I used to tell people that the idea for this company begin in back in 1988 when my husband and I started thinking about how to best support our two young children to be successful in their new school. We’d made the decision to relocate from our home in Savannah, Georgia, to Coralville, Iowa, so that I could complete my doctoral studies at our graduate alma mater, the University of Iowa. The first name we agreed upon was Denise Ranard Educational Systems and Services and our daughter, Marta G. designed our first logo for the Denise Notebooks. I took my lesson plans and family from town to town in the free time we squeezed between my graduate courses, my full time teaching jobs in Cedar Rapids and later the Iowa City Community School District and my kids very active school and extra curricular activities. Sometimes we were met with positive feedback, other times, not so much. We knew we had something special, something that could help young kids, especially those who were growing up in environments that did not have the benefit of being culturally component regarding the needs of under-served minority students. I learned a lot during that time and though the business didn’t take off as we’d hoped, I take comfort in the fact that I know we were able to help some people in the process.
Looking back on that now, I realize that I was on a path to create this company long before 1988. I attended Chatham County Public Schools during the storied period of school integration. Born two years before the Brown vs. Board of Education, school integration did not catch up with me until my senior year of high school in Savannah, Georgia. I saw first hand the impact that education policy decisions can have on the lives of students and that experience shaped my career path and stoked a passion for making a positive contribution to public education.
I studied education at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, the first of my family to leave Georgia for post-secondary education. It was during period when I met my husband, Willyerd R. Collier, Sr., during a student conference where he was representing Wabash College.
Following our marriage, I continued my educational training at the University of Iowa where I completed my masters degree in 1976 and went on to teach in Indiana, Georgia and Iowa before completing my PhD in Elementary Education with special emphasis in early childhood education from the University of Iowa in 1997.
The first formal structuring of the business begin to form during the brief period when I took a break from teaching in the classroom and worked as the office manager for my husband’s law firm when my children were young. Nearly every day I would set them up in the back room of the office and test out my supplementary education strategies to shore up what I felt were deficiencies in their school instruction. We studied science and engineering and dove deep in the world histories that were often ignored in their standard curriculum. My goal was to help them develop a love for learning. Working with my children helped me realize that I needed to complete my doctoral studies so that I could be in a position to affect the change I knew was needed in early childhood education.
It was during my time as a college professor that I was introduced to the idea of small business incubators that many scientists and engineers engage when they are coming up with the next life saving or life easing invention. My daughter would come to me with ideas about how we might be able to tap into that for developing the streams of ideas that seemed to leap out of me for helping young learners get the head start they need to be successful life long learners. As you can imagine, it was challenging for an educational curriculum company to pitch against teams designing the next best app, but along the way we managed to innovate and develop STEM educational resources that raised the level of support for teachers and students throughout the state of Arkansas. My daughter and I were also fortunate to obtain certification as Engineering is Elementary (EiE) professional development trainers with the Boston Museum of Science.
As I began to near retirement in 2015 we started thinking about restructuring the original business into something that I could use to keep me busy once I no longer HAD to work. I realized I still had a desire to share my knowledge with parents and early childhood educators though I no longer desired to do that as a college professor. I wanted to get back in the field and work directly with families. Shortly after our retirement we relaunched the company as Marta Collier Educational Systems and Services, LLC and launched into the next great adventure of our lives.
Today MCESS provides seminars, webinars, workshops, coaching, training, curriculum and resources to support school readiness and excellence in young learners. Serving both the formal and informal learning sectors, MCESS delivers standards-aligned, project-based learning solutions serving students Pre-K through 3rd grade that are adaptable to public, private and home school learning communities. Our mission is to help unlock the genius in every child.