A small private school based on small classroom sizes and building character is growing in Ahwatukee Foothills.

Magical Journey Learning Center (MJLC) just opened the doors to its facility, which is four times the size of the space they were in last year and will allow them to double their enrollment with a new class for 3 year olds and for first grade. They also plan to offer before- and after-school care in the new facility.

“It’s so exciting,” said Julie Fischer, co-owner of the school. “We’re so thrilled… It’s so fun to see that dream come true.”

Fischer and her business partner, Michelle Willis, first opened MJLC in 2012. Both are former Kyrene teachers who dreamed of teaching with a smaller class size. They opened with two classes, a preschool class taught by Willis and a kindergarten class taught by Fischer.

In February the building at 1241 E. Chandler Blvd., which housed the Early Language Learning and Arts Studio in the past, became available and Fischer and Willis decided it was time to expand.

“I know Julie and Michelle personally from working with them in Kyrene and I really respect them as teachers and great people,” said Amanda McDaniel, who will teach the 3-year-old class this year. “When I heard they were expanding I had my hand raised.

I love working with this age group. They’re so full of fun. It’s a play-based curriculum so they’re going to learn through play and social skills, and I love watching them grow and become more independent.”

In the last building the classes were both in one large room, separated by some shelves and supplies. In the new building each class has their own classroom full of supplies and toys that are specific for that age.

“I love it,” said Jennifer Brockman, who has two daughters who will be attending MJLC.

“This is the best program. I feel like they have that smaller class size and I love this home feeling. The teachers are wonderful and the attention they give to the kids is great. Outside the normal, the community involvement the kids do is amazing. They do so much more than just reading and writing. They’re learning all of that, but they’re also doing community service projects and different things they wouldn’t have time to do in normal schools.”

Students at MJLC help with service projects throughout the year and have a service lesson just like they have art or music. Brandon Buck said it’s the extra activities that attracted his family to the school. He has a daughter enrolled in the program.

“It’s not just the way they’re able to read at such a young age, which she can in a preschool class, but they talk about character and ripple effects and being a good person, and that part really amazes me,” he said. “They go above and beyond.”

Fischer said the school already has several classes full with waiting lists, but they have some openings in their kindergarten class. For more information, visit www.magicaljourneylc.org or call 480-699-MJLC.

• Contact writer: 480-898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com.

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