Woodbury woman named county's top day care provider
Cheryl Bennerotte never had a formal job in high school.
"I babysat and babysat and babysat," the Woodbury woman recalled.
The experience turned out to be a perfect training ground, however, for what would later become Bennerotte's career as a child care provider.
"This kind of came natural to me," she said.
More than 30 years after opening up her home to children, Bennerotte was rewarded with distinction of being named Washington County's Provider of the Year. She was one of two people to receive the award June 12 at the Washington County Board meeting. Hugo resident Kathy Wenzel was the other recipient.
Bennerotte was nominated by Melissa Kennedy, a woman who Bennerotte cared for as a child. Now with a child of her own, Kennedy said she knew just where to turn for day care.
"Naturally, I wanted my daughter to have the same standard of care that I was given growing up," Kennedy wrote in her nomination letter. "She has been in Cheryl's day care since she was six months old and if Cheryl wouldn't have had an opening, I would have rather stayed home than send her somewhere else."
Bennerrotte is in her 31st year as a child care provider. She runs Cheryl's Cheerful Children out of her home.
Her children's book library is a testament to her longevity in the field: among those on the shelves are more than 300 Berenstein Bears books.
She began in September 1980 thinking she would only do it until her daughter entered first grade.
"I didn't think I'd be doing it for this long," Bennerotte said.
Though she said she toys with the idea of retiring from time to time, she just can't bring herself to do it yet. And with a current parent pregnant with a child due next spring, Bennerotte said she's happy to know she'll be a provider for at least another five years.
Bennerotte cares for children from infant stage through kindergarten. They leave her care as they go into first grade, but Kennedy said she was among the children who never really parted ways with Bennerotte.
"My brother and I continued to go to 'help' Cheryl in the summers even after we had reached the age that we no longer needed day care," she wrote. "We loved it there so much that we continued to want to be a part of Cheryl's day care. She still has children that do that to this day."
Bennerotte's services include a preschool component that she added in the late 1980s. But after becoming displeased with a preschool subscription kit to which she had subscribed, she decided to create her own curriculum.
She stays on top of preschool learning methods through training and attends periodic kindergarten readiness classes to be sure she knows what children should be prepared for on Day 1 of first grade.
Bennerotte said she continues to enjoy the job - especially being around children. Establishing good relationships with parents over the years has been the key, she said.
"I've got a really good networking group of parents that have really put my name out there," she said. "That's the ultimate in that they trust you."