Setting the Standard in Early Childhood Education— Beverly Crews McQuaid, Planet Kids Academy
Beverly Crews McQuaid spent much of her childhood teaching her younger brother on a chalkboard and had always dreamed of being a teacher, “except for the brief phase of wanting to be a rock star, but my voice can truly bring people to tears,” laughs Beverly. Her mother, Joyce Lafaye Crews, now 81-years-old, taught first graders at St. Pius and coached at Ursuline Academy in New Orleans. Beverly’s parents always encouraged her to be her very best and taught her that everything in life is manageable with hard work and a strong faith in God.
Beverly knew that she loved children and felt that she needed to run her own early childhood program where children are free to explore in a “guided-learning and unconditional loving environment.” She opened Planet Kids Academy in 1996. Seventeen years later, Planet Kids remains a top-rated early childhood center for 12 months through pre-K and has been voted the Northshore’s Best Early Childhood Program for the seventh year in a row.
“Opening Planet Kids was probably one of the craziest things I have ever done but I jumped right in. In the beginning, I was the owner, director, teacher, cook and diaper changer. I knew I didn’t want Planet Kids to be just a daycare. I wanted a program where children are validated. I have learned a lot over the years and find it crucial to stay on the cutting edge of the industry, but, what I always come back to and believe strongly in, is going back to the basics,” says Beverly.
“Going back to the basics—only better,” as Beverly terms it, means that everything is about the whole child, the use of the five senses, knowing the child’s family and the child’s developmental needs and levels, and when to adjust to meet their needs as they grow and learn. With one of the lowest teacher to child ratios in the state (2:10), Planet Kids incorporates a strong connection to each child, utilizing the Montessori Method of learning by play and understanding that each child learns differently from the other.
Beverly stresses that you can create a strong program, but you are only as good as your team. “We create successful and happy children with the tremendous experience, talent and effort that my staff maintains,” she raves. Her executive director, Darlene Pevoto, joined Planet Kids 16 years ago and ensures that the staff and program maintain relevance to be at the top of the game. “It’s the staff that enables the school to run smoothly—greeting each child with a loving smile, making every learning opportunity come alive and communicating daily with the parents,” she says.
Hands-on learning comes alive in rooms with calming colors, children’s artwork and abundant natural light. “The architect sat on the floor for days watching the classroom interaction and came up with plans based on what the teachers and especially, the children needed. I wanted the environment to be beautiful and to promote learning in a tranquil space. One of my favorite areas is in the entry area that my cousin, artist Emery Clark, painted to look like Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel,” says Beverly.
Continually reinvesting into the school, she recently commissioned a $15,000 renovation to the playground and Splash Pad. This past spring, students created a butterfly garden by cultivating larvae that produced butterflies for the entire school to admire in the art and science lab. Constantly researching, she has also added a computer area, yoga studio and Spanish classes. “From the time Planet Kids was conceived, I wanted it to be the leader in our industry,” she says. She uses social media to keep parents informed and engaged in their child’s day and even installed cameras in the center so that parents can view what their little ones are doing from one moment to the next.
Married to Andrew McQuaid, a man who she says is quick to listen and slow to speak, they have two children, Patrick, age 11 and Catherine Shea, age 10. “My children have taught me that putting others needs before your own is gratifying. I tell them to be kind to kind people, be even kinder to unkind people, and to pray,” she says. Always striving to improve the quality and service of Planet Kids, Beverly stays on the go, whether it is working out, researching educational materials or cooking a mouth-watering roast with vegetables on a Sunday afternoon, “Albeit cooking is rare in my house,” she laughs honestly.
Her mission is to continue to raise the bar of early childhood education and bases everything she does in life on a William Penn quote that she learned from her grandfather, Edward A. Lafaye. Written in family journals and on a sticky note that hung in her family’s home, the philosophy is one that is a “real way of life” for her and her family: “I shall pass through this way but once. If therefore there be any kindness I can show or any good I can do my fellow men, let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Always learning but, most importantly, remembering the basics, this trailblazer will ensure that each child is able to become a life-long learner in a safe and loving atmosphere.
I know in my heart that when teachers, parents and the child work as a team, it is a success for the child. Above all, I am grateful for Planet Kids’ success, knowing that God is working through us—it’s his plan.
Planet Kids Academy is located at 317 Highway 21 in Madisonville, 985-845-0377, planetkidsacademy.com.