Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said the victim was opening the Tender Heart Learning Center about 6:40 a.m. when a man who was waiting outside asked to enroll a child.
Cool said the woman felt nervous and texted her mother and husband saying that her instincts told her the man was "creepy."
When the woman let the man inside, he attacked her, Cool said.
She was badly beaten, suffering a concussion and possible a broken jaw.
Another employee arrived to find the victim in a pool of blood and the attacker ran off. The woman was rushed to a hospital and Cool said the her injuries were not life-threatening.
The attacker remains at large. He was described as a black man, about 5 feet 6 inches tall, with a very narrow face and a short afro. Officials said the victim does not know who he is.
Police cordoned off the daycare in the 8200 block of Pacific Avenue while they collected evidence at the scene.