Local preschool teacher to retire after 43 years as an educator

Aspen Sprouts founder and teacher Cathy Coffey is retiring after 43 years in the business.
JoAnna Coffey/ Courtesy photo

There’s not much that’s more rewarding than watching a kid master their A-B-Cs and 1-2-3s according to local preschool teacher Cathy Coffey. And for the past 43 years, that’s exactly what she has been doing.

Her school, Aspen Sprouts Preschool, has served families up and down the valley by providing early childhood education for kids five days a week, eight hours a day. However, after 43 years in the business, she is ready to retire, and the fate of her preschool is still up in the air.

“It’s so rewarding when a child masters numbers one through ten, when they can write the alphabet, when they can write their names, when they have relationships here that go outside the classroom,” she said. “We have a ski program, and you see (the kids) go from not even being able to put on skis in the first listen to ripping down the mountain by the end of the lessons.”

Coffey moved to the valley in 1980 with a degree in physical education and the goal of getting a teaching job.

“I love children,” she said. “I come from a long line of teachers. It’s kind of in my blood.”

When she couldn’t get a job as a teacher, she started babysitting to make ends meet. One day, one of the families she babysat for asked her if she was interested in starting a daycare to fill the need for childcare in the valley.

“I started off across the street in the ABC at the Crystal building. I took one to three year olds. Right off the bat, I hired two teachers, and we progressed from ages one to five,” she said.

Not long after, she was approached by John McBride about renting a property with a yard right across the street.

“I said great. I moved the staff,” Coffey said. “I did toddler and preschool there for 30 years.”

After 30 years of changing diapers, she decided she wanted to switch from having childcare for toddlers and teaching preschool to just teaching preschool.

The trouble with preschool has always been staff, she said. But, she was fortunate to have two teachers with her for 20 years. Her last teacher commuted from New Castle to be at Aspen Sprouts every day.

“I cater mostly to the working parent. I do have some fortunate ones who don’t work who just want their kids socialized,” she said.

According to Coffey, there are some interested parties that may want to keep the school running and the future will be more clear in a few weeks. By Aug. 31, she hopes to be retire.

“Thank you to all the customers that I’ve had endorsing me. I have so many great memories and am still in contact with so many of my students and families,” she said, adding she is still invited to many of her former students’ high school graduations. “It’s exhausting but so rewarding and fulfilling.”