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The first time Natacha Beim decided she would open her own school, she was fourteen years old. Then a high school student, she felt that schools were not collaborative environments, and instead forced students through the one-size-fits-all system, losing the interest of too many students. She began working on her methodology that year, fearing she would no longer see things as a child sees them when she reached the age of actually opening the school. This way, she thought, she would always represent the interests of children. She did not know then that her school would be for the youngest students of all, and she definitely did not envision more than one school.

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June 1998: Natacha Beim working on the construction of her first school.
By age 22, Beim had finalized her curriculum and began working on a business plan, and at 25, she opened the doors to her first CEFA school.

She had trained each one of her new teachers one by one to enable them to work with her own curriculum. Her curriculum focused on teaching children to read and write, as well as many other skills, and included art, yoga, dance and many other disciplines that were not the norm in early years centres. Early Childhood Educators had to trust that this “new” methodology was good for children, and parents had to be early adopters of this new way of teaching.

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November 8, 1998: Natacha Beim cutting the ribbon of her new school with the Mayor of West Vancouver.

The first CEFA school defied all rules in Canadian early learning: It taught children to read and write, and had an excellent science and math curriculum, while other early learning centres focused only on play. It also offered a full-time program when preschools only opened between two and four hours instead. It had a chef preparing children’s meals when no other centres focused on children’s nutrition, and it had an excellent arts curriculum which included dance and drama. At first, parents wondered whether the school would be too much for their children. Only the children of European, Asian and South American families welcomed the school with open arms, as the learning was something they were familiar with. But soon, noticing the difference in their own children after only a few weeks attending CEFA, all parents became fans of this new approach to early learning.

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July 22, 1999: Beim, expecting her first child (far right), at a pajama party she organized for families of her school.

Beim continued to work on her curriculum, and spent hours in the classrooms and working with her teachers to come up with even more games to introduce, as the whole curriculum was presented through games and play.

June 2003: Beim’s oldest son, Julian, graduated from CEFA.

The school soon became extremely popular and waiting lists years long. Parents of the school often traveled over an hour each way to have their children attend the school. It was after the insistence of those parents that Beim decided to expand, allowing parents of CEFA students and teachers of her school to open schools closer to their homes. In 2003, a second CEFA school opened in the city of Burnaby, co-owned by a CEFA parent and a CEFA teacher.

2003: grand opening of CEFA Burnaby Canada Way, with Natacha Beim (far right), teacher Karen Chan (next to Beim), Mayor of Burnaby and CEFA parent Christine Yang.

Today there are close to 30 CEFA schools, all owned by parents of CEFA students or CEFA teachers.

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Beim with student learning about math
Beim still works on the curriculum and teacher training, as well as being CEO of CEFA Systems, the Franchise company. Both her sons, Julian and Dominick, graduated from CEFA and still remember those years with great fondness.

“I created CEFA before I had children, and seeing my own children go through the program gave me such joy – I felt very lucky to be with them during those years, and watch them learn before my very eyes!”
– Natacha V. Beim

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