When Aaron Nelson graduated from North Dakota State University, he planned to go into the field of education. But he never imagined his path would lead him to the very tiniest learners in Woodbury. “My initial vision was teaching high school students and coaching athletics,” says Nelson. “It wasn’t until working in an early childhood education setting that I found my passion for the youngest level of learning.”
After more than a decade with Stepping Stones Early Learning Center—first as a lead school-age teacher, then in various leadership roles—Nelson became the new owner of the company in January. “When I was presented with such a wonderful opportunity, I didn’t think twice,” he says. His priority is “to continue providing a safe, caring and exciting learning environment for all early-childhood age groups” at the popular Woodbury center (there’s also a Stepping Stones location in Blaine), which offers programming for infants through preschool, plus after- and before-school programs for elementary-aged kiddos.
Nelson says his favorite part of his job is—what else?—the kids. “The high fives and smiles I get, from both the kiddos and their parents. Developing long-lasting bonds with families within this community has been amazing,” he says. Stepping Stones takes a whole-child approach, which includes a STEAM preschool classroom, yoga, Spanish, American Sign Language, music, meals from on-site chefs and other initiatives.
And Nelson doesn’t just talk the talk—he’s a Woodbury resident himself, along with his wife Jessica, kids Noah (10), Lola (6) and Liam (2), and their boxer Dexter. “We love everything about the amazing city and surrounding communities,” he says.