From single mom to soul provider.
Lori Fascilla is a committed hugger. No one-arm wraps or gratuitous back pats. She goes all in with both arms, holds tight and spends serious time. “I like huggers that hold on for a while,” says Lori Fascilla, Giraffe Laugh Early Learning Center executive director. “People who give a real hug.”
Fascilla’s job gives her a lot of hug time with children. She’s in charge of four Giraffe Laugh Early Learning Centers (giraffelaugh.org) in the Boise, Idaho, area. She oversees four-dozen employees who spend their workday chasing hundreds of pre-K kids and helping the parents of those early learners.
"I always had a passion for education . . . I’m just wired that way. I probably would have ended up in a public school if I hadn’t ended up a single parent."
Fascilla always knew she would teach. While growing up, her friends wanted to play house, but Fascilla only wanted to play school.
“I always had a passion for education,” she says. “I’m just wired that way. I probably would have ended up in a public school if I hadn’t ended up a single parent.”
Fascilla wanted to become a teacher after her son was born 32 years ago. She liked the summers-off concept education offered but needed day care when school was in session. However, she quickly found out she couldn’t afford day care as a single parent unless she worked at the same center her son attended.
“I realized our community was really lacking for care of single-parent kids,” she says. “I wanted good child care for my son, but it was very expensive.”
Eventually Fascilla and her husband reconciled and added two more daughters to their family, but Fascilla continued working in the day care field.
“I wanted to be part of solving problems at public schools by reaching kids before they get to school,” she says. “We ensure equal readiness. We know the work we are doing is changing lives in our community day after day.”
She’s learned the value of early learning in her three decades of working with young children. Her centers see some babies as new as 10 days old and her staff is in charge of helping those babies develop in a handful of years so they are ready to go to kindergarten. That kind of support is something her family didn’t have access to when she was young. Her mom, a widow, supported five children on her own.
“My mom struggled, and I had empathy, but I didn’t really understand that struggle until I was in that situation,” Fascilla says.
Now Fascilla knows taking care of other people’s children requires more than nurturing just the young. Parents, many who are single or low-income, need her attention also. When students enroll at Giraffe Laugh, Fascilla makes sure the experience is a shared family process.
“We all want the same things,” she says. “For children, it’s love, understanding and patience. For parents, it’s support, respect and a hug. That’s something all parents need on occasion. Someone that will embrace them in all ways.”