“It’s been that way for a long time,” Lopez said. “I think it’s just because I’m local, and I’ve been doing it so many years.”
Lopez moved to Moab with her family when she was 5 years old. In high school she was active in softball and gymnastics. And after graduation from Grand County High she headed to College of Eastern Utah in Price on a sports scholarship.
It was during a trip back to Moab for a fast-pitch softball tournament that Lopez met her husband, Rick, who was also playing in the tournament.
“I saw him over talking to my mom,” she said. “I went over to talk to him.”
Lopez said they weren’t able to talk for long before she had to play in an upcoming game.
When she saw Rick again at a gas station that night, Lopez said she wasn’t shy.
“I asked him if he wanted to go riding around,” she said. “He was really shy. I wasn’t.”
The couple got married a few years later, and when Lopez returned to Moab, she opened a daycare center for kids. However, navigating the bureaucratic regulations governing daycare centers quickly became overwhelming.
“There was so much government [involvement] telling what to do and what not to do,” she said.
On top of that, Lopez said she was regularly providing clothes and diapers for children she took care of because their parents either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide them.
“It was to the point where I was feeding and bathing kids, washing their clothes and doing their hair,” she said. “Their parents just didn’t have a clue.”
Lopez stopped providing daycare services and took a job with the school district working as a teacher’s aide for deaf and/or blind students.
“My job was to help integrate hearing impaired children into the general population in kindergarten,” Lopez said.
She said her time in the kindergarten classrooms made her realize that a large number of incoming kindergarteners weren’t prepared for school. So she eventually decided to open her preschool.
Getting the preschool going wasn’t easy.
“There was a lot of red tape,” she said.
Since she was planning to teach in her home, she had to get a business license, and then go through zoning regulations and inspections.
“I had to go through the neighborhood and let them know what I was planning,” she said.
Twenty-six years later, Lopez still loves what she does.
“It’s amazing. I keep track of the kids,” she said. “It’s so much fun to have this 6-foot-4 guy come running up to me in the grocery store and give me a hug.”
Lopez said the rise of social media has helped her to follow her former students lives even more.
“I cheer their success, and I cry with their disappointments,” she said.
Many of the students who came to Lopez when she first opened her preschool have sent their own kids to her for classes.
“It makes me feel like I’ve really made a difference, if they’re willing to send their kids to me after they came here,” she said.
Lopez and her husband have five children and two grandchildren. She said that her doors will stay open to local kids until she finds a day where she doesn’t love doing her job anymore.
“It’s more like a hobby than a job,” she said. “I still love it, so I’ll keep doing it.”