoy the outdoors with my family. I currently live in Albany with my wife, our son, and our 2 cats. I graduated from Western Governors University with my B.A. in Early/Elementary Education in 2018 and my Masters in Curriculum and Instruction in 2020. I have worked in the early education field as a Site Director as well as a teacher. I have also worked in the public school system as a licensed teacher. I look forward to this new journey of opportunity. I am very excited to meet all my new students and begin the journey to success.

My name is Laurie Geissler.  I am so excited to start a new adventure at YMCA Growing Leaders Early Learning Center.  I was born and raised in Albany, and spent the last 36 years teaching.  My experience includes teaching all day kindergarten, owning and operating my own day school and teaching preschool. I have been married to my best friend, Steve for 36 years. We have two grown daughters who have lots of pets, including rabbits, chickens, dogs, and cats (no grandbabies, yet!)

I love teaching, reading, building things, and cooking. What do you like to do for fun with your family?

I can’t wait to get to meet you and begin learning together!

Hello! My name is Carli McSpaden. This is my fifth year teaching. I have worked in both the daycare setting and as a first grade and kindergarten teacher in the public school system. I graduated from Western Oregon University with a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood/Elementary Education.

I have very strong roots in this community as I have lived in Albany and the surrounding area for my entire life. I’m very thankful for my family. I have a large extended family that lives in the Albany area, and I enjoy spending time with them. I have two younger siblings, Emma and Eli. And we have one dog named Missy.

I’m excited to start this new journey at the YMCA Growing Leaders ELC with you and your child. I love working with this age group and look forward to helping your child learn and grow this year.

Our Curriculum

Our program takes a multifaceted, diverse approach, incorporating the best aspects of a variety of curriculum to ensure each child’s needs are met, regardless of his/her learning style. We will foster school readiness by teaching letters, numbers, patterns, shapes, and colors through play-based activities. We will include daily crafts along with large and small motor skills activities that promote emerging positive social-emotional skills. A variety of activities and materials will be implemented to teach and stimulate each child’s desire to learn. Growing Leaders Academy aspires to develop in each child a positive character and nurturing traits like honesty, respect, responsibility, and care. 

Daily Schedule

(subject to change depending on children’s needs)

What is Early Learning Center Rotation?

Growing Leaders ELC believes that children need space to explore. Three of our classrooms will be set up as a regular preschool classroom, with each room having a separate focus area. Children will rotate between the three classrooms and participate in activities based on the curriculum & focus area. 

Classroom Focus Areas

Room 1 – Art & Music

Room 2 – Math & Literacy

Room 3 – Sensory, Science, & Engineering


Prior to a child starting at Growing Leaders ELC, families will meet with the Director to complete the enrollment process, review policies, procedures, and all our program has to offer. We are committed to encouraging positive family involvement with each child’s learning. Our staff is here to ensure that we, Growing Leaders Academy, provides a supportive and unique environment for every child and his/her family.

Your first step is to register your child with the link below and then we will get together to finalize the enrollment process!

Ashley Thomas
Growing Leaders Early Learning Center Director

Register here:

* Access the Preschool Screening Interest Survey here: (English / Spanish)*