Leap 'N Learn business perk number one — the opportunity to work with some of the best children dance educators and studios in the world! We can't tell you how many wonderful individuals we've collaborated with through sharing the common interest of wanting to provide the best dance experience possible to young children. So we've decided, why keep all this greatness to ourselves, when we can share with you — or better yet, they can!
This passion for not just teaching dance, but teaching it in the best way possible (oh and not to mention, all the other great benefits!) has brought together the crème de la crème of dance studios. Our network of studio owners share common attributes — business-savvy, talented, smart, motivated, just to name a few. So without further ado, we're proud to introduce our first featured Leap 'N Learn studio...
A Quick Introduction: The Tamara Howe School of Dance provides professional, quality dance instruction for children, young adults, and adults. A variety of classes are offered to meet each dancers needs. We take great pride in our training techniques and educationally based programs. It is our objective to inspire passion for the art of dance in every child who passes through our doors. Participation at Tamara Howe School of Dance goes far beyond mastering steps, learning dances, and winning awards. It encompasses much more including building self-esteem, encouraging team work, developing self-discipline, musicality, self-expression, and appreciation for the language, art, and history of dance. Our goal is to create memories for you and your dancer and to help your dancer reach their greatest potential with confidence in whatever path in life they may choose.
- We’ve seen the success you have in your dance studio — fantastic work as that is not a small accomplishment! Tell us how did you get to where you are today professionally and what major stepping stones helped you along the way.
I, like many studio owners, grew up dancing at my local dance studio. I began with a tap class at the age of five. My mom needed a something to focus my energy as I spent most days just dancing around my house. Through my elementary and junior high ages, I tried various classes, quit a few years here and there, but really fell in love again with dance at the end of junior high. I continued through high school taking every class I could and assisting classes. I continued my love of dance while in college and majored with a BFA in Dance and Kinesiology and Health Promotion.
After moving to a new town, I wanted to teach again and found a few wonderful studios in which to share my love of learning with others. Upon the closing of one studio, I was asked by the studio director if I would open my own studio so her students could continue. Having always been a part of a studio, I wanted to expand upon that and open a place of my own. We have now been open for seven years and have really enjoyed this opportunity. Teacher workshops, business events, and continued support have really been catalysts to our continued growth.
There are so many things that time and experience teach us, and we wish we could’ve learned some of these things earlier. What is the most valuable piece of advice you could share with someone starting off in a similar career?
Be okay with not having everything right at the beginning. Businesses are built one brick at a time. We started small with our business and have added as we’ve been able. I wanted to offer quality over quantity and have worked hard to ensure that we are able to continue with that goal in mind. Know also that it is okay to ask for help. Go, learn, explore… do all the things we ask our dancers to do. Take time to take a few business classes, and again, ask for help. There is so much valuable input at any level that we can all give to one another. In this business, you can often feel isolated. It’s important to reach out as many others encounter the same situations the we do in our own businesses and have great feedback.
Congrats — you are among the first of the licensed Leap ‘N Learn studios! When did you first learn about Leap ‘N Learn or start using it? Why and how did you get involved with our dance program? Finally, why did you decide to become a licensed studio?
We began with Leap 'N Learn from the beginning. In looking for a syllabus that would assist me in planning, I came across the Leap 'N Learn website. I ordered the syllabus and saw an immediate response from my students. For seven years now, we have continued through the curriculum and have utilized all of the materials that have been offered. Having seen our studios for the past five plus years grow with this program, you can see the growth through the levels. There is still so much that I would like to do with it in our school. I decided to continue with the licensing process as this information is so rich. The syllabus makes my day easier, gives continuity to all of our classes, gives my teachers confidence and allows us to all be on the same page. Beverly has done a fantastic job of building this program, and I’ve been so excited to be a part of learning and growing as a teacher.
What have been the most noticeable changes in your dance studio since applying Leap ‘N Learn to what you do?
There are no questions as to what to follow. Each year as we continue our syllabus, the teachers grow in their confidence with the material. My students know what to expect in the classes. There is structure to what we do and a reason to why we do it. We had always had structure, but the level of the material has allowed us to reach further with what we are doing not only for our older students but also for our youngest students.
What types of responses have you received about Leap ‘N Learn from your dance teachers, students, or parents?
Our parents love that they can talk with their students after class about what they have learned with the coloring pages. They appreciate the vocabulary learned at such a young age. I have three-year-olds that can describe a word, what it means, and show the action correctly. The students love creative movement. They remember from year-to-year the activities and ask for them by name. There is nothing more precious than free movement from a child. My teachers appreciate the in-depth explanation of movements. They feel confident about what they are teaching and how it is supposed to be done. It takes so much guessing work out of the schedule for them. They notice how quickly students “pick-up” choreography as they’ve had all the building blocks through the class work to put it all together.
How do you go about adding your own ideas and fitting your studio needs into the Leap ‘N Learn curriculum and lesson plans — or vice-versa, how do you apply Leap ‘N Learn to what you already do?
Our class times are not as long as recommended for our younger students. We often have to adapt exercises to fit within our time frame. We also combine ages five and six and have worked to combine exercises for that level. I have always had to do this so it is not a huge adjustment. I find also with some of our recreational or late-start students, I have to move an age level down. The material is so guided that it is easy to switch a level if needed and students typically quickly pick up.
In our opinion, there is no better place to work than in the dance world, but often times the hard work required to keep a studio running smoothly stays hidden behind the scenes. What do you find most challenging; how do you best handle such challenges?
With every season there is a new adventure. While we would all love to just be in the studio teaching, that is rarely the case. Bookwork and paperwork is the hardest for me. Just keeping up with the day-to-day scheduling, correspondence, and office work. Fortunately, I have some wonderful people who offer great support. You have to lean on others when you don’t know where to go. Hiring and giving tasks that may not be your strongest suit to others has allowed me the ability to focus on other areas within our business that need attention.
What gives you the most joy in your job?
My kids. I say my kids as the kids at the studio really are my kids. I love hearing them lined up at the door. I love seeing them grow. I just enjoy getting to be a part of their lives and seeing their confidence bloom through dance. That is such a great joy.
My studio growing up was my second home. It was the place where I felt most comfortable. It was the place where I felt I could go and just be myself and really be me. I know that our studio is that same place for many dancers. What a blessing to be able to offer that to students knowing that this comforting place, where they can just be, will give them the opportunity to flourish and grow into themselves.
If you had to choose only one of your favorite aspects of Leap ‘N Learn, what would it be and why?
All the great manipulatives and tools!
Anything else you’d like to share with dance studio owners and teachers, or perhaps to Leap ‘N Learn students and their parents?
Leap 'N Learn has provided such a wonderful curriculum for our students. I encourage you to try a Leap 'N Learn studio. Watch a class of students and see their joy in and out of class. We all want our students to have fun, but we want them to be learning too. Through a Leap 'N Learn class, your dancer will not only be learning the framework to basic ballet skills; they will be developing their listening skills, developing creativity, working on basic class room behavior, and so much more. We love this program and know that you will too!
We want to give a huge, heartfelt thanks to Tamara Howe for sharing her time, tips, and information about running a dance studio and using Leap 'N Learn. We know that all of her students (including that cutie pie in the picture) are lucky to be dancing and learning under her and her staff's excellent guidance — and if you know someone with kids in the Salina, Kansas area, by all means encourage them to check-out Tamara Howe School of Dance!
Please leave a comment below to let us know what you think of this new series, to tell Tamara hello, or to ask any questions you may have!
P.S. Fellow licensed Leap 'N Learn studio owners, a more in-depth, insider version of this interview will be available on the member site soon. Get excited!