She never thought she would be the type of person who would work with children. “Don’t get me wrong, I love kids. I love their curiosity, their imagination and their innate innocence. However, I grew up an only child, and aside from the odd babysitting job, I never had much experience with pint-sized people”. But now, six years after her first job as a teacher, she couldn’t imagine doing anything else with the rest of her life. She currently lives in Sweden, speaks two languages, and owns Imagination International Preschool. Here is her story.
Melanie Jamison was born and raised in the United States. Through emails and phone conversations, she fell in love with a Swede back in 2004, and moved here to be closer to him. She ended up being very lucky and made a contact with an International Preschool located in Solna and started working as a teacher to 3-4 year olds.
either she could dive head first into turning her dream and passion into a reality, or she could succumb to the hand she was dealt and join the thousands currently seeking unemployment benefits in the declining job market
After working for this school for almost five years, she had familiarized herself with the holes within the Swedish school system. She said “it seemed that the choices for English speaking schools were limited, the need was greater than the supply, and the quality of the options was lacking”.
In 2009 she started researching the requirements for starting-up a school of her own. She had no Swedish education. Her degrees from the States did not qualify her for work in Sweden. She had a decision to make: either she could dive head first into turning her dream and passion into a reality, or she could succumb to the hand she was dealt and join the thousands currently seeking unemployment benefits in the declining job market. She was raised with the view that anything worth having was worth the risk. So she started Imagination International Preschool in the Fall of 2009.
Along the road to getting the Preschool on its feet, Melanie met numerous challenges and obstacles. First, she had to raise the money for the endeavor, but every loan she applied for was rejected. “You need approval from all the governing organizations, but none of them will approve a new business without consent from the others. You need to get a kommun to make time for you long enough to hear your ideas before you get your license. You need to be taken seriously as a business owner, without any prior experience. You need a property to teach children in, in an environment where none are available. You need trained teachers on staff, without any income being generated to pay them. Most importantly, you need to be seen as competent without being able to fluently communicate with the people in charge”.
Every complication only made it more worthwhile when we finally opened our doors on October 13th, 2009!
The only requirement for calling yourself an International Preschool is your adherence to teaching the English language. Melanie wanted more than that. ‘To me, international education means teaching culture, history, geography, and creating an atmosphere that enhances their experience. You need all five senses involved in your learning process, including sound, sight, and touch. I knew in my school, each area of each room would have a different theme, so that the children would feel as though they were actually in a different environment. To date, we have an island, a pirate ship, a racing car area, a jungle, and an underwater setting, and we are continuously adding on”.
Eventually she got the permits and the license, but now, the hard part started. She wondered, how do you convince parents to sign their child up in a brand new school and leave them with people that had no reputation as caregivers? Although they had a few applications, and even fewer walk-thru visits, they didn’t get any confirmed registrations. Discouraged, the teachers and her traveled home one night at the end of October. They were sitting on the subway, discussing the educational differences between the US and Sweden, and a gentleman sitting across the aisle overheard them. Being American himself, he joined the debate and within ten minutes they learned he had two sons. One was enrolled at a primary school in Danderyd, and the other was nearly two and had no Preschool placement. This became the first family to sign with Imagination International, and it was this family’s word-of-mouth advertisement that helped them to find other students.
Since then, Imagination International has moved into a permanent property, filled the school, and now have a waiting list so extensive they are currently in the process of expansion. Melanie said “my dream started out to open a school that would cultivate and nurture the innocence of the child’s imagination. To allow them the opportunity to do their job as kids; to play, to ask questions, to enjoy their first experience into a lifelong love of learning. Now, it has changed into being a benchmark for International education, becoming so exceptional that all the other schools need to increase their standards in order to compete. We have a community that extends far beyond the students in our care, and we endeavour to introduce international families to the opportunities that exist for them in a foreign country. Through the efforts and tenacity of everyone involved, the staff, the families and the governing organizations, I think any dream could become reality. Our school motto is, “The only limits you have are the boundaries of your imagination”, and we live by that!”
For more information go to http://www.imaginationinternational.se/
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