Rebecca Meire was ready to leave teaching after 10 years, but she couldn’t get the math to work.
“Financially it was not possible,” says Meire, a former language arts teacher who is now the Instructor at the Kumon Centre of North Kendall in Miami. “The deciding factor was how limiting public school teaching had become. There was no more autonomy in the classroom – we had to basically follow a pacing guide. It was mundane and boring.”
But after 20 years in the classroom, Meire says, “I knew I just had to do it.” She had saved enough money in her retirement fund to leave teaching in 2015 and open a Kumon Centre in 2016. She is glad she made that leap when she did.
Teachers seem like natural choices to become Kumon Instructors. They already understand how to teach. They enjoy working with children. They have skills that would be valuable for any entrepreneur: They are terrific communicators, excellent at multi-tasking and problem-solving. They are creative. They can explain complex issues and sell ideas. And of course, they love to learn new things.
Traditionally, however, teachers have been paid less than most professionals. And working conditions worsened considerably during the pandemic, when many were thrust into virtual classrooms. To add insult to injury, data continue to show what many teachers feared: Students lost both math and reading skills during the pandemic.
So, it’s no wonder that many teachers are looking to leave the profession. The Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers says one-third of young teachers will leave the classroom within five years due to the poor working conditions. And the Alberta Teachers Association says a November poll found that 31% of teachers either do not want to be teaching in the same position next year or they aren’t sure.
Meire is one of many former teachers who have found a new home in Kumon, the No. 1 education franchise. There are about 1,600 Kumon Centres in the U.S. and more than 400 in Canada, and the education enrichment industry is worth $23.4 billion in the U.S.
Meire, who holds a master’s degree in education from Northeastern University, taught advanced and gifted eighth graders for 10 years and Advanced Placement and Cambridge 12th grade classes for another 10 years. Although her job was to challenge students in college-level English classes, Meire did not feel challenged by her own work. She was frustrated.
“I felt very constrained and very limited as a teacher in the school system,” she says. “If you truly want to tap into kids and you enjoy working with them, it’s very rewarding to be able to say that the method and the way you teach contributes to a student’s success – not because you’re teaching to a test day in and day out.”
Although Meire knew she could handle the teaching part of running a Kumon, she worried about the business skills she hadn’t acquired yet. And like most new franchise owners, she worried about losing a regular paycheck. “I was excited about still working with children and making a difference, but I was scared about not having a stable income,” she says.
She is grateful for the Kumon training program and her field consultant for helping her work through those new business jitters. “I always received full support from Kumon. My field consultant eased my mind and made the experience exciting. I felt ready for this new business journey.”
Today, Meire enjoys the freedom that comes with owning and operating her own business and she appreciates the business model. “You get to plan your day and how you use your time. If you are organized, you have time to do it all and have a balanced life,” she says.
She acknowledges running her own business isn’t always easy. “Everything is hard – finances, finding balance, customer service, growing pains, staff,” she says. “But it is your hard, and you learn to find joy in resolving small obstacles.”
Meire advises teachers who are thinking of making the leap into business ownership to explore the Kumon franchise opportunity. “If you've been thinking of leaving the classroom but still want to work with children and dream of using your talents to develop children, this could be a right fit for you.”