Creative Kids moulding young minds
Taking up the challenge to teach children is an awesome one, and not one Haedi-Kaye Holmes, founder of Creative Kids Learning Academy (CKLA), takes lightly.
Holmes attended Sts Peter and Paul Prep then Immaculate Conception High before doing tertiary studies at the University of Western Ontario. It was while there she decided on her current path.
"I did psychology and I decided I wanted to do something with children," she said. "Most of my courses were geared towards children. When I came back to Jamaica, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, so I started an aftercare programme."
Creative Kids was born in 2000 with five students at the current Windsor Avenue location. Eventually, persons suggested she expand.
"When I decided to do the kindergarten, that was challenging because no one knew who I was. No one knew about Creative Kids," she said. "In Jamaica, word of mouth is the best advertisement, so what happened eventually was the five became 10, 10 became 20, and so on."
Further encouraged, she started offering classes up to kindergarten five (five-year-olds), but parents asked for more.
"They said, 'Why don't you have a grade one'?" she said. "And then it moved to grade two, and that led to where we are today - at grade six."
Brick by brick, Creative Kids has expanded through fundraising and the hard work of the parent-teacher Association. CKLA uses a combination of the American A Beka System of teaching/learning. This is complemented with extra-curricular activities from chess and violin to taekwondo and football. There are about 150 students, taught by 27 full-and part-time staff. There are specialist teachers for areas such as music and art.
"It's a lot, but you can't skimp on quality. The quality that you have cannot be watered down," she said. Because of that, Holmes has been meticulous to find the right blend of staff to maintain the home-away-from-home environment. She believes every child deserves a chance to learn.
"But what you find is that there are those children, the underdogs, and they are always the ones who get left behind," she said. "Sometimes the students who are the quiet ones are actually the ones who come out on top, if you give them the opportunity to excel."
Creative Kids goes for 15 to 16 students per class. To further ensure students have the right foundation, CKLA uses two teachers per class up to grade one.
"I spend time in the classroom, so I will walk around and check, and when you look at it, there is no way you can give that solid foundation if you don't have two teachers working with the students," said Holmes, who teaches at grade six. "Even with 15, as small as the group is, someone could get left behind."
The successes are showing. CKLA has 100 per cent passes in multiple sittings of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and have produced a government scholarship winner. Even without a swimming pool of its own, three swim team members have represented Jamaica. Students consistently top the Royal Academy of Dance Ballet Examinations and the choir has garnered medals at the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission festivals. Now a known entity, it wasn't easy at first to convince parents.
"Jamaicans are very traditional," Holmes said. "And we didn't have GSAT history. So why would you move your child from somewhere that has a track record to somewhere that has none? That was the challenge." By about 2006, even still without a grade six, people started to believe.
"Just from being here, they knew the education was solid, so we would be successful," she said. "It's about faith. A lot of them (parents) had faith in me and what I was doing, and that's really what has carried us this far."
Holmes ensures the communication between parents and teachers remains constant, even having 'Coffee with the Principal' sessions regularly.
Concerned the youth of today are not knowledgeable about the real world, CKLA offers integrated studies, including religious education.
"It is a Christian curriculum, but what we are trying to do is set a foundation of morality, just to teach them what is right and what is wrong, how to treat your neighbour and so on," said Holmes. "We're not trying to indoctrinate anybody. We're just trying to bring them up to make the right choices."
She noted some children come from non-Christian homes, and if parents are unwilling to have them take part in devotion, those wishes are respected.
Holmes is constantly urged to add a high school, but she declines.
"I believe in the product and I strongly believe that if I were to expand, that it would not be Creative Kids anymore," she said. "Somewhere along the line, the product is going to get watered down."
The school's motto is 'Building brighter futures', and Holmes believes Creative Kids' future is looking great.
"If you persevere and keep pushing on, and if you love what you do, and you put everything into what you do, you will be successful," said Holmes. "My hope for the future is to be better, and to improve the standard, because you can always be better."