Cheryl Lant is a self-taught entrepreneur. And she is one talented teacher.
Thirty-three years ago, she opened her first Learning Dynamics Preschool in Orem. Today? There are five Learning Dynamics locations — four in Utah, one in Arizona — and their phonics-based reading program is being marketed to schools across the West, with more than 50,000 schoolchildren using their unique techniques.
“It’s been amazing to see it grow,” Lant says. “I work with the most wonderful women, and we work with the most wonderful families. Everything we do is for these incredible children we get to teach. I couldn’t have imagined a better business.”
“When these kids learn how to read, they are 10 feet tall! They walk around feeling like there’s nothing they can’t do.” —Cheryl Lant, Learning Dynamics founder
All in the family
Lant is the mother of nine children, and when she started the preschool, everyone in the family had a job. While she developed the curriculum, Lant’s husband, John, handled the business side. Their kids helped build cubbies, cut out laminations, clean the school, and hand out fliers around the neighborhood.
“I wanted a business where my family could be involved,” Lant says. “I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to see your family all work together toward one common goal. You never build a business by yourself. And I had my favorite people right alongside me.”
Incorporating her family into the business also meant setting some boundaries.
“We had to compartmentalize a bit so that it wasn’t all work, all the time,” Lant says. “We had family time, and we had work time. And we also paid our kids to help with the business, which helped us keep the two worlds in check.”
As Lant’s kids have grown, three of the nine have stayed involved in various ways.
“It’s been fun to see their talents develop over the years,” she says.
Learning Dynamics has a fundamental focus on teaching kids how to read at an early age. And it’s a mission the preschool takes very seriously.
“Here in Utah, 70 percent of fourth graders aren’t reading on grade level,” Lant says. “Reading is such a crucial skill. With our preschool program, we have a 97 or 98 percent success rate. It’s individualized to every child, and they all move at their own pace. We give them the foundation and tools they need to succeed now and in the future.”
The program has been successful thanks to its hands-on origin.
“It’s a program we have built and tested over time right here in our classrooms,” she says. “It wasn’t developed in some lab. It was developed with kids through trial and error. We have tweaked it and tweaked it until we got it just right.”
For Lant, there is no better feeling than seeing a child read and progress.
“When these kids learn how to read, they are 10 feet tall!” Lant says. “They walk around feeling like there’s nothing they can’t do.”
“I continue to visit all the schools and work with them on their needs. I would never have guessed the little school I started in Orem would grow into what it has today. I couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve created.” —Cheryl Lant, Learning Dynamics founder
Lant is particularly proud of the culture they’ve created at Learning Dynamics among the teachers — some of whom have worked at the school for 25-plus years.
“We are really a support group to each other,” she says. “There is no drama. There is no competition. We are all here to work together and help these kids grow, develop and learn.”
And the same goes for the children they teach.
“You get to love these families so much. We even have tears when their last child comes through the program because we know they’re done and we won’t get to see them anymore,” Lant says. “We still get families dropping by to say hi, long after their last child has graduated.”
There has never been a question of priorities in Lant’s life.
“Family always comes first,” she says. “And when you have your priorities straight, everything seems to fall into place.”
Once your priorities are set, Lant advises would-be entrepreneurs to start dreaming and doing.
“Just do it. Step out of your comfort zone and make it happen,” she says. “Be sure to calculate your risks and not jump into something bigger than you can handle. But don’t let fear stop you.
“It doesn’t always work. It’s hard. It’s exhausting. But it is also tremendously fulfilling.”