Wellington The Magazine-July 2016
Story by Chris Felker • Photos by Abner Pedraza
The life of local educator Anita Kane, co-founder of #1 Education Place in Wellington, has come full circle. Growing up in a private school setting, she has now created an educational institution to meet the unique needs of today’s students.
As a child whose entire youth was spent on the 25-acre campus of one of the largest private day schools on the East Coast, located in the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Kane was exposed daily to the educational world her parents occupied full-time.
They owned and ran the Potomac Country Day School in Maryland, founded four years before she was born.
“We also ran one of the largest summer day camps on the East Coast,” Kane recalled. “I grew up with a lot of that stuff, a lot of involvement, and I think that’s probably why I thought I wanted to get away from it.”
Growing up, the school was always a large part of life.
“People would forget their books at school, and they had no problem just coming up to the house and knocking on the door while we were eating dinner and saying, ‘I need you to go unlock the school building.’ It was a real community, and I thought I wanted to get away from that.”
So, she left for Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Va., and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. Then it was off to law school at George Mason University. “I told myself that I wasn’t going to do the education thing; I was going to go to law school,” Kane said. “Until I had a child, and then I decided I needed to be involved in that.”
She got married while attending law school and had her son, Sean Joseph Kane. “But I was a single mom from the time my son was 2,” Kane said. “So I went back and got several levels of Montessori teacher training, and I got a master of arts in teaching from Trinity College in Washington, and then started working at the school in Maryland that my son went to.”
She came to Florida when she was recruited by a private school in Palm Beach in the mid-1990s to help establish a new program. “After three years, we agreed that things weren’t working out,” Kane said. “I found myself without a job and with six horses, three dogs and a child. I walked away from a job for the first time in my life.”
So, years after she had left behind the educational community she grew up in, Kane joined with a former colleague to establish #1 Education Place. “Interestingly enough, that’s what we’ve really tried to create here — a community,” she said.
Now located in the original Wellington Mall, #1 Education Place grew in large part out of her and her son’s connections in equestrian circles. “I had been involved in the horse-show world my whole life,” she said. “We were supposed to go to the Charleston Summer Classic that summer.”
It was 1999. “Everybody said, ‘Oh… go ahead anyhow, you can groom for me, and you can do this…’ Then people started asking me to tutor their children. From tutoring children over the summer, it got to be doing school with children in their homes during the school year. Then, after a year or so, it got so big that I couldn’t handle it.”
That is when she partnered up with co-founder Judy Blake. “For about two years, we did this school from our cars,” Kane recalled. “We traveled around, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger, between circuit clients and year-round students.”
That’s when #1 Education Place got a permanent location, just across the street from where the school currently resides. “What we thought originally was just going to be a tutoring service wound up turning into a private school,” Kane said. “The need became apparent very quickly for a private school that would serve children who have different needs than a child who can go to school from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.”
Many of their clients are either professionals or athletes, as are a good number of the students.
“Many of our students are athletes, not just equestrians, but we’ve also had race car drivers and models and ice skaters,” Kane said. “What happens with those children, who really have a profession basically at the tender age of 15, is that they can’t really go to school on that kind of a regular schedule.”
#1 Education Place, which serves students in first through 12th grades and sometimes beyond, now is going into its 16th year. It has around a dozen faculty members, serving between 40 and 60 students at any given time during the year, and a dozen or more during the summer.
Kane went on to earn certificates from Independent School Management (ISM) in school policy design and implementation, and now is teaching mostly English at her school. She has also taught business communication, English, professional development and computer skills to adults in the past, but is now concentrating on her duties at the school.
Part of that is deciding which students to accept. “About 20 to 30 percent of our students are just those for whom traditional school doesn’t really work,” she said. “We accept something called the McKay scholarship, and it’s for students who have any kind of learning need from an undiagnosed one to those who have muscular dystrophy or other disorders that make it very difficult for them to be in the public school system.”
Yet the school remains very well known for its connections to the horse community.
“It began through the horse connection, and still, I would say, it’s a very strong connection,” Kane said. “This school is really a microcosm inside of that community. We get a lot of repeat people, and friends and family. We’ve had all the Gracida kids.”
Her personal reward from her full-circle career has changed, though, since she first started the school. It’s partly because last year she lost her son, who taught math at the school. He went to sleep after a normal day last fall and never woke up. She has started a scholarship in his name.
“So yeah, my focus has changed now. It keeps me alive; it keeps me happy. Always my focus has been, I get great joy out of giving to these children,” Kane said.
What she gets out of it is a lot of gratitude and the joy of seeing their success.
“To have a child who couldn’t succeed someplace else, or who everybody else thinks is a pain in the pitfeathers, and to be able to connect with that child, to be able to be a participant in somebody’s transformation, that’s my reward,” Kane said.
For more information, call (561) 753-6563 or visit www.1educationplace.com.