Each time we share a featured Leap 'N Learn studio interview on our blog, we also share an expanded, insider edition with all of you on the member site. This gives our interviewees a chance to speak even more candidly and give advice directly to their Leap 'N Learn peers. Check out the additional "B Side" questions below from our latest featured studio!
A Quick Introduction: Steps of Faith Dance Studio is located in Lumberton, Texas. Lumberton is a thriving and growing town full of wonderful people who are very involved in their children’s lives. Steps of Faith is a Christian dance studio offering a faith based dance education.
- 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 am very thankful for how far Steps of Faith has come in 11 years. It is truly amazing to see what God has done. Our beginnings were very humble!
One of the major factors that contributed to our success has been the commitment to loving children and giving them our very best.
We also strive to improve every year. It is very important to us that we never stop learning and growing as dance educators, and as a dance family.
B. What are some of your goals, how do you work towards them, and what indicators do you look to when gauging your success?
One of my major goals is that of EXCELLENCE. Being excellent requires admitting weaknesses and mistakes, and constantly striving to improve in every area. I work toward this goal by continuing to learn and grow as a teacher and leader of others.
I gauge my success by the joy in children’s faces in class and by the positive feedback from parents and community members.
- 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?
The best and most honest advice I can give anyone is PRAY, and not just pray, but pray a lot. Working with children is very rewarding, but also very challenging. I believe that in order to be truly successful we all need wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that is beyond our own human nature.
Also, I feel it is very important to be genuine. Truly care about students and their families.
B. Continuing education is key. How do you keep learning even after years of experience?
I have purchased MANY books! I also have invested in numerous DVDs and other materials from Finis Jhung and other leaders in our field. My staff and I also attend training and conventions. I think it is crucial that we stay true to our roots, but also strive to be “current.”
- Congrats on being a licensed Leap 'N Learn studio! 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?
I came across information on Leap 'N Learn many years ago while ordering materials from another website. I ordered what was available then which was curriculum for 3 to 6 year olds. I fell in love with it instantly. It was superior in every way. It transformed and revolutionized my little ballet classes. All of a sudden there was wonderful structure and joy! As a former public school teacher, I loved the idea of following a set curriculum. It was also so in line with my ideals and philosophies of education. When I found out that Leap 'N Learn had expanded and licensing was being offered, I was ecstatic! I had to be a part of something that I had such great success with and that I believed in so whole-heartedly.
- What have been the most noticeable changes in your dance studio since applying Leap 'N Learn to what you do?
My favorite thing is that there is just pure joy in the early childhood dance classes! However, not only that, but the technique of the dancers who have been under Leap 'N Learn instruction for numerous years, is strong. I am very proud to see that. I can send my older students out in to the community and be proud of what they can do, and what they know of dance terminology and technique.
- What types of responses have you received about Leap 'N Learn from your dance teachers, students, or parents?
We have open house once a year. Parents come in and observe class. I normally get so much positive feedback. Parents tell me they are so surprised at HOW MUCH we are teaching them in class. This is a wonderful feeling!
- 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?
At this point, with the revised and expanded Leap 'N Learn curriculum, I am trying to follow it as closely as possible. I have found it to be very thorough and complete and not really in need of a lot of modification.
B. What have you seen work well or what have you needed to change? Any recommendations to share with your fellow Leap 'N Learn licensed studios about how to customize our program?
I honestly feel it all works beautifully. I am so very pleased with it. My classes are not broken up the same way Mrs. Beverly’s are this year. I have some age groups together and the levels are different. This may be the only challenge I have seen. Next season, I will group my students in classes exactly as the curriculum suggests, and I feel that will make everything even easier.
- 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?
The most challenging thing for me was trying to handle parts of the business that I cared very little about, like the student accounts and billing, payroll, ordering dance wear and costumes, etc. I was thankfully able to hire fabulous people who take care of all of that for me! What a joy to be able to focus on my true love and passion… being in the classroom with the students. It is wonderful when you can surround yourself with people that you trust, so that you can focus on what you are really called to do. This is a major blessing. Delegate!
B. What tips would you give to your fellow Leap 'N Learn licensed studios for making it through the tougher times?
Again, I would just have to be honest and say, “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything.” Philippians 4:6-7
This is how I have made it successfully through many difficult things. This will help you have hope and the very important positive attitude that will take you to the other side of the difficulty.
- What gives you the most joy in your job?
I receive the most joy when I am making children happy. To have a class full of smiling, giggling, laughing little children who are learning at the same time… it doesn’t get any better than that in my book!
B. What tips would you give to your fellow Leap 'N Learn licensed studios for maximizing the positive aspects of owning or working in a dance studio?
I think it is extremely important that we focus on those things that are important to us and not try to do everything. Trying to do too much can drain the life, passion, and joy out of us. Learn to say NO to things that will take away from what is truly meaningful to you. It is all about focus too. When we focus on the good, the good will be magnified. Don’t “feed” the negative and it will eventually “starve” and diminish. For example, sometimes we may receive one negative comment from a parent. That one negative comment can cause us to forget the 10 positive comments we got before that. We have to make it a habit to focus on the good and the positive aspects of what we do. This takes determination and real effort.
- If you had to choose only one of your favorite aspects of Leap 'N Learn, what would it be and why?
I love the pretend play aspect that is a huge part of Leap 'N Learn. We get to be mermaids, flowers, kangaroos, rockets, flamingos, etc. We rock our babies to sleep, march in a marching band, move like ocean life and so much more! What child wouldn’t love such opportunities? Furthermore, in the midst off all the fun, they are receiving instruction in ballet that provides them a firm and solid foundation.
B. How do you make the most of this part of Leap ‘N Learn and utilize it to benefit your studio in the best way?
I enjoy this aspect as much as the kids. I love being silly and making them smile and laugh. It is just so much fun for me as well as for them! This is what makes them love dance. This is why I have so many parents telling me their children love dance and can’t wait to get back to class each week. I just try to bring all of the enthusiasm I can, as suggested in the curriculum. It is contagious!
- 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 is fabulous. I truly believe in the superiority of this program. There is nothing else that can hold a candle to it. Beverly Spell is so creative and truly amazing. Annie Spell is brilliant. The two of them together have developed something unique and special. I am honored to be a part of it.
B. Anything else you’d like to share specifically with your fellow Leap 'N Learn licensed studios?
As you probably already realize, you have made a wonderful choice in aligning your studio with Leap 'N Learn! Following such a wonderful curriculum… we just can’t go wrong!
We want to give a big thanks to Julie Bridges of Steps of Faith Dance Studio! We appreciate her time, thoughtful responses, and partnership. And in return, we can't go wrong when we work with studios this excited about teaching dance, so thanks for that too.
Julie also shared so many adorable photos of her teaching Leap 'N Learn. Browse through them below — we know you'll recognize these fun exercises!
Please feel free to connect with Julie, and your fellow Leap 'N Learn studio owners, by leaving a comment or starting a conversation below. Introduce yourself, let us know what you learned, ask questions, and maybe even share a story or piece of advice that you thought of when reading this interview.