We had the good fortune of connecting with Maralene-Maatsaellah Ferguson Bates and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Maralene-Maatsaellah, maybe we can start at the very start – the idea – how did you come up with the idea for your business?
In 1990, I opened an alternative home learning center because my family was growing quickly and I could not afford to enroll my first 2 daughters in Montessori at that time. My husband and I also wanted more than a day-care center or public school setting for our education. I was ready and willing to take responsibility myself. So, I homeschooled my 5 children along with relatives, the children of friends, and other referred families for 18 years. My vision was to provide a stimulating program in a nurturing environment that would develop each student’s potential. My approach then was to teach to multiple learning styles and honor each child’s interests. The program focused on developing self-esteem, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. At the inception, I accepted children ages 2-7 years and added grades as the children aged. Over time, the curriculum included all core subjects for PreK-10th grade, computer literacy, foreign languages, public speaking, African dance and drumming, art, yoga, and metaphysics. Our students visited libraries weekly, went on outings every month, and presented school programs for the community. They acquired an eagerness for learning, effective study skills, and social etiquette. And by promoting our positive African identity, we also fostered multi-cultural appreciation.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
After 18 enjoyable years of homeschooling, I continued educating in other settings as a Pre-K lead teacher, a second-grade classroom teacher, and a visiting teacher with other homeschools. I also started tutoring and privately homeschooling for other families. I believe in each student’s potential and I connect with their interests. I love to dialog and I authentically listen and learn from their experiences as well. I seek to invest in students, and many of my client-families have become long-time friends. My service continues to evolve through changing economic times and social adjustments. I believe dedication to a mission of service, listening to that “small voice in wee morning hours,” and grace from the Most High have led this business through the difficult times. One element of any business success, I realize, is the ability/the necessity to adapt. Sankofa Education Services is among the fortunate businesses that successfully transitioned to changing times. I currently serve families virtually with individual tutoring, test preparation, ongoing classes, and workshops. I have always been an advocate for homeschooling and believe schooling-at-home is the new-old frontier for education, and I would love to be a part of that movement. I feel fortunate for my past experiences and look forward to new opportunities to teach students and support their families.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When friends and family visit, one of our first stops is the DeKalb Farmer’s Market. The variety of produce, breads, wines, candy, spices, coffee, and cheeses from around the world is amazing. We are vegetarians, but they carry a crazy-large variety of fresh seafood and meats that they cut at your request. After a first meal at home, we would take our guests out to different kinds of restaurants. Desta Ethiopian Kitchen is great for outdoor dinner on a balmy evening. Takorea is a blend of Korean and Mexican food. Their sesame fries and taco menu make a nice lunch or casual dinner. For really fine dining, our choice would be Tuk-Tuk, Thai cuisine. What they do with food is art! Fireside Restaurant in Lithonia is our go-to spot for authentic Jamaican dishes. It’s unassuming, but the food is great! Cold Stone Creamery is the dessert spot. Watching the servers scoop and mash ice cream on the slab counter is cool! We would go to the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca Cola, Centennial Olympic Park, the CNN Center, Mercedes Benz Stadium, and the Botanical Gardens. We would walk through Auburn Avenue and visit the MLK, Jr. Center and historic district. If our guest likes the outdoors, we would go to Panola Mountain or Indian Springs State Parks, and Cascade Springs Nature Preserve. If they are really fit, we would definitely climb Stone Mountain!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Many people have passed through the Sankofa Education Services doors, allowed me to serve their children’s education, and supported my business vision. For 30 years, the one consistently supportive person has been my eldest daughter, Adiellah “Adi” Bates. She was our first inspiration to encourage each of our children to develop their natural gifts. As a high school student, she nominated me twice–and I was accepted twice–for “Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.” Because of her example and suggestion to continue developing myself, I earned certifications for Georgia Education and international TESOL (Teaching English as a Second or Other Language), among other training. She suggests venues to promote my service and suggested I write my Test Prep Workshop series. She even dresses me! My wardrobe is mostly Aya Donna Fashions, her own business of authentic African-inspired attire. After getting her Marketing degree, she has continued helping me develop the Sankofa Education brand and social media presence.
Linkedin: Maralene Ferguson Bates