Be The Change – Joan Schreiner, Chico

Susan Roath, Jesse Haidaris (mentee) and Joan Schreiner

When Joan Schreiner, of Chico, registered for college, her goal was to become a pediatric nurse. The many hours of babysitting experience she’d incurred at a young age helped her realize that working with children had to be part of her future.

One summer, in-between semesters, Schreiner found a job working at a preschool. “It was so much fun,” she recalls. It was there that she re-discovered the joy of working with young children one-on-one. She shifted her major from medicine to early childhood education.

The benefits are many, Schreiner says, now having 25 years of experience behind her:  “Children keep you young and they can say the funniest things … I like that everyday is new and different.”

Schreiner worked for the Chico Community Children’s Center and Butte County Head Start before starting her current business. She and Co-owner Susan Roath opened Bidwell Academy for Young Children (ages 2-6) in Chico six years ago ( The Academy building is 4500 square feet, and offers children a wide variety of opportunities for exploration, discoveries, choices and challenges.

When Schreiner proposed the idea of becoming business partners, Roath was managing a large family childcare in her home. But the decision to change directions wasn’t a difficult one. “I only would have done this business with Joanie,” says Roath. “She is a leader and is very organized.”

And even more importantly, Roath adds, “Joanie makes each child feel special and she is dedicated to educating families and giving them support.”

This dedication to education is evident through Schreiner’s participation as event coordinator of the annual Children’s Faire in Chico. She has been involved for over twenty years!

The Faire began under the guidance of the Golden Rivers Association for the Education of Young Children. Schreiner served as the special events coordinator for the board at the time. When the board dissolved, the Faire was destined to expire as well.

The event was picked-up by Head Start, where Schreiner was then working; Head Start sponsored the Faire for a few more years. However, when Schreiner left to begin her own business, the event was not scheduled to continue. “I still wanted to hold the Faire,” she says. So, she wrote a grant and received the funding needed. The Faire has continued to receive sponsorship from the First 5 Butte County Children and Families Commission ever since, thanks to Schreiner’s perseverance.

Local family-related businesses, agencies, child care centers and family child care providers have participated in the Faire for over thirty years. “The Children’s Faire is held to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to support early childhood programs and services that meet those needs,” Schreiner writes in a letter to over forty participating organizations and businesses.

It’s free to the community, and families with children ages newborn to 8 years old are encouraged to attend. Parents and caretakers leave with new information, and children experience a range of fun hands-on activities.

This year’s Faire is scheduled for Saturday, April 28 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the City Plaza in downtown Chico; for more information contact

Sue McGuire, director of Chico Community Children’s Center, has known Schreiner since 1987 and has participated in the Faire for many years. “Joanie is such a kid person and is hardworking,” says McGuire. “The Faire is fun and it allows parents to get ideas for their kids.”

Schreiner’s impact on the community also extends to college students pursuing work in the field of early education. Olivia Ogden currently works as an assistant teacher at Bidwell Academy, but first met Schreiner through the California Early Childhood Mentor Program at Butte College. As a mentee, Ogden valued her time at Bidwell Academy: “It gave me an opportunity to be in an environment where I could interact with the kids and observe,” says Ogden. “Joanie is so natural with the children. She really understands and ‘gets’ them.”

Schreiner feels the opportunity to be a role model and to allow early education students to interact in a learning environment is essential. “Students don’t always know what to expect,” she says. Through support and the freedom to make mistakes, college students learn the real value and importance of early education. “It takes a lot of patience and understanding of young children,” says Schreiner. “But I think this is important work because preschool lays the foundation for the rest of a child’s schooling.”


Kimberly Shaw
About Kimberly Shaw

Kimberly Shaw is a local Northern California author.

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