Southwest Philly native uses the arts to start her own schools | Lifestyle

A Philadelphia native is using her passion for the arts to give children the academic spark they need to flourish in and outside of the classroom.

Tiffany Ford, also known as “The Childcare Guru,” is the owner of the Little Leaders Learning Academy, co-owner of Stages Community School and the founder of Leaders and Legends Performing Arts Academy, which teaches students jazz, tap, ballet, modern dance, drama, karate and vocal classes.

Through her businesses, Ford offers parents and students various resources that will set them up for success. She has worked in the fields of childcare and education for over 15 years.

“The biggest issue with early learning is how many people think it’s an option, not a necessity,” Ford said. “They think that teaching children self-regulation skills is an option, but children need that even before entering school.

“My goal is to make sure that parents who have children in early educational settings, understand that their involvement is key to ensuring the success of students,” she said.

“I specifically wanted to focus on the inner-city population because there is a large need for resources within that demographic and I wanted to be the person to provide them with that information,” Ford added.

Ford’s childcare facilities follow Pennsylvania’s Learning Standards for Early Childhood, a research-based curriculum that utilizes assessment, instruction and intervention within early care and education programs.

“We have a state-qualified curriculum that allows us to pull from the Pennsylvania Learning Standards, which are all the things children need to know in order to be successful in kindergarten,” Ford said.

“We’re able to assess the children using state qualified assessments,” she added. “We make sure that we have our parent conferences and we also make sure the parent engagement is there. All of this helps parents get involved with their children from an early age so that they can stay with their child throughout their educational career.”

As a child, Ford developed an interest in the performing arts and started dancing at the age of three. Her passion for the arts led her to opening her own childcare and performing arts centers, beginning in 2009.

“I danced all the way up until adulthood,” Ford said. “I actually attended Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.

“For me, dance was my outlet,” she added. “It was a way for me to express myself and my way of releasing when things weren’t going well. I just felt that the students that I was working with needed that same outlet.”

Ford’s schools offer non-traditional learning programs, and what is referred to as a “creative curriculum,” to keep the youth excited and engaged about learning.

Students who are in the Stages Community School and Leaders and Legends Performing Arts Academy have an age range of six weeks to 13-years-old.

“I’m very connected with arts instructors, directors and teachers, so I hired the most qualified people to teach our students,” Ford said. “The children are in classes the whole year.

“In the middle of the year we do our mid-year production, but at the end of the year we bring all the programs together and do a big musical,” she said.

“In the past, we’ve done “Cinderella,” “The Lion King” and “The Wiz,” Ford added. “This year’s musical will be an original production. We’re going to be addressing the impact that COVID had on our children specifically.”

Ford, 37, is a native of Southwest Philadelphia and attended Philadelphia public schools. She worked in social services before becoming an entrepreneur.

She is an alumna of West Chester University and a vendor of PHLpreK, the free quality Pre-K program launched by the Philadelphia Mayor’s office of Education.

“For our infant and toddler program, anyone can enroll,” Ford said. “However, our preschool program is affiliated with the Philadelphia Pre-K program.

“For that, you must be a resident of Philadelphia and prove that you’re a resident,” she added. “Kids have to be at least three years of age by the time September 1 comes and we can admit them into preschool.”

Ford also uses her time to help other entrepreneurs in education to launch their own childcare centers and schools.

“I’m meeting with clients on a daily basis helping them create their business plans,” Ford said. “I help them identify their five and ten year goals and from there we create a plan for how to accomplish that.

“The biggest advice that I give people who want to enter the childcare industry is make sure you have a passion for children because if you don’t this is not the field for you,” she said.

“The most successful childcare facilities are the ones where management has a passion for children and people,” Ford added.






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