Profiles of Excellence: CEFA Early Learning

There’s a special sort of magic in the way that children learn, explore, and grow. Their natural curiosity about the world around them – when fostered in a safe, caring environment filled with toys, books, and learning tools – gives them a seemingly endless capacity for learning.

At CEFA Early Learning, teachers help children tap into this energy and sense of wonder about the world, helping children from the ages of one to five learn about everything from math to music, language and culture.

“I chose this field because ever since I was little, I loved small children. I was fascinated by what they had to say and how they could learn so quickly,” explains Karen Chan, who co-owns five CEFA locations in Burnaby and Vancouver with her business partner Christine Yang. “I enjoy being around children and love the idea of contributing to their learning and early years.”

Chan was previously a teacher at CEFA West Vancouver, which is where she crossed paths with Yang, whose eldest daughter attended the school there. For Chan, the idea to open her own CEFA was a natural extension of her love for the work she did, and Yang had seen – as a parent searching for quality care and education – that there were limited choices available.

“That’s how we started this journey together,” said Yang.

And what a journey it has been. They opened their first location in Burnaby in 2005 on Canada Way, and have opened four more locations since then: one on Kingsway in Burnaby and another on Lougheed in the Brentwood neighbourhood, with two more in Vancouver on Cambie and Commercial Drive. They are part of the larger CEFA family which includes about 19 locations in all, and more coming soon.

Chan explains that CEFA is a unique private school for children ages 1 to 5, with four levels: a baby program for children who are one, and then three successive levels of junior kindergarten (one, two, and three) for children at each subsequent age, until they are old enough to begin kindergarten. It’s an all day program, complete with educational opportunities that cross the spectrum of possibilities.

“We have a curriculum that includes areas such as reading, writing, math, science, music, language, drama, visual arts, yoga, dance, outdoor play, cultural immersion, and we have fun field trips and traditional winter shows for the families,” said Yang.

In all, Chan and Yang have a team of more than 100 employees over the five schools.

“Our team of principals and teachers is amazing,” said Chan. “They dedicate so much of themselves to teach and grow with our students. They truly love the children as if they were their own. We choose teachers who are passionate about their work with children.”

The CEFA concept was founded by Natacha Beim, who opened the first location in West Vancouver. As an early childhood educator deeply knowledgeable on the research in the field, Beim knew she wanted to create a program where children could thrive, learn and explore.

The concept quickly caught with families who were keen to find quality education and care for their young children.

“We are so grateful to Burnaby for welcoming us into this community. We hope that our schools are as special to our families as they are to us when we create them,” said Chan. “It was our goal to create a magical place where the children want to come to every day, to learn and grow.”

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© Burnaby Now