This article is an excerpt from Voyage Dallas Magazine
When you first meet Jan Van Blarcum, you can tell she is a passionate person. Her petite frame hides a woman that is over-flowing with energy, enthusiasm, and a passion for her students. She easily flows from talking about her family to talking about building codes to discussing the challenges of teaching a dyslexic student. You quickly realize that there is no problem this woman couldn’t fix given enough time and resources.
Her office is a living thing, overflowing with books on education, college preparation and classical literature. A giant mural of Shakespeare looms behind you as you sit in two well worn chairs and yet the space is cozy, and you feel as if you could sit in this room for hours and talk. And so we did.
Tell us about what inspired you to start The Einstein School?
In 1999, I opened Creative Learning 4 Kids, a 501 C3 local non-profit public charity. In the beginning, we offered in-home tutoring, access to professional educators for home school students, as well as in-home classes. The families we supported, and just about anyone I knew, would say to me, “Why not open your own school?” and at the time I thought they were crazy.
The turning point for me was a bullying situation involving my youngest daughter. At the time, she was attending a small private school in the area. I went to the school administrators to ask them to work with me on how to help educate the students on what bullying was, and that we needed to work together to help the school staff and student body understand why it is important to create a quality community and school culture. The school administrator turned a deaf ear to me and said that they would not work together for such an awareness program. I was shocked! Shortly after we decided to remove my daughter from the school and to listen to all of those pleading for me to open my own school.
I wanted to open a school that provided a safe environment, where children had a voice and are heard, that my daughter and others would be able to obtain a great education, and where healthy friendships could be developed. I wanted a school that would be totally different, where kids could blossom and meet their potential, and thrive because the environment we would create would be on that kids would love to learn again.
So in some ways I’m grateful for that bullying experience because it changed the life of both my daughter and myself. The Einstein School focuses on child learning and achieving and each student reaching their highest ability. Our students graduate from high school and attend top performing universities and colleges across the nation.
Tell us more about The Einstein School
The Einstein School is a small private school providing college-preparatory education to students 5th grade through 12th. The Einstein School is a not-for-profit that operates entirely from tuition. Although we are science and math (STEM) focused school, we also offer theater, arts and music, and consistently engage in asking questions and learning the “Why” and “How” the world works around them. College bound students collaborate in a safe and bully-free community as they prepare for their adult lives and college experiences. Tuition is reasonably priced and The Einstein School has a commitment to affordable education. Our school tag line is “The Einstein School: Where Curiosity Survives a Formal Education.”
We also provide advanced curriculum opportunities for our gifted students, and support services for dyslexia students by offering the “Take Flight” program in house. We offer Interactive Metronome Therapy and provide Irlen Syndorme vision screenings on site to students who demonstrate a possible need. We remain strongly committed to the small classroom sizes with an 8-to-1 student/teacher ratio.
Starting a school seems like a daunting task, what have been some of the challenges you have faced?
Running a business will always have its challenges. The Einstein School is no different. Our challenge has been rapid growth. We were understaffed in the beginning making long work hours for administrative staff. Because we are a student focused program sometimes we forget to focus on leadership and administrative support. Recently, with the guidance of our business coach, we added more administrative people to our team and this will help the school to run more smoothly day-to-day. Students and their education always comes first. We are constantly working to improve our procedures and maintain a reasonable tuition rate, therefore causing us to, periodically, work longer hours due to small administrative staff numbers.
How do you think your childhood influences drove you to start your own school?
As the child of a military officer, whose job moved us around the world, I was fortunate to live in Central and South America most of my life. I was immersed in the language and environment where I lived and learned to speak Spanish. Because I had the opportunity to live overseas, I found a life full of adventure and culture stimulation. Early in life I learned that our global society was not as large as many people believe. This has turned me into a creative, energetic person who likes to think outside of the box and be a creative problem solver.