Leap Academy first opened in 2014 in Waunakee, Wisconsin. It was opened by Maria Fitz-Gibbon and her partner, Patrick.

Prior to opening Leap Academy, Maria worked as a Mental Health Practitioner in Minnesota Public Schools. Her focus was on teaching social skills to children who had severe emotional and/or behavioral disabilities.

Maria also holds a strong interest in spreading healthy nutrition to the next generation. This passion developed after personally overcoming a number of physical ailments by utilizing a whole-foods diet. Between her passion for social skills and cooking, Maria decided to open a childcare center - a place that was loving and caring where she would be proud to bring her own future children to get a high-quality, well-rounded early childhood experience. Maria loves working with children and families. Out of many career paths, it is the one she finds the most challenging, rewarding and the most important.

Maria Leap Academy owner family pictureWhen Maria and Patrick became parents for the first time in 2016, they realized the enormous pressures that parents face in just dealing with the daily tasks of life. Because of these pressures, Leap Academy focuses on meetings families where they are, and providing as much support as possible. One part of this support is the 90 hours of family outreach that Leap Academy provides each year.

In late 2018, Maria and Patrick had the opportunity to expand Leap Academy by way of acquiring a child care center in nearby Madison, Wisconsin. By February of 2019, Leap Academy officially expanded to two centers; one in Waunakee and one on the East side of Madison.


After almost five years in the industry, Leap Academy’s philosophy has also shifted to include a strong focus on the development of teachers and staff. In addition to typical leadership staff, Leap Academy employs a full-time Curriculum Director, whose sole purpose is to support the development of teaching and curriculum in our classrooms. There are three people on staff who have been trained in managing challenging behaviors. We offer a comprehensive benefits package to our staff, and because of this, we boast a low turnover rate in our Lead Teaching staff.

Our goal for each child in our center is to feel safe, welcomed, and nurtured. Our goal for each family is to feel joined in the journey of child-rearing. We strive to have each child leave our program excited to learn and explore the world around him or her by providing high-quality early-childhood education in a safe, clean, and nurturing environment.

We believe that learning occurs best when opportunities are created in natural and authentic, play-based contexts. Our team at Leap Academy works hard to continue cultivating a program in our center that enhances whole-child development. We are proud of what we do at Leap Academy and we are excited to invite you on this journey with us.



Our teachers set up carefully designed environments and activities to aide your child in free and guided play each week. These activities and environments follow nationally recognized guides and standards for early childhood education, such as the Early Childhood Environmental Rating Scale, Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards, and Focused Portfolios.Teachers use guided play activities and open ended questioning to meet your child where he or she is at and scaffold his or her learning. Your child’s development will be tracked using a portfolio. Weekly lesson plans include activities that are designed specifically for your child’s developmental goals.


"My son has been going to Leap Academy for three years and we absolutely love the facility! They work above and beyond to make sure your child is given the care they deserve and that you as a parent know what is going on day in and day out. The staff is friendly and the amount of knowledge my son has gained in these years is exceptional. I am due with my second child in a few weeks and she will also be attending Leap Academy."

- Laura K., Parent

"We were so fortunate to find Leap Academy and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a safe, clean, caring and child-focused daycare and school. From the very first day I met the Director and teachers...I knew we found a daycare we could trust. The teachers have a true passion for their careers and are invested in every child. They are excellent at communication which is so important! We get weekly lesson plans, as well as daily notes on his meals, naps, diapers and his favorite activity. Their meals are nutritious, thoughtfully planned and my son frequently asks for seconds!."

- Sarah N.., Parent

"Leap Academy is a wonderful daycare/Pre-K provider!  Staff are engaging and welcoming, the nutrition program is unmatched, and overall, it is an amazing place for little ones to spend their days.  Highly recommend!"

Jaci V., Parent

"Our daughter loves going to Leap for 4K.  Ms Jes and Ms Kayla are awesome. They are very enthusiastic and full of energy.  We love the activities they have at night for parents to come and watch the kids do fun things."

Chris M., Parent

"My children started with Leap Academy shortly after Maria and her team took over several years ago; we have not regretted our choice for a minute!  From the nutritious food to the exemplary 4k program to the caring, long term teachers, I cannot recommend Leap Academy enough."

Katherine M., Parent

"Maria and her staff are amazing.  Their ability to work with each child individually is unparalleled.  Having utilized several other centers in the area, we feel there is no better place for our kiddos."

Matt K., Parent

"The culture that had been built at Leap is one of holistic development and open arms. Teachers spend so much time getting to know each of the kids individually and understand their personalities, talents, and needs. The teachers' connections with the kids allow them to create lessons and activities that really contribute to their intellectual development and social preparation for school. Additionally, the meals served to the kids are consistently healthy and delicious- the full-time kitchen staff takes it upon themselves to provide nutritious food for the kids, while frequently mixing in variety and new meals. Leap's approach of developing and uplifting children mind, body, and heart is extremely effective, and something I have not experienced at any other school or childcare center I have ever been to."

Tristan W., Parent

"Couldn't be happier with Leap Academy.   All of the teachers are extremely nice and take great care of our children. Ms Jes & Ms Kayla do a tremendous job with the 4K program."

Shauna S., Parent

"Our son loves his teachers and the healthy food the school provides. This is a great school!"

Kimberly H., Parent

"My child is in the Afternoon 4k class with Ms. Kayla and Mrs. Jess. These teachers have helped my child grow so much this last 6 months.  I plan on sending her sister to the same 4k program at Leap next year."

Meta L., Parent