Originally from England, Emma moved to Cayman in 2013, falling pregnant with her first daughter shortly after. She and her husband, Peter have three girls, Florence, 7, Jemima, 6, and Ivy, 4. Having taught for 10 years prior to moving to Cayman, Emma started a small, independent tutoring company with her partner Bryony, which has since evolved into a fully-fledged primary school, Footsteps School.
Opening one’s own school would be a dream for any passionate educator, but taking on such a huge project whilst raising three small children is also daunting. Emma Kendall, however, remembers her school days as being the happiest in her life, so when the opportunity to create the school of her dreams presented itself, she was not about to pass it up.
Turning what started as a small, private-tutoring service into Cayman’s first fully-accredited beach school – one where learning is nature-based and days climbing sea grape trees are part of the curriculum – was no easy feat. But for Emma, being able to spend her days creating a warm, safe place where kids of all abilities – from special needs to scholarship students – are welcomed and encouraged, is immensely rewarding.
It is, nonetheless, a mammoth undertaking. Without a large staff to share the duties, Emma and her partner Bryony have to roll up their sleeves and be Jacks-of-all-trades. As directors, the buck stops with them. “It can often be overwhelming knowing that all of our students and their families are relying on me to get it right,” she comments. But rather than let that deter her, she uses it as motivation to do the very best she can.
Alongside running the school, she is raising her own three girls. “The juggle is real,” she says. “I’m not afraid to admit that trying to do it all isn’t always possible.” Her days are endlessly busy and making it work requires support from friends and her invaluable helper as well as careful planning and very long hours. Emma and her husband often work late into the night and wake early to get a few hours’ work in before the sun (and children) rise.
The fact that they are on the same page when it comes to family is key to making it work, she says. “Family must come first. After all, the girls are our whole reason for working so hard.”
As a child, Emma watched her mother work equally long hours to ensure her children received a good education. When they were old enough, Emma and her sisters also worked weekends in their mother’s little jewellery shop, learning teamwork, the value of money and the importance of commitment early on.
Like most parents, Emma and her husband hope to instil some of the core values they were brought up with in their own children. “My husband grew up in a family with very traditional values,” she says. “Their family motto was ‘remember, you’re a Kendall’.” That simple phrase kept him and his siblings out of trouble as kids and I’m hoping we can pass that sentiment down to our girls.”
There is, she notes, an element of regret that as expats, their girls aren’t growing up with their grandparents just down the road. It means that they don’t have those typical role models in their daily lives. But living far from home opens the door to so many valuable opportunities, particularly international travel. Having adventured throughout parts of Central and South America with the girls, Emma believes that there are boundless memories to be made and lessons to be learnt from travelling as a family. “You only have 18 summers with your children and living life to its fullest is what it’s all about for me,” she notes. “I want my girls to look back on their childhood fondly and to appreciate what a fun, stimulating start they had in life.”
As a parent, Emma is learning all the time. She doesn’t strive for perfection but instead focuses on bathing her children in love and teaching them the importance of kindness, honesty and respect towards one another. When her girls look up at her with their sparkly blue eyes and cheeky faces and express their love and gratitude, totally unprompted, then she knows she must be doing something right.