40 Under 40 The Class of 2017

Tabitha Desplaines

Director of New Beginnings Early Education & Care Center, Springfield Partners for Community Action; Age 38

Tabitha Desplaines

Tabitha Desplaines

When Tabitha Desplaines was a child, she’d pretend to be a teacher, imagining her stuffed animals were students.

“I loved school, and teaching was all I wanted to do,” she said, adding that, when she was 17, she got pregnant and figured she’d hit a roadblock on her way to a career in education. But her mother had other ideas.

“She told me I was going to finish high school on schedule and go on to college; I had her full support, and together we figured it out.”

So Desplaines graduated high school with an 11-month old. Then she not only earned her college degree, she graduated at the top of her class. In her valedictory address, she praised her mom for helping her achieve her goals. “It was a struggle, getting through college, having a young child, but I looked to my mother, who was a single parent; she always figured out a way to take care of our family and give us what we needed, and that’s something I’ve taken with me my whole life.”

Desplaines planned to teach kindergarten, but when she couldn’t find a job in the public-school sector, she took a position at a private early-education and child-care center. There, she worked her way from the classroom to administration, leading to her present job as director of Early Education & Care for New Beginnings.

“I like teaching and guiding people — children and adults,” she said.

Her boss, Paul Bailey, says her experience of being a young, single mom “enhanced the skills she needed to become an ideal mentor, model, and (at times) shoulder to cry on for parents, students, and staff.”

Desplaines told BusinessWest she’s able to do what she does because she has a great family. She and her husband, Joshua, will celebrate their 14th anniversary this year. Her son Connor, who’s almost 21, is in college studying business.

She says her proudest New Beginnings achievement has been leading the center’s journey to accreditation, which was earned the year after she started. “I believe every child has a right to a quality education,” she said. “And I want to make sure our children have the skills, tools, and resources they need to grow and succeed. If there’s no funding, I try to find it.”

Desplaines says she’s always at the table, making herself known, because “it’s really important to me that these children get the best education they can.”

—Alta Stark