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For Early Childhood Education

Celebrating 25 Years: Reflections From Our Founder

Q&A with Malvern School Founder and President Kristen M. Waterfield

When The Malvern School first opened its doors on June 1, 1998, it was the start of a new chapter in early childhood education – one that marked a departure from traditional day care programs and raised the bar for early learning everywhere. Since then, The Malvern School has grown into one of the most well-known and beloved early education providers in the region.

Behind it all is a woman who has devoted her life to empowering young children, families and educators: Malvern School Founder and President Kristen M. Waterfield.

As The Malvern School celebrates its 25th anniversary, we sat down with Kristen to get an inside look at what it has been like building the organization and serving the community as a working parent herself.

1. What inspired you to establish The Malvern School?

KMW: I’m an elementary school teacher by trade, and when I left the classroom, I spent many years as part of a large, franchised child care provider. Over time I learned that model wasn’t where my passion lied. I knew there had to be another way to deliver high-quality educational programming consistently – and I wanted to create the type of nurturing, forward-thinking early learning environment that I would want my own kids to experience. It was such a joy when they did!

2. How has your experience as a teacher come into play?

KMW: Throughout my career, I’ve worked in nearly every capacity of early education. I’ve been a teacher, a school Director and worked in corporate leadership, loving every second of each stage, even on the hard days. I know firsthand that it takes a lot to be physically and emotionally present for young children. This experience has allowed me to see our program through each of those lenses and ensure the right supports are in place to not only deliver exceptional experiences for our students, but also for our teachers and staff.

3. How have you been able to balance motherhood and building a business?

KMW: As every working parent will tell you, it’s not easy. I did my best to build a network to help support my family, but the territory also comes with sacrifice and the daily challenges of prioritizing from a long list in front of you. I can’t go to every one of my children’s school events or games, but I make it a point to be there for things I absolutely cannot miss. Whether there’s a conflict with work or my Board and volunteer roles, communicating with my children is a really key piece of the puzzle so they can understand what I’m doing, who I’m helping and why it’s important.

4. What are you most proud of?

KMW: I have two answers to this question. First, I’m extremely proud that The Malvern School has supported more than 40,000 families over the past 25 years. I remember being in my second grade classroom thinking about how much I loved teaching those 23 kids, but knowing I was made to do something that would have an even bigger impact.

Second, I have a tremendous sense of pride watching so many staff members develop in their careers at The Malvern School and become early childhood education leaders in their own right. We are committed about helping educators thrive in the classroom or advance into management roles, if that’s where their interests take them, and build rewarding careers.

5. What’s your favorite Malvern School memory? 

KMW: This is a really tough one because I make wonderful memories every time I visit our schools. I hold the memories of the “big” moments – new school openings, milestone anniversaries, my own children’s first and last days at The Malvern School – in the same regard as I do the “big little” moments, like when one of our young friends excitedly ran up to me and said, “I can tie my shoe now! Do you want to see?” (My answer was, “Of course I do!”) Or when kids ask whose mom I am and if I can stay in their classrooms forever. (My answer was, “I wish I could!”) Children are the greatest joy in my life, and I am truly blessed to have so many fantastic memories from the past 25 years.

6. What’s next for The Malvern School? 

KMW: We’re looking forward to raising the bar for early childhood education even higher as part of the Busy Bees family! We are also continuing to expand to support more families. In fact, we have two new schools in Princeton and West Windsor, New Jersey that are already in development. As we move forward, continued excellence as we put the children first will remain the name of the game!


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