As part of our observance of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating some of the extraordinary women who are part of our Kiddie Academy family. That includes Dr. Rose Ihedigbo, a powerful presence behind the four Texas Academies owned by her son, James, and his wife, Brittany. Over the past four decades, Dr. Rose has established herself as a successful educator, consultant and author while balancing her role as a mother through some challenging circumstances.
“I’ve been in education going 40 years, doing consulting jobs for the federal government, monitoring Head Start programs, training teachers and working for program directors in several states,” said Dr. Rose. “My family has always been enthusiastic about helping the development of young children.”
It’s been 43 years since Rose Ihedigbo and three children joined their husband and father, Apollos, in the United States from their native Nigeria. The Ihedigbos came to the U.S. to provide a better life with more educational opportunities for their family.
Apollos and Rose had been students at schools in their homeland. Apollos was a divinity student and Rose studied to become an educator. “In Nigeria, education is hard to get without the proper funding. I went to a teacher college, which gave me two years of training to be a classroom teacher. My husband went through a similar experience in a theological seminary. When he completed seminary, he could not find a job teaching. One of his instructors who was from the United States advised us to go to the U.S. So, Apollos applied to a college in the United States.”
Apollos came first, attending Houghton University in Western New York. Rose and their children soon followed. The family eventually settled near Amherst, Massachusetts, where Apollos and Rose attended the University of Massachusetts. They also added two more children to their family.
“When I was at a point of deciding what would I do here in the United States to pursue my career, I was thinking either be a nurse or be a, a teacher,” Rose said. “When I started volunteering in the school’s child care center, that really drew my interest.”
The couple shared parenting duties while Apollos went to school during the day and Rose at night. Rose eventually earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees in early childhood education.
Along the way, Rose and Apollos made a pledge. “There are so many students in Nigeria who do not have the assets to get the training and education they need. We had decided that when we finish our university training, that we would go back to Nigeria and build a school.” The Ihedibgos followed through on that pledge, founding the Nigerian American Technological and Agricultural College. Apollos returned to their home country and got the school started. He ran it until he passed away in 2001.
Dr. Rose chose to stay in the U.S. and continued to balance her career with parenting five children. The youngest child, James, was beginning to show promise as an athlete. Like his parents, James eventually found his way to UMass. He became a star defensive back on the football team and after graduation, went on to play in the National Football League. In 2012, when James was signed by the Baltimore Ravens, Dr. Rose moved to Maryland.
When she arrived in Maryland, Dr. Rose was hired by the state’s Department of Education to help develop the EXCELS quality ratings improvement system. She was one of 15 quality assurance consultants who designed and implemented the system.
When James’s football career ended after the 2016 season, he and wife, Brittany, a former educator, were looking for their next career move, their search led them to Kiddie Academy Educational Child Care. With guidance from Dr. Rose, they signed a franchise agreement to open an Academy in Rosharon, Texas, near Houston. In 2017, that location – Kiddie Academy of Lakes of Savannah – opened with Dr. Rose as Director. Since then, James and Brittany have added three more Academies in Texas – two in League City and one in Cypress – to their portfolio. Dr. Rose has provided valuable leadership and guidance for all locations. “My mom tells me all the time how proud she is of me,” James was quoted in a news story. “I always say to her, ‘Well, I learned from the best.’”
Dr. Rose continues her work as a consultant, speaker and author, but now she devotes more and more time now to her advocacy work. “The future of our children is at stake,” she said. “Congress and state governments must prioritize additional funding to support sustainable investments in early childhood education. That will help ensure that programs like we have in our Academies will continue be there to meet the needs of families.”
Dr. Rose recognizes the importance of being a role model for others. “I’m proud to hear people say that I am a role model, but it matters most to hear it from my children,” Dr. Rose said. “I look at my five children and where they are today. They saw their mother fighting through adversity and working hard. Today, each one of them is successful. That’s the legacy I most want to leave from me and my husband.”
Some highlights of Dr. Rose Ihedigbo’s career
-She was one of the first fifteen Quality Assurance Specialists who created and designed the Maryland EXCELS Quality Improvement Rating System (QIRS) with the Maryland State Department of Education
-Co-Founder of the Nigerian, American Technical and Agricultural College in Abia State, Nigeria
-Owner and Chief Manager of the Ihedigbo Consulting Group
-Author of “Sandals in the Snow: A True Story of One African Family’s Journey to Achieving the American Dream,” “Why the Turtle’s Head is Bald: A Tale from Nigeria” and “Why the Turtle Has a Broken-Patterned Shell: A Tale from Nigeria”
– 5 Children, 15 grandchildren (and one on the way!)
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