For passionate educators, there’s a traceable path that has led them to their profession, a clear reason behind their calling. It’s a part of their story as much as their own DNA, and for founder of Fontanelle Academy of Early Learning, Dr. Cynthia Cole, that reason reaches all the way back through her family’s early history to her slavery-born great-grandfather who was emancipated when he was nine years old. “He was taught to read and write by the plantation owner’s son. His ability to read had a profound impact on his future as he became the owner of a farm and general store, which allowed him, and the workers who partnered with him, to sustain their families during the post-Reconstruction era.” Clearly, there was great value and importance attached to the ability to read and write, and that carried down through the generations of Cole’s family. “My parents emphasized the importance of education and created a home environment filled with books and days filled with reading and field trips. For this reason, some of my first memories of play with cousins and friends are playing school. Making the connection between teaching, learning, and improving the quality of our lives was enlightening for me.”
That enlightenment later translated into an interest in early education, though it initially took a back seat to a degree in economics. “I chose a child development course as an elective, and that one course turned into a concentration in psychology with a specialization in child development and a minor in education.”
Post-college life brought Cole a career in commercial banking, but her passion for education once again found an outlet, ultimately leading her to the place she was always meant to be. “The bank had a partnership with Junior Achievement, and employees volunteered in schools twice a month. I loved school and teaching, so I volunteered,” says Cole. “We were placed in socioeconomically disadvantaged schools, and I felt a strong calling to give back to my community through teaching. I became a teacher in 1997 and earned my Master of Education in Instructional Leadership and a Ph.D. in Curriculum Design. Since that time, I have taught at every level including reading at the elementary level, English, and social studies at the secondary level. In 2003, I became a professor of education. I received promotion and tenure and served as Head of Teacher Preparation in the Purdue University system.”
Knowing she had more to give, Cole founded Fontanelle Academy of Early Learning in 2018 after being appointed by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015 to serve as Senior Policy Advisor during President Obama’s Administration. After the administration, Cole was asked to study and write a report on teacher shortages for the State of Colorado and to provide recommendations for addressing the shortages. “I wrote that report in 2017 and founded Fontanelle Academy in 2018 with the belief that it was the best means of using my collective experience and education in a meaningful way,” Cole says.
An educator at her core, Cole is following a legacy that has been passed down generations and continuing to spread the message that learning is a gift—and that it is never too early to give it.
To learn more on Fontanelle Academy of Early Learning, visit www.fontanelleacademy.com