Jennifer Arsenault

CEO, Origins Natural Learning Childcare Ltd.

I am the CEO of Origins Natural Learning Childcare Ltd.  I opened my first center in 1995 in Millidgeville.  It was a small center with five employees.  I was 29 years old and expecting my third baby.  I had a fabulous partner and we created something very special.  My partner moved on in 1999 and I took over as the sole operator.  By this time, we had two locations in Milidgeville. 


Over the next several years I researched Early Education Programs from around the world and really connected with an Italian Program called Reggio Emilia.  In addition to having a degree in business, in 2006 I completed the ECE (Early Childhood Education Certificate Program) at NBCC. I was able to complete the practical piece of this Program on an exchange with Douglas College in Vancouver. This Program studies the Reggio Emilia Philosophy.  I spent six weeks immersed in this program that I had already connected within my research.  I loved the ideas of “a hundred languages of children” and “the environment is the third teacher” in particular. When I returned, I was able to take a program that was already thriving in the community and add even more layers of rich perspective and move from a Childcare Program to an Early Education Program. 

In 2008, I became part of the UNBF team and worked alongside the writers and researchers of the NB curriculum Framework which is values based curriculum designed to offer quality program guides to licensed early education centers.  I was on this project for 10 months helping facilities engage with this change and the roll out of this Framework.

In 2009, I was inspired by my husband to look at an old closed elementary school that was for sale.  Interested in space and grand environments for children, I viewed the facility.  I purchased the school and we renovated it to be an Early Years Centre.  We opened half of the building in March 2010.  We developed the facility up to 2013 when we opened our final wing of the school to be the Provinces only full sixty space infant program.  The school is now licensed for 240 children and showcases beautiful environments, a gym, a formal dining room, an after-school program and a program of learning that is very successful.

In 2015, we opened another center in Quispamsis.  Origins now has 86 employees and 443 licensed childcare spaces.  We hold eight Provincial licenses in total.

What are you most proud of professionally?

The program and care of the families and early educators which offers employment for 86 and beautiful, rich learning environments for over 400 of our youngest citizens. I am very proud of my ability to create this for so many and to stay current in our approach.

What's your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?

To see more community development and opportunities for our youth.

What was your greatest stage of growth?  What made it a shift for you? 

From small business of a little program in Millidgeville to the purchase of an elementary school to repurpose it as an early years program. It added 46 jobs and 240 childcare spaces to our company in 2009. In 2015, we added another centre in Quispamsis as our model was so successful.

What's your favourite or most read book or podcast?

The Visionary Director by Deb Curtis

What's your deepest learning from this past year? How did/will you apply it?

The importance of defining and understanding values connected to areas of focus personally and professionally.

Who's inspired you, directly or indirectly? How have they inspired you?

I have been inspired by many, however Dr. Sherry Rose and Dr. Pam Whitty of UNB gave me the inspiration to develop a vision for the Profession of Early Education. We crossed paths during the unfolding of the NB Curriculum Framework for early Learning and Care in New Brunswick. These ladies were part of the research, development and writing team for this Framework and I was able to join their team helping to implement it in Childcare Centres and do offer continuous professional development to our sector. This experience provided the foundation to create the growth and development direction of my company.

What would you have done differently?

Many things, as my journey is alive and involves the continuous development and collaboration with people. The more experience I have, the stronger the decisions become. Experience also helps in selecting the best people for the various roles needed. Learning about delegation co-constructed team development has been a great place to find myself. You can find leadership in so many wonderful ways if you look.

What were your priorities and how did they help you overcome some of the struggles you've faced? What are the principles you live by?

To offer our youngest citizens a learning environment that inspires them to learn to love to learn. To inspire educators to see the benefits and possibilities with this values-based approach and to understand the merits of co-facilitation over teaching.

Struggles: our education system does not work this way and to help educators understand that the development of the infant to age 5 range is not the same as the school system. Our objective is strong foundations, which requires a different approach then the only system we remember in our educational lives. Properly-trained educators in the market is a big struggle. Principles I live by are to not judge families and to be a support for them. In doing so, collaboration for the child is much richer. Patience and direct communication is also key. Understanding that we are an advocate of the child and that comes with the responsibility to value the family be ready to make adjustments that benefit all.

How have you recovered from fractured professional relationships?  What uncomfortable truths have you learned about yourself in those experiences)?

We can always say we move on from difficult relationships, but doing so requires action and effort. I like to think I have a strength in understanding that not always agreeing is honesty and there is a place for the beliefs and positions of all without losing sight of the important benefits in the professional relationship.


Entrepreneur, Developer of Early Childhood Education Programs

Jennifer Arsenault