Early education and child care franchise brand Lightbridge Academy has conducted training sessions at the start of each new school year since its founding 20 years ago. In order to continue delivering system-wide professional development on an ongoing basis, Lightbridge Academy has evolved its programming to deliver content through virtual training to work long distance. This year, the franchise system took a new approach by creating a “Back to Basics” virtual training for all 35 center locations to enhance engagement and enable participants to move forward at their ideal pace, facilitating staff interaction and discussion.
The pre-recorded trainings were presented by the brand’s CEO and founder Guy Falzarano, president and COO Gigi Schweikert and the Education and Training team including VP of Education and Training Jennifer Romanoff and Training Associate Jeniece Decker. Each session included a video introduction followed by on-site, facilitated activities detailed in a content manual. Over 900 people participated in the professional development training.
“This system-wide training is important because it allows our leadership team to deliver the information we feel is necessary to create the high-quality educational program and environment that our families expect to receive from Lightbridge Academy,” Decker said. “It benefits our entire franchise system because it helps ensure consistency and supports the administrative staff at the centers. By packaging professional development and training for them, preparing for a new school year becomes less overwhelming,” she added.
Decker explained that the goal of this year’s “Back to Basics” training was to emphasize the founding principles of Lightbridge Academy and its curriculum. Session topics ranged from customer service to classroom management, which included tips on how to speak to children and keep them engaged in learning. “We wanted to highlight the little things that make the biggest difference, reinforcing their importance and providing resources to support all staff members. Ultimately, we know that creating The Lightbridge Experience at all our centers depends on consistency,” Decker said.
In the past, the brand has used simulcast feeds to reach its long-distance franchisees, which meant each center had to tune in on the same schedule and complete activities in a set amount of time. Lightbridge Academy’s leadership team elected to create pre-recorded sessions this year in order to encourage better staff engagement. By providing a general schedule that allows each center the freedom to spend more or less time on any given topic, the brand was able to get the same information out everywhere while providing ample opportunity for thorough discussion and hands-on interaction.
Jessica Nebus, a seasoned child care professional who has been a Lightbridge Academy center director in Manalapan, New Jersey for about a year, said her first annual training with the brand left her extremely impressed.
“As a director, one of the things that I struggle with the most is adequate staff training – we want to always make sure they’re equipped to do their job successfully,” Nebus said. “One of the things I loved about the ‘Back to Basics’ training was how it summed up what our staff does on a daily basis and did exactly what the title said – brought them back to the core of what we do and why we do it.”
Discussing topics like child interaction and best practices for building relationships with family helped teachers, both new and seasoned, learn from one another in the breakout sessions, Nebus noted. “Our teachers felt like they could really take the training and put it into action,” she said.
Decker said this feedback mirrored the same sentiment of other Lightbridge Academy centers. “A lot of what we heard back was that this training gave employees an opportunity to get to know one another on a deeper level that day-to-day interaction can’t really provide,” she said. “Spending dedicated time with one another and having these conversations makes the workplace more cohesive and builds strong team relationships,” Decker added.
By holding a robust training to kick off the new school year, Lightbridge Academy lays a strong groundwork for beginning the year positively and productively. “A successful school year starts off by establishing the right foundation and this training allows us to begin the year off organized and confident in what we’re doing day in and day out,” Nebus said. “Professional development in a group setting promotes team building and the sharing of expertise, which is something many child care companies don’t do. It really helps to reinforce the company’s core values. Lightbridge Academy is set apart from other child care providers by how they support, treat and care for their employees.”