We recently chatted with Bernard Turnbo, director and CEO of B.E.T. Learning Academy, to learn more about his history in child care, his team’s Step Up to Quality journey and how the academy achieved a Step 5 with flying colors.
Caring for children has always been a passion of mine, inspired by my father. He founded the facility in 1987. I started working here when I was 16.
No, I didn’t! In 2015, my dad wanted to retire and kept encouraging me to take over, so I agreed on the condition that I could go to school full time and have flexibility as the new CEO and owner of the facility. I then went to school full time, finished two years later and got a bachelor’s degree in general administration.
I became the director in October 2020 when my aunt retired — she helped start the facility. That was when I bridged my role as CEO with the executive director role. Because I had worked all my life in the facility and had hands-on classroom experience, I knew I could take over the role instead of hiring someone else.
Two weeks ago, I completed my Master of Science with a concentration in human resource development from the University of Texas at Tyler.
Me and my dad talk every day, and he’s a big part of the support system here at B.E.T. Any time we’re down a staff member, he’s willing to come out of retirement to help run the facility.
I live between Nebraska and Texas because I’m opening up another facility as we branch off into a franchise. So when I’m not here, he’ll come in and help run the facility on my behalf with our other administrators.
We’re starting with Dallas, Texas. We’re planning on branching out to other cities in Texas, and then a couple years after that, hopefully some other states. The goal is to be the B.E.T. Learning Academy franchise, and I think it can happen. I have a very good staff here, and this center runs itself when I’m not present.
We have everything done with the state of Texas: We have the equipment to start the building, and we have the funding. Now, we just need to find the right building.
One of B.E.T.’s main goals is to create history. By that, we mean we want every child who walks out of here to be someone when they become of age. Typically, the children who have come through the center, even before I was born, have gone on to college and had successful careers.
What makes us unique is our hands-on approach to learning. We don’t believe in paper-based learning, we believe in learning through play. Children learn best when they’re active. When they’re not active, they become bored or begin exhibiting behavioral problems. We use positive, hands-on activities that support social-emotional, language and literacy skills, setting children up for success to create history.
We learned about Step Up to Quality in 2015 when I became the CEO. My aunt, who was director at the time, had taken intro courses for Step Up to Quality. I wanted to enroll in it because it was boosting the quality of my facility. Having coaches helped us learn how to enhance what we were already doing. I always tell my staff that we aren’t changing, we’re enhancing what we do to make it better. And it worked, because we’re now a Step 5!
In August 2022, I had a meeting with my staff and set the goal of reaching at least a Step 4 level by February 2023, which would be the 35th anniversary of B.E.T. We started kicking it into gear, getting into all the classes that we needed and working with excellent coaches Michelle Rupiper and Keon Davidson-Grace. They helped push this building to success.
We submitted for our rating in January, got rated in March, then got our Step 5 certificate in April 2023.
It is one of the biggest accomplishments that’s happened during my tenure as CEO. To see where we started in 2015, and being the first center to become a Step 5 under Step Up to Quality 2.0, it really feels great. My staff is on fire and so excited. They tell everyone about our Step 5 status.
It reaffirmed that my teaching staff were doing all they were supposed to, making sure children’s needs were being met daily. Step Up to Quality just made us enhance what we do. Our coaches would come in and tell teachers, “You’re doing an excellent job, I see you’re doing this, how about trying this new way for even better results?” And the teachers did that. They didn’t take offense; they took it as a learning moment. Those moments with the coaches, in addition to my weekend trainings with Step Up to Quality, all came together to help us become a more quality center.
One of the biggest things that our coaches always instilled in us is making sure children’s needs are met in all areas. For example, we follow the Nebraska Early Learning Guidelines, and she taught us how to implement those guidelines more in the classroom, which in turn enhanced the quality.
One of my goals, which has been accomplished, was changing our name from B.E.T. Day Care to B.E.T. Learning Academy to reflect a heightened quality level. I always ask my teachers, “Are you a B or a T?” “B” means babysitter, and “T” means teacher. Now, my staff see themselves as teachers and are affirmed in that, and it changes the way they dress, talk and interact with families for the better. This isn’t just day care, we’re teaching children to be history-makers. When children are here, they’re sponges, and we spend more time with them than anyone else.
Don’t give up. Believe in yourself, believe in your staff and build a positive morale. That morale will in turn go into your children.
Participating in Step Up to Quality is a major investment into your facility, and having that relationship with your coaches and having an open mindset will really boost the quality of your center. We went into Step Up to Quality with an open mind, and I think that’s how we were able to achieve a Step 5.