For the Love of Early Childhood Education

It takes a whole village to raise a child. CEFA Willowbrook stands not only for quality early childhood education, but specifically for cultivating tomorrow’s leaders together with parents, families and the community.

At the helm of this award-winning private early education centre is former high school Mathematics/Science teacher Brenda Ip — a devoted educator and philanthropist who has always dreamed of creating an environment to help young children flourish outside of the traditional school system.

Just over a year ago, the immigrant from Hong Kong took a leap of faith by leaving her full-time teaching position to follow her dream and open a CEFA franchise on the Langley Bypass.

The franchise, which includes 14 locations across the Lower Mainland, was established by Natacha V. Beim in 1998. CEFA’s full-day early learning program is designed for infants and children up to five years old. It has a reputation of highly developing a child’s intellect and delivering the finest start in education, arts and the humanities.

Recently,  CEFA Willowbrook was voted ‘Langley’s Favourite Daycare’ in the Langley Times Readers’ Choice awards 2015 and also was the proud recipient of the Langley Advance ‘Best of the Best’ award in the Childcare Provider category.

In this edition of ‘Coffee With,’ this mother of two rescue fur babies opens up about her passion for community and decision to shift career paths to the field of early childhood education.


Brenda_Ip_9148Tell us a Bit About Your Background.

My family and I immigrated to Vancouver from Hong Kong over 25 years ago. I completed my undergraduate studies at UBC, and subsequently my postgraduate studies to become a high school teacher at the University of Hong Kong.

I live in Burnaby with my husband Carlo and our two rescue fur babies: 13-year-old Golden Retriever MoMo and 7-year-old German Shepherd Hero.


What Made You Decide to Pursue Teaching as a Career Path?

Professionally, I am a high school Biology/Mathematics teacher. I chose to enter the field of education because I believe good education is critical to society. I had extraordinary teachers who inspired me to be my very best. Consequently, I want to influence our next generation the same way.

My passion for teaching and commitment to follow my favourite teachers’ footsteps led me to achieve the highest overall ranking at the University of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Education. After I graduated, I was ready to “change the world” by being the best and most inspiring teacher.

During my employment at a local high school, I was fascinated by the great differences in students’ (and staff’s) handling and interpretation of the same situation. From my observation, the outcome of any situation was almost always correlated with the way it had been internalized by the people involved. So when and how was this internalization developed?

It became apparent that the answer lay in the environment that one was in, and the education that one received during early childhood. In fact, research has shown that the first 5 years’ of a child’s life is critical in determining his/her outlook in life! Therefore I decided to shift my career to the field of early childhood education.

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Tell us About Your Decision to Open Your Own CEFA Franchise.

I dreamed of creating an environment in which children would flourish. They would develop positive eating, reading, and learning habits. They would also be surrounded by love, compassion and encouragement, which would lead to developing empathy and fostering creativity. These children would be equipped with the fundamentals to grow into healthy, happy and empowered leaders, who would make positive impacts in their communities, and ultimately, the world.

My dream has come true with the creation of CEFA Willowbrook!


How is CEFA Different from Other Childcare facilities here in ‘the Valley?’

CEFA is not a daycare – it is a private school for children ages 1 to 5. This fundamental difference is reflected in everything that we do – from the fact that our children are grouped by their birth years (vs. just an under-3 and an over-3 class) so they can learn with peers who are developmentally similar, to CEFA-certified teacher training and professional staff development.


At CEFA, There’s a Strong Empahsis on Community, Which You are No Stranger to on a Personal Level. Tell us About your Involvement Here in ‘the Valley.’

I joined the Soroptimist of the Langleys last year. I have been an active Lions Club member for more than 5 years. However, after opening CEFA Willowbrook, I found that I am spending most of my time in Langley. My business is in Langley, and I really wanted to contribute and give back to Langley. Therefore, I set out to find a volunteer club locally and found the Soroptimists.

Soroptimist means “best for women,” and that’s what the organization strives to achieve. Soroptimist are women at their best, working to help other women to be their best. The Soroptimist of the Langleys’ goals and vision resonates with me — to help and empower women in Langley specifically, through a “hand-up,” not a “hand-out.”




Why is it Important for Children to Learn About Giving Back at Such a Young Age?

By teaching a child to contribute, you teach them what it is like to feel empathy, and you teach them that they can make a difference.

We have done many projects that teach children about giving back without necessarily any money involved.

Examples include:

  • Clothing Drive and Yard Sale supported by all the families in the school to benefit children living in rural China so that they can have funds to go to school
  • JK3’s read 100 books for Scholastic to donate books to a classroom-in-need
  • I’ve cut my long hair (it was a HUGE deal for my 3-5 year olds) and donated it to the Cancer Foundation for wigs. It presented a great opportunity for me to teach children about helping others
  • Last Christmas our families got together and created hampers with food, gift cards and toys to a family in need – a single mom with a daughter who has gone through 2 open-heart surgeries
  • Our school is sponsoring 2 children through Compassion Canada on our JK2 and Jk3’s behalf. Our children write to their sponsored friend and they get mails / art periodically; Teachers discuss where their sponsored friends live, how their homes / schools are like etc.


What Would VM Fans Be Surprised to Learn About CEFA Willowbrook?

We work with families who are eligible for subsidy. Families can apply for it and we support them in the process as well.


Anyone interested in finding out more about Ip or CEFA Willowbrook are encouraged to attend the school’s next open house on Saturday, Oct. 24th from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. 

RSVP: 604-533-2287 or willowbrook@cefa.ca. CEFA Willowbrook is also on Facebook HERE.

One of Vancouver’s top Mom Bloggers, Kristyl Clark is a work-at-home mom of two little Valley girls proving there is nothing bland about the burbs. Her adventurous family seems to always be out on some sort of crazy quest, from helicopter rides and wild river rafting, to top-secret paranormal investigations and living the high-life sampling the fine wines and foods of the Fraser Valley region. The ValleyMom.ca blog inspires her loyal fanbase through the trials and tribulations of suburban family living, guiding readers to local hotspots and hidden gems in her Canadian backyard

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