For a year and a half, staff at the Teddy Bear Preschool have following strict guidelines, in order to be among the top preschools in the nation.
The goal was to earn an NAEYC accreditation.
All that work paid off on Monday, when the staff walked through the doors and were greeted by a glittering banner that congratulated parents, staff and students for being ranked among the top 3 percent of preschools in the nation.
The process was long and labor-intensive, and a set of 12, 5-inch-thick binders sit in the office of Teddy Bear Preschool director Valiena Rosenkrance.
"We had to find 500 pieces of evidence to support all the criteria," Rosenkrance said.
In order to become accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a school has to show that they met all the criteria and pass a site inspection and observations.
"It was like an audit," Rosenkrance said. "We had to prove everything from our high-level curriculum to the fact that our building was radon- and asbestos-free."
The process was time-consuming, Rosenkrance said, but worth it.
"It has brought us so close together as coworkers," she said.
The closest NAEYC accredited preschool is in Farming ton and another in Pagosa Springs.
Rosenkrance said she learned of the honor after returning from a spring break vacation. She kept it secret until Monday morning, when staff and students returned from spring break. She decorated the front of the school to surprise them.
"I could not do this without the community and staff. This took a group effort. You have to have great relationships to do this," Rosenkrance said.
Dolores School District Superintendent Scott Cooper was pleased.
"This will only strengthen the foundation of our district," Cooper said.
He said he was impressed with the sheer volume of work the staff had to do to make the school safe. Staff also had to attend a large amount of training.
"I'm very proud of the Teddy Bear Preschool. They've worked so hard," Cooper said.
To become accredited, the NAEYC looks at 10 standards: relationships, curriculum, teaching, assessment of child progress, health, teachers, families, community relationships, physical environment and leadership/management.