Ownr Spotlight: Megan McGuire Learning
Megan McGuire Learning is an online play-based learning and tutoring business. MML offers engaging virtual learning support for students in the form of educational games and activities that are tailored to their unique interests, needs, and developmental level. MML play-based approach has been especially effective for supporting students with special educational needs. All classes are designed and implemented using current research in developmental psychology.
Since starting in April 2020, MML has delivered over 500 Virtual Play-Based Learning and Tutoring Classes to 25+ students.
Check out this interview we did with MML Founder, Megan McGuire, and learn more about her entrepreneurial journey as an Ownr Grants Recipient.
Megan, tell us about yourself.
I’m an early years and primary educator who specializes in child development, play-based learning and special education. I grew up in Richmond Ontario, playing ringette, watching Lizzie McGuire (no relation), and creating after-school programming for every kid on the block. When I was 5, my younger brother Liam was born, and since then I have been absolutely fascinated with children’s learning and development! I loved playing together and creating games for him—my parent’s least favourite being the one where I taught him how to crawl up and down the stairs by himself 🙂 This fascination quickly evolved into a passion as every one of my adolescent jobs involved working with children in some capacity.
The University of Guelph’s Child, Youth and Family program was a clear next step for me after high school. During this time, I spent 3 magical summers working at an Easter Seals Camp for children, youth and young adults with exceptionalities in British Columbia, eventually co-directing the summer programming and behaviour support training. During this time, I was also fortunate to work with and learn immensely from the amazing people at U of G’s Child Care and Learning Centre. My learning in these places impressed in me the importance of child-centered learning—learning that places the child’s unique interests, needs and developmental level at the heart of the program design.
I followed this interest into my Masters in Child Study and Education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto, where the ideas that form MML really took root. At OISE, I expanded my understanding of child-centred learning, current research in developmental psychology, the benefits of play-based learning, and how to incorporate emerging research into my teaching practice to support all learners.
Growing up I never considered the possibility of being a business owner; I think because this isn’t an option commonly presented to people interested in working with children, especially young women. My pursuit has always been about finding ways to translate current research into learning experiences and strategies that will support all students in experiencing success in learning—and I finally saw starting my own business as a way to do this. In 7 short months, it seems like something really good has started here. I’m excited to continue advocating for play-based child-centred learning, and innovating the services to support more students.
Give us some background on your business and how you got started.
In April this year, I recognized how stressful it was for students without the individualized connections with peers, educators, and support staff that school offers. It was also a stressful time for parents that were feeling new pressures and demands, not the least of which was supporting their child(ren)’s learning and mental health in addition to their own. I knew these pressures were multiplied for parents of children with special educational needs who were facing the additional challenges of supporting their child(ren) without the availability of respite and individualized support services due to COVID-19.
As I mentioned before, my pursuit has always been to translate current research into the creation of learning experiences and strategies that will support all students in experiencing success in learning both inside and outside of the classroom. In April, the conditions arose that told me it was the perfect time to launch my business in an accessible way.
What is your biggest inspiration as an entrepreneur?
It was not one person, but rather a lot of little people, that inspired me to become an entrepreneur. Through my time working as an educator with children in schools, early years centres, and special education programs, I met a lot of little people who were frustrated, disappointed, embarrassed, and anxious because they were feeling like they were being left behind as they struggled to ‘keep up’ with their class. These children weren’t developing the academic skills they needed to reach the curriculum, but more importantly they were quickly believing that they would never be able to have these skills. They didn’t see themselves as capable learners.
So, what inspired me was every child who didn’t see the joy in learning because they didn’t believe they were capable of learning. I wanted to create a service that supported every child in experiencing success in learning.
You’re an Ownr Grants Recipient from earlier this year––congrats! Tell us about that process and how your business has changed since.
I began the process of starting my own business in April of this year and the Ownr Grants allowed me to offer free Virtual Play-Based Learning & Tutoring Classes to support students and families throughout the summer. I was able to offer over 300 free Virtual Play-Based Learning & Tutoring Classes for 25 students with special educational needs, as well as over 100 by-donation classes for other students! It was a summer filled with connection, growth, and such a joy of learning (for myself and the students)! The response from students and families was fantastic and my class times for the fall quickly filled up. In response to the increased demand, I have recently added new class times to be able to support more students and families!
What is one important lesson you’ve learned in starting a business?
You can’t get caught up in having to have the ‘perfect business plan’! There were times starting out where I felt like I was at a standstill and the business wasn’t moving forward in the way I had perfectly envisioned and planned. Looking back now, the most important thing I did during that time was continuing to believe in my business mission and what my business offers. I used that knowledge to brainstorm my next steps. Of course, some of these steps led to more success than others; some of the big steps led to a disappointing lack of success and some of the small steps led to an unanticipated big success! You can’t make a perfect prediction of what is going to work when starting a business, you just have to believe in your business mission and keep using that belief to guide your next steps.
Fill in the blank: The most rewarding part of doing what I do everyday is…
For a lot of the students I work with, learning is not something that comes easily and is often not associated with feelings of joy. Rather, their experiences with learning are often associated with feelings of frustration, disappointment, embarrassment and anxiety. The most rewarding part of what I do everyday is helping these students see success in their learning and gain confidence in themselves.
Finally, any future plans or goals for your business that you’d like to share?
I would love to expand as a social enterprise and develop ways to offer these high-quality learning support services to more students! Right now, some of the ways I envision this growth is through connecting with more students, training other educators in my approach, and collaborating with university and college programs to connect with pre-service educators. But of course, as I’ve learned since starting a business, you can never fully predict the future, you can only take the next step—so I am open to all of the new possibilities for growth that will arise as I expand!
Where can we learn more about Megan McGuire Learning?
Facebook: Megan McGuire Learning