AU alumna Jenna Ward leads expansion in China
On Stands Now
When College of Arts and Sciences alumna Jenna Ward was a freshman, she made a decision that would change her life.
“My interest in education actually came from a general education class that I took during my first year at American University,” Ward said. “I originally declared my major as psychology, but after taking a class with [CAS] Professor David Sadker called “Schools and Society,” I knew that I wanted to work with children. I switched my major and spent the next four years taking classes that would prepare me for a career in the field of education.”
Her choice to change majors paid off. Ward now works as the chief program director for Rainbow Station in China, where she will oversee the opening of 110 schools over the next five years, making her an integral part of Rainbow Station’s international expansion. The expansion will also mean that AU students looking to take their post-graduation plans to China now have the opportunity to join Ward.
Rainbow Station offers early education and school-age recreation, with particular attention to special care for mildly ill children, children with short-term illnesses, symptoms of illnesses or short-term disabilities. It is known as the first “Leadership Preschool” in the world because of its emphasis on leadership development in children through its leadership curriculum “The Leader in Me.”
“One thing that makes Rainbow Station unique is that we promote leadership amongst our students through a Franklin Covey program called ‘The Leader in Me,’” Ward said. “We are the first early education program to implement ‘The Leader in Me’ on this scale throughout the world, and that is something we are very proud of.”
While moving to China has given Ward a unique and exciting opportunity to work abroad, her situation sometimes proved to be disconcerting.
“Living and working in a foreign country has been one of the greatest challenges I have faced,” Ward said. “My time in China has given me insight into a brand new culture and has forced me to re-evaluate many of my previous viewpoints.”
Nevertheless, Ward sees her work in China as a positive experience. Working with Rainbow Station as it grows allows her to develop her skills, learn more about herself and pursue her dream of working with children.
“I know that this opportunity has allowed me to grow as both a person and as an educator,” Ward said. “Rainbow Station has a unique curriculum and an unparalleled outlook on education. In learning about ‘The Leader in Me’ and in implementing this program I have continued to grow and further understand my own strengths and growth opportunities.”
Ward began working for Rainbow Station not long after she graduated from AU in 2010 and moved to Virginia Beach, Va. Working for Rainbow Station allowed Ward to follow her passion for education that was first sparked at AU.
“I worked as a recreation counselor and then as the assistant director at Rainbow Station Virginia Beach (a Rainbow Station franchise) for almost two and a half years before I transferred to China,” Ward said. “Here, I am working to help Rainbow Station open their first international location in Shenzhen in the Guangdong province of China.”
Ward has also recieved praise from her coworkers on her efforts in China.
“Jenna is tenacious, caring, and committed to excellence,” Rainbow Station President and CEO Gail Johnson said. “Her determination to succeed and to achieve great things is not stymied by anything that comes her way.”
Since she joined the company in 2010, Ward has enjoyed her work with Rainbow Station and welcomes its growth. In addition to its international expansion, Rainbow Station hopes to have 40 franchised schools by 2018, which means that they are in constant demand for more educators.
“Rainbow Station is working with the career services departments of major universities in Virginia as well as universities in the District of Columbia and other states to identify alumni/alumnae teacher candidates who are qualified and interested in teaching at one of our schools in China,” Ward said. “We have a standing job opening posted on our corporate website for anyone who would like to receive more information or to apply.”
Ward welcomes the opportunity to work with AU students and alumni who, like her, are interested in education and are open to life in a foreign country.
“I would be thrilled to have fellow Eagles join me here in China,” Ward said.
Eagle Staff Writer Mark Lieberman contributed to this story.