Our Story

When St. Rose School closed its doors at the end of the 2013 school year the
community felt a loss and Shelly Vanneste, a Prekindergarten teacher at St. Rose at the time, saw a need. “Families and community members kept coming to me and asking me to please do something to keep a program that was so desperately needed in Proctor going.” It didn’t take much to convince Shelly, just a lot of work and with the support of family, friends, and our great community she realized her dream when Mesabi Preschool Academy LLC opened in September 2013.


Fast forward seven years, not much has changed regarding Shelly’s goals for Mesabi Preschool Academy. When she opened her doors, her plan was to be sure children felt safe and secure by creating a positive, caring and nurturing environment. Her program emphasis was and still is on the classroom experience for the child and
the parent’s involvement in their child’s education. She wanted to ensure children had opportunities to build their self-esteem in a classroom atmosphere based on tolerance, kindness and sensitivity while building a solid foundation for a lifetime of successful learning. If the growth of her program is any indicator, we’d say she is succeeding!


At the start of her third school year, Shelly hired two Assistant Teachers and expanded from 10 to 15 children. Two years later she acquired another two rooms at St. Rose and added a Toddler Room (licensed capacity of 14) and an After School Program for school-age children (licensed capacity of 22). Then, in the fall of 2019, she added a Preschool room (licensed capacity of 14). The Proctor location now features four classrooms and 12 phenomenal staff members.


Not only has enrollment quadrupled over the last five years, so has Shelly’s staff. “Everything is always falling into place and it has just felt right to take my business to the next level and to be able to offer more to the families living in the area,” Shelly said.

Presently, she is working towards her dream of expanding into a new location in downtown Duluth in an effort to provide high-quality services in a childcare crisis. The new location will house 54 children, Infants (licensed capacity of 6), Toddlers (licensed capacity of 24), and Preschool/PreK (licensed capacity of 24). 

Mission Statement

In partnership with parents and the community, Mesabi Preschool Academy LLC will create a foundation for a lifetime of learning that promotes independence, creativity, curiosity and problem solving. Mesabi Preschool Academy LLC will nurture students while continuing to provide age appropriate experiences, helping them reach their maximum potential.


In our school, children will be made to feel safe and secure. The atmosphere will be a positive, caring and nurturing environment. Children will have many opportunities to build their self-esteem and self-concept. As educators, we feel building a classroom atmosphere based on tolerance, kindness and sensitivity to the needs of all children, will foster positive self-esteem among the children.


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