Penny Loome and Joseph Rooney have an impressive international resume as husband and wife, but eventually landed in Miami, where they own five Sylvan Centers.
Originally from Canada, I [Penny] grew up overseas, spending time during my childhood in Africa, the Middle East and Western Europe. After returning to Canada to receive my teaching qualifications, I landed my first gig — teaching at an American school in Casablanca, Morocco. I proceeded to take a job at Colegio Roosevelt in Lima as a first grade teacher, where I met Joseph. Joseph, a Glasgow, Scotland native, worked as a high school English teacher for 18 years before becoming the school’s principal. After a short stint outside education, Joseph returned to the sphere by teaching international baccalaureate (IB), advanced placement (AP) and standardized test preparations at an international school Lima, Peru—where we met.
After hitting it off, we decided to relocate together, working in various locations like Thailand, the U.K., and the Caribbean, before moving back to Canada. Upon returning to North America in 2001, Joseph got a job teaching at a school for autistic children, and I started looking for opportunities to get back into the Canadian workforce.
Eventually, I became the center director at Sylvan, working directly with the franchise owners at the time, where I got a vantage point of business ownership with Sylvan. With a taste of ownership, we decided that we would keep our eyes peeled for potential territories to purchase with the brand. In 2007, we were able to reach our dream, opening our first Sylvan center in Victoria, B.C., with a second center opening less than two years later.
As luck would have it, the brand recently had five centers in Miami up for sale. The location piqued our interest, prompting us to purchase the locations and pack up for a warmer climate in the U.S.
How We Heard About Sylvan
I had heard of Sylvan, having worked in education in Canada, and I was familiar with the name. When we moved to Canada, it was during a time that people were down-sizing school districts, meaning that there were not a lot of opportunities for teaching jobs where we wanted to be. So, we started looking for alternatives, which lead me to a summer job at Sylvan.The summer tutoring position turned to management, which turned to climbing ranks, snowballing into a director position. I really enjoyed the company, seeing the learning taking place and seeing what we could do for kids. I’m glad to have taken that tutoring position back then.
What's Different About Sylvan
Sylvan very accurately pinpoints students’ weaknesses in core subjects, like math and reading, which are at the core of every other subject. If you can’t do math, you won’t be able to do science; if you can’t read, you won’t be able to do any of the humanities. Sylvan focuses on those access subjects and targets particular areas of development by tailoring courses for each student in the way that will maximize potential development. At Sylvan, we focus on skills and filling gaps by going back to the point of struggle. The reality is that basic skills are the foundation for good education. As a teacher having worked in the classroom, you would have 20 – 25 students. You knew which ones needed help, and you knew what they needed, but in the scope of a day, you cannot give individual attention to five, six or seven students — there’s just no time. That’s the beauty of Sylvan.
Why We Chose Miami
We both love Florida — we both got our pilot’s license and learned to fly here; we both speak Spanish, we both appreciate and love the diversity of ethnicities here — and there are a lot of wonderful opportunities for us here. Miami has one of the biggest school systems in the states and it invests a lot of time, money and effort into the education system. One thing we know from being overseas is that parents almost always want the same thing for their kids — a great education. We also love the weather!