BILLINGS - In Billings, at a brand new daycare, it's a lot like a scene from the movie Daddy Day Care, only Mr. Michael's classroom is a lot less chaotic and a lot more organized than Eddie Murphy's.
However, this business is still an outlier in an industry dominated by women.
"The rat is big and hairy and ugly," exclaims Michael Devaney, owner/director at First Things Childcare. "This is RJ's favorite sound. Rrrrrr."
His kids affectionately know him as Mr. Michael, and they enjoy sounding out the basics, like rrr-aaa-ttt, rat with their father-figure daycare provider.
Devaney says First Things Childcare is kind of a retro, old-school childcare place. It's also a rarity. MTN wanted to know just how rare daddy daycares are in Montana, but the state Department of Public Health and Human Services office doesn't track the statistic.
But Devaney believes he's one of just a few Montana men teaching phonics and reading in a daycare setting. Perhaps even more rare, you won't find any TVs or tablets at this daycare.
"I love that they don’t have screen time. It's mind blowing, just the fact that he gets homework sent home daily and with words written out, and he can read things he can see in books. He's reading, he's writing, he just turned five," says Courtney Cottrill, Camden's mom.
While impressive, they're also learning to love the outdoors in true "daddy daycare" style.
"If you want to dig in the dirt, now you can get dirty," says Devany.
"Put that (bug) in my hand," says a young student.
They're not afraid of bugs, in fact, they love learning about yellow jackets, roly-polys, and grasshoppers.
"The day is tailored to just flow, ebb, rise and fall with kids' energy level, and in that kids can think, they can learn to read, they can learn to write, they can learn simple numbers. They can do so much while still being kids," says Devany.
Back in the classroom, while Devany doesn't represent the traditional nurturing image that may come to mind, he certainly has a fan club.
"What will you miss about this place when you go to kindergarten?" the kids were asked.
"So much," says 5-year-old Camden.
"From the time I pick him up, to the time we get home, he just has stories galore of what they did at school. It takes a special person to work with children, it really does. We found our special person. We’re not going anywhere. We absolutely love this place," says Courtney Cottrill, Camden's mom.
Bugs and all. What's not to love?