Elizabeth McDaniel-Garcia, 32

0 Posted by - September 29, 2014 - 2014, Charlotte-Lee-Collier 2014

Founder, Head of School, Discovery Day Academy

Discovery Day Academy in Bonita Springs has 100 students, but Elizabeth McDaniel-Garcia has three times that many on the private school’s waiting list.

“We’ve built a good reputation,” McDaniel-Garcia says.

The school recently broke ground on an expansion that will have room for another 292 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade next year. Tuition runs about $10,000. “This expansion in Bonita is our largest project,” says McDaniel-Garcia. “We had to wait out the economic storm.”

Indeed, McDaniel-Garcia opened the first Discovery Day Academy in her hometown of Clewiston in 2007. “When the economy tanked in 2008, I had to learn how to run it efficiently and grow it in a very difficult time,” McDaniel-Garcia says.

McDaniel-Garcia taught in a Miami-Dade charter school after earning a degree in philosophy, and she obtained an M.B.A., giving her both the practical teaching experience and the understanding to run a business. “My degrees have been very advantageous,” she says.

McDaniel-Garcia also is a mother to 6- and 1-year-old children who attend her school in Bonita Springs. “You can have it all if you run a business efficiently,” she says. “I’m a great delegator. I do not have a top-down leadership style.”

— Jean Gruss

Q&A

City of residence: Estero

Twitter handle: @DiscoveryDayAca

Birthplace: West Palm Beach

Years on the Gulf Coast: Three

Marital status/children: Married, 6-year-old daughter, 18-month-old son

Alma mater: University of Miami, M.B.A.

Best place to network: My best networking experiences in the education field have occurred at national conferences surrounding innovation and reform including the P21 Summit, STEM conferences and Makers Conferences.

Coolest business experience: I was chosen to be a keynote speaker at EdLeader21’s national conference in Atlanta this fall. I am excited to share my school’s successes with 21st century learning.

The most important business lesson I’ve learned: In a rapidly changing global society, the only thing certain is change. Develop a business philosophy that is flexible and open to continual improvement.

One website that makes your job easier: teachingchildrenphilosophy.org

One community group you’re most involved with: The Partnership for 21st Century Skills in Washington D.C. and EdLeader21 in Tucson, Ariz.

Favorite off-hours activity: Blogging, crafting and spending time with my family

Best award you ever received: Florida Companies to Watch finalist and Pacesetter in Lego Foundation’s Re-imagine Learning Challenge

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Established and grew a startup business during the recession, in pursuit of a globally competitive education model for American students.

What’s at the top of your bucket list: I would like to travel around the world for business and pleasure, immersing myself in world cultures and their education systems.

What new skill would you like to learn: I am interested in developing increased technology skills, particularly as they relate to classroom pedagogy. Technological literacy is a necessity for future success.

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Immanuel Kant and Abraham Lincoln

If I had a magic wand I’d: Create classrooms across our nation that develop a love of learning, as opposed to test-driven environments.

Who would play you in a movie about your life: Natalie Portman

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