Today we’d like to introduce you to Debbora Childress.
Hi Debbora, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I am a small business owner/director of Ms. Debbora’s School of Dance in Poway, CA. I have instructed the children of Poway and surrounding communities for more than 30 years! As a child, nothing could be more exciting than the arrival of the dance studio pick-up van! The driver would toot the horn and my spirit would soar! Dance class was something I looked forward to with all my being. Having this safe and beloved space in which to excel and express myself was EVERYTHING!
I have spent the past 3-plus decades creating this type of safe space for literally thousands of local youth. Having another “home” for children to learn, grow, express, view themselves in a positive light and develop relationships with like-minded friends is so important! It doesn’t change much for teens. Don’t we all need this?
My early years as a divorced, single parent created the need for gainful, steadfast, benefit-filled employment. My re-marriage created the opportunity to sprout wings and follow my dreams of teaching dance full time. I quit my job at a community college and accepted an opportunity with an enrichment program that fell through. After a bit of heart-stopping stress, I reached out to a local recreation program. My timing was amazing! An instructor had just quit, leaving a small program in need of a teacher! I happily stepped in – and grew a vital, thriving dance program. Although I made the decision to become independent of the City in 2018, we continue to thrive and are set to perform our 33rd annual recital! I am currently teaching the children of my early-year students. This is an honor I am incredibly proud of.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Becoming an independent contractor vs. an employee with reliable income, benefits and more was a complete leap of faith. I tested out the waters by giving up lunch hours and leaving work early one day a week. I filled this afternoon with dance classes at local pre-schools. I was immediately successful – and continued teaching at these schools for many years. I had medical insurance through my husband’s employer. It seemed like the right time to take the big leap!
Right off the bat, a community enrichment program that promised enough work to balance my income fell through. I had to scramble quickly to find something to fill the gap. I approached the City of Poway’s Recreation Program and was lucky enough to step into an already existing dance program. There were only three classes at that point, Over the years, I grew this program to include more than 200 students per week! Eventually, my amazingly dance-trained adult daughter joined me to create an even more vibrant, balanced program. We work together to this day!
When the City decided to tear down our facility with a plan to re-build, we made the decision to become independent rather than accept being displaced for an unknown period of time. We found a building that required quite a bit of renovation in Old Poway Village. The Center immediately felt like home. Turning it into a studio was quite the family affair – my adult son and husband worked extremely hard to create this beautiful dance space we love! We have continued to grow and thrive in our new facility – while still maintaining a viable relationship with the City. This second leap of faith has been successful too!
Of course, a pandemic struck only one year into our new enterprise. We have been fortunate enough to survive the mandated closure and are currently/consistently growing. Our 33rd annual recital is scheduled this June!
Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I have been fortunate enough to have been educated by some amazing teachers. I was just 18 when my then-teacher gave me a class to instruct. I was terrified! It launched me toward a degree in Early Childhood Development and Dance/Movement, although I always knew I would work with children. Later, I studied with an amazing dance teacher who became like a second mother. She taught me how to create “productions” that tell a story through dance. I still produce one annually at my shows. It is the highlight of our dance year!
I come from a creative family. My value system for appreciating the arts stems from my childhood. My personal upheaval in my teens (divorced family; moving constantly; new schools frequently) created a desire to give stability, compassion and understanding to my students – also, to provide them with this non-judgemental “dance home” where they are safe, supported and experience success. We are a non-competitive studio for a reason, deciding to focus on nurturing creative, happy, well-balanced, amazing performers without the stress and expense of competition.
How do you define success?
Watching our students shine gives me amazing pleasure – and a deep sense of success. Having past students bring their young children to us fills me with joy. Knowing we have built a dance school with a solid reputation that draws new students consistently feels like success. Having past students visit, seek out conversation/advice is a measure of success too.
Being a part of a community for more than 30 years, supporting thousands of local youth in their endeavor to learn dance, teaching an appreciation of the arts, exposing the next generation to the arts – all feels like success! This profession is not just a job; it is a life commitment. So much more satisfying and meaningful than anything I can imagine, except maybe motherhood.
- $58 – $60 per month/per class
- Email: MsDebborasSchoolOfDance@yahoo.com
- Website: https://www.msdebborasdanceforchildren.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/msdebborasschoolofdance/
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