Jessica and Eric Hobbs were building lives for themselves in Chicago. Both were successful educators with promising careers. Jessica was teaching at the Francis Parker School of Chicago and her husband, Eric, was teaching preschool through 8th grade and coaching cross-country at an inner-city Chicago school. Eric was also pursuing an acting career – training and performing at Chicago’s Second City, Improv Olympic, and The Belmont Theatre. They gave it all up, though, to move closer to family with their newly adopted son.
Jessica and Eric had encountered a teaching style in Chicago that had left an impression on them both. It was a unique approach to early childhood education called Reggio Emilia, named after the town in Italy from which it originated. Reggio Emilia focuses on the child as an active participant and collaborator with the teachers and parents in the learning process. Jessica and Eric wanted to open their own school based on this idea, so in 2011, they opened Posh Academy in Paducah.
Posh Academy offers preschool programs, day care, and after-school programs for Kindergarteners that provide children with a natural, stimulating, and friendly environment where they can explore their talents, discover interests, and find support for their creativity. The teachers are mainly observers. They observe students’ talents, interests, and creativity in order to then build an environment and curriculum that supports the growth of each child. The concept creates one-on-one, custom educational time for each child, rather than forcing all children into the same educational mold.
Posh had a modest beginning. In fact, only three children signed-up the first year. Jessica and Eric could have given up at that point, but they decided to continue on. By the next year, their enrollment had grown to 40.
“It was all thanks to referrals and word of mouth,” Jessica explains. “We hadn’t spent a dime on advertising.”
Interest in the school grew as satisfied parents continued to spread the word. Enrollment was increasing, and before long, it was time to start looking for a larger, more permanent location to purchase. They ideally hoped to find a large house where they could live and work.
According to Jessica, location was an important factor. “We wanted to be in a creative community since our school is based on creative principles. So, Lowertown was the obvious choice. We found a great property on Madison Street but needed some financial assistance. The Lowertown residents we had met told us how much they loved doing business with Paducah Bank. We liked Paducah Bank, too, because it is a community bank, which is something we are very passionate about. It goes hand-in-hand with our progressive educational philosophy. We worked with Chad Lamb and he was just awesome! He really understood and supported our vision.”
So what is a typical day like for a child at Posh Academy? It begins with independent play time. Each child can choose between indoor or outdoor play areas and each area has specific hands-on learning materials to play with. The outdoor area may have sticks, rocks, leaves, etc. that children use to explore nature. Teachers look on and offer guidance and lead activities such as planting flowers. Meanwhile, the children who choose indoor playtime are experimenting with various arts and crafts materials like paint and clay. These teachers lead group projects that stimulate their creativity and strengthen teamwork and cooperation skills. One year, the Posh kids built a life-size igloo out of empty gallon milk jugs!
For those children preparing for entrance into Kindergarten, there are more structured, skill-based activity tables. Teachers work one-on-one with these children on the alphabet, reading, and writing. In fact, most Posh students go into Kindergarten well equipped with these skills.
Jessica and Eric’s dream has become a reality, but they aren’t done yet. In just a few weeks, they will be closing on another loan from Paducah Bank to open their second location in Lone Oak! In addition, they will be piloting a new curriculum called Oak Meadow that is popular in New England and the West Coast. Theirs will be the first Oak Meadow program in the Midwest. It is a truly exciting time for our friends at Posh Academy and we can’t wait to see what’s next for them!
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