Debbie Elder

Owner/Head of School, Shady Oak Primary School


I have been involved in early childhood development and education for many years. From raising teenage foster girls to traveling the country to train early childcare professionals, education is my passion. When I moved to Richmond with my husband and our two daughters, I quickly enrolled my youngest, Melissa, in the Shady Oak Pre-K program. At the time, 2nd – 5th grade was not offered, so my oldest daughter attended a neighborhood elementary school. Melissa was finishing up first grade and was so disappointed that she couldn’t stay at Shady Oak. At that moment, I promised her I would fix this and I did…just a few years after Melissa graduated from college.

While Melissa was enrolled, I began teaching at Shady Oak. The welcoming staff and flexible structure allowed me to implement a variety of programs that are still used there today, including compliment circles, voting stones, and much more. Several aspects of Shady Oak inspired me. Learning through play made a significant impact on the students. The children have so much fun playing and don’t even realize they are learning. They are excited and look forward to coming to school each and every day, making our jobs as teachers and administrators so rewarding. The focus Shady Oak has on the whole child also made an impact on me. Life skills are taught at a young age, which truly helps set Shady Oak students up for success. They learn to work together, how to communicate, and learn how to hold themselves responsible for their actions and be accountable to others. The children are also given choices in their learning so that they are engaged in their education. Unit study subjects are chosen by the students, helping to foster excitement and a love of learning.

It is for these reasons and many more that I came back to Shady Oak as the Primary School Director. I am so excited to be able to offer this high quality education to families in Fort Bend County. We are producing leaders in the community who have a clear understanding of self and are strong team players.

Debbie Elder is the nation’s leader in motivating students to be peak performers! Her varied background has equipped her to deal with any child under any circumstance. While working at the Calgary Young Offender Center, in Alberta Canada, she ran the disciplinary unit that housed males between the ages of 12 – 18 whom had committed very serious crimes. As a therapeutic foster parent she raised teenage girls whom came to her with severe behavioral issues. Debbie was named the Therapeutic Foster Parent of the year in 1993. After moving to Houston, Texas, Debbie worked as a substitute teacher at the local elementary school and spent two years teaching Pre-K.

In 2003 Debbie joined the Appelbaum Training Institute, ATI and traveled the country training behavior management techniques for the classroom. Debbie enjoyed speaking to audiences each week that welcomed 800 – 1200 teachers. She also ran a very unique after school program for students in grades 3 – 12. This particular after school program empowers kids of all ages to take ownership of their school work, develop success strategies and increase their level of self-awareness. At the request of her clients Debbie opened a private school that serviced students in grade 6 – 12. This school taught to the ‘whole child’ using accelerated learning methods coupled with success strategies used by the top producers in Corporate America. The concept proved to be so well received that Debbie opened 14 additional schools across the country over the next 6 years.

In a continued effort to meet the needs of her students, Debbie served as a college planner. The unique process helped parents afford college and ensured the student was ready to be admitted and had the skills to complete college in a timely fashion. In 2013, a former parent of one of Debbie’s students requested that she return to her after school program. He went on to explain to her the profound effect the program had on his family. He shared with Debbie that prior to her program he felt like the ‘Homework Police’ and spent way too much of his time badgering his son to finish his daily assignments. But when Alex had the opportunity to attend Set Them Up For Success – The Homework Hangout all that changed, he came home feeling successful and satisfied with the progress he had made and knowing that all of his homework was complete. Alex and his father enjoyed evenings together without any stress or bickering; family harmony was restored.

Debbie is the owner of the Set Them Up For Success franchise and is looking for passionate people who are ready to make a difference in the lives of the students in their area. Contact Debbie Elder at Debbie@SetThemUpForSuccess.com if you are interested in learning more about this opportunity.

Debbie is a passionate international speaker who edutains her audiences. She loves to share her incredible knowledge in simple steps that can be implemented immediately. Her easy going style is loved and accepted by audiences of all ages. She has experience speaking to students, teachers, corporate America, entrepreneurs and people who want to be successful at life!