Meet The Team Behind Challenge Island
Robin Bergeron & Leslie Thibodaux
What inspired you to become a Challenge Island Franchise Owner?
Challenge Island’s unique approach to learning was the way we always envisioned ourselves teaching in our classrooms. We were always looking for ways to get our students excited about what they were learning through a variety of activities and literature. We wanted to make a difference and bring back that excitement for learning and problem solving that was almost nonexistent in the traditional classroom setting.
When we found Challenge Island, we were immediately inspired to bring this to all children. Experiencing the excitement that these STEAM based challenges brought to children, was a teacher’s dream. Introducing engineering concepts to children at a young age in a fun, whimsical way was very appealing to us. It was also an opportunity to introduce girls to engineering concepts at an early age. Hopefully, seeds are being planted to grow lots of girl engineers as well as boys.
Running Challenge Island was a way to inspire hundreds of children, not just the students in my classroom. Our classroom has now become communities of children we touch daily through this remarkable program.
Tell us about your professional background.
Robin–I was an elementary teacher for 22 years in Terrebonne Parish. My teaching career began at Pointe-aux-chenes Elementary where I taught for 9 years. I then spent the remaining 13 years at Bourg Elementary. Over the years, I’ve taught 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade. The majority of my teaching career was in 2nd grade where I taught the inclusion class. I’ve worked with children of all abilities: gifted, 504, dyslexic, special education, and autistic. I retired early to run Challenge Island full time in 2012.
Leslie–I was also an elementary teacher for 20 years in Terrebonne Parish. I received a Masters Degree in Education and my certification includes Elementary Education, Academically Gifted, & Reading Specialist. My teaching career mainly included teaching math and reading to Gifted and Talented students in grades 1st-5th grade. I retired from Bourg Elementary in 2012 to start running this enrichment program full-time.
What have you enjoyed most about starting your Challenge Island business?
The best part of running Challenge Island is teaching the kids! We absolutely LOVE being with the students, and seeing their reactions to the different challenges. Teaching is in our blood, and being able to enrich and motivate kids to think makes this our dream job.
Please share one of your favorite Challenge Island moments.
I will never forget my first field trip with 8th graders in their science class. I was a little intimidated by 8th graders since my expertise was in 2nd grade. When I first began the class, they were typical 8th graders….just sitting there…looking around…wondering what kind of work I would make them do. As we got into the concept of Challenge Island, they I could see them start to perk up…I had peeked their interest, but they still didn’t trust me. Once we formed tribes, put on our bandannas and fact paint…..it was GAME ON! If only I could have bottled that energy and excitement! They had a blast cheering each other on…high fives flying around….smiles everywhere!
One of the teachers ran out to get the principal to observe this one student. She told me this child sleeps every day in class, and he was the tribe LEADER! They told me they were going to call home to share this positive news with his mom…….since they usually called for problems. At the end of the class, I heard him say “This was the best day, ever!” It was the best feeling! If only we could teach like this every day!
The following Monday, the teacher emailed me to say the kids were still talking about the field trip. They said it was the best field trip ever. That’s saying a lot coming from 8th graders! Challenge Island isn’t just for elementary kids…..it’s ageless!
What is your favorite Challenge Island “destination” and why?
I really love Roller Coaster Beach! It’s part of Time Machine Island which brings kids back in time. We whisk kids away to Coney Island’s first coaster. The kids love learning about the first coasters……they were a lot different than the coasters of today. When they have to design and create their own, the creativity is amazing! I love how each tribe’s creation is different. It’s one of my favorites to teach!
What is your favorite quote from a student, parent, or school about Challenge Island?
Parent quote: On Tuesday mornings, my son jumps out of bed and looks at his island map next to his bed. He yells, “It’s Challenge Island day….the best day of the week!” (She usually has to wake him up 3 or 4 times each morning….but not on Tuesdays!)
What schools/venues do you currently participate at?
Upper Little Calliou Elementary
Bayou Community Academy
Bayou Blue Elementary
Bayou Black Elementary
North Larose Elementary
South Larose Elementary
Virtual Academy of Lafourche
E Learning Thibodaux
E Learning Bayou Blue
What programs & camps do you facilitate?
After school enrichment
Kids Night Out
Family School Nights
Challenge Island Jr.
Holiday Break Events
Meet Our Corporate Tribe