Growing up in Spring, Lori Aungst always knew she wanted to be a teacher.
"For as long as I can remember , we played school," said Aungst. “Mom was a teacher and so we always role played as teachers with my sister while growing up. Once I was old enough, said Aungst, I got to go to the elementary school where my mom taught. I definitely knew I was going to be a school teacher."
Aungst explained that when she attended Spring High School she also worked in a day care and continued to work in a day care facility at Sam Houston State University while earning her teaching degree. However it was teaching she loved and wanted for a career.
"I became a school teacher right after graduating and taught first grade at the Humble Elementary School," she said and explained that she had been a student-teacher at Humble while earning her degree at Sam Houston State. She wanted to return to Humble but when she graduated, no position were available so she taught first grade for two years at Aldine ISD's Thompson Elementary School until a position became available at Humble elementary.
"I loved every minute of it," she said about the whole teaching experience.
While at Sam Houston State, she met Aaron Aungst, a student from Indiana. They were married in Humble and settled there following college. He worked at Continental Airlines (now United Airlines) and still does. They have three children, Andrew, a senior at Atascocita High School, Ashley, a freshman and A.J., a 5thgrade student.
It was the birth of her first child that motivated Aungst to leave teaching and try starting her own day care and learning facility.
"I was teaching in Humble Elementary when I had my first son," she said and explained Andrew was born in the summer and when she went back to school in the fall it did not work out.
"I was miserable leaving him at a day care. I had some day-care experience and I just thought, I wonder what it would be like and I started talking about it," she said.
Her family, including her parents and grandparents, all supported the idea and they began planning.
"We rented a spot up on FM 1960 and I figured we would open in time for the summer and I could get my feet wet and see how it is. If it didn't work, I thought, I could always go back to teaching."
Kids Playce Learning Center and day care opened, not in early summer, but in August 1999, just in time for the coming school year.
Aungst got her feet wet in a hurry and has never looked back. In 15 years Kids Playce has grown from small rented rooms in an Atascocita strip shopping center into the custom-designed 7,000-square foot facility on Will Clayton Parkway that opened in 2008. Today Kids Playce can accommodate around 220 children on a daily basis. It is a day care center for preschool children and serves as an after school learning center and day care for elementary children. It includes a fully staffed cafeteria, 15 classrooms, a library and a gym. It has its own pickup service to get the kids to and from their schools.
Aungst looks back on it all now and says all the hard work has been worth it.
"I love it. I love being with my kids. I love seeing the moms and dads when they drop their kids off because they trust us," she said with pride in her voice.
Aungst is also involved with community activities. She is a member of the Lake Houston Chamber of Commerce, the Atascocita High School BizCom and the Atascocita Middle School Booster Club. When not working at running Kids Playce, Aungst is deeply involved in the sports of her children which include baseball and basketball for the boys and tennis for Ashley. To relax, Aungst likes to get on a float and just sit in the middle of their backyard pool. When she dines out she says Mexican food, particularly Pappasitos, is a favorite.
The most influential people in Aungst's life are her mother, father and her family in general. Aungst explained that her mother was her teacher and role model growing up. Her father, husband and family are her sources of strength and support and have made it possible for her to succeed.
As for the future, Aungst is not planning to make major changes or expand Kids Playce.
"I have a senior and freshman in high school and another headed soon to middle school," she said and explained that is her priority for now. She added that in the future they might consider a small expansion in the present facility but not now.
That attitude of family priorities and loving leadership is what has made Kids Playce the success that it is and Aungst, the leader, makes it all happen.
Cutline: Lori Aungst loves children, teaching and the satisfaction of the success the blending of her passion has yielded. Photo by Bruce Olson