Leading The Way Profile

Jessica Edwards Leading The Way


This month, we’re putting the spotlight on Jessica Edwards and how she’s enhancing the lives of children through gymnastics, dance, parkour, karate classes, and more with her business Head Over Heels.

Tell us a little bit about your background…

My name is Jessica Edwards. I’m married to Jason, and we have four children, all of whom work with us at Head Over Heels (until they leave for college). I was born in Laramie, Wyoming, and started taking gymnastics there when I was five. When my family moved to Polson in 1986 I was ten, and I was very sad to learn that there was no gymnastics gym here. Since I was homeschooled I was eventually able to start driving up to Kalispell for gymnastics, and competed on their team for three years. When I was 16 I started teaching gymnastics in Kalispell to pay for my own training, and then when I quit competing I bought mats and taught tumbling in our church in Ronan which paid for my snowboarding habit. I love teaching all sorts of things, so I taught wilderness skills like rock climbing, whitewater kayaking, backcountry skiing, etc. at Camp Bighorn for ten years. I also enjoy teaching my kids life stuff which includes everything, so we homeschool them too. When we lived in Colorado for a few years I taught gymnastics at a really good gym in Grand Junction, where I learned a lot more than I had ever known before about how to do and teach gymnastics beautifully instead of just functionally. I also taught for a while at a Cheer gym in Pennsylvania when we lived there, and I learned how NOT to run a program there. When we moved back to Polson in 2009 I started teaching my own kids and their cousins and friends, and there ended up being a huge demand for gymnastics instruction, so the business sort of accidentally grew until it became official in 2013 as Head Over Heels LLC.

Describe the work you do with families and children…

I believe that each human being is created in the image of God, and as such has inestimable worth. I love to create an environment where young children, older children, young adults, parents, and other adults can thrive, and grow to be their best selves. I love challenging people to use their bodies well, and I find it easier to approach more abstract topics like overcoming fear, or loving themselves and others well when we can connect the non-material concepts to physical situations.

We offer gymnastics, dance, parkour, and karate classes, and we have a Montessori preschool. We also offer open gyms and birthday parties. We provide classes and play time for the Early Childhood Head Start programs in the Valley. During the winter months we provide FREE Friday Family Fun Nights to encourage families to spend time together doing fun and healthy things regardless of their income.

What do you think people misunderstand about the work being done with children age 0-5?

Based on my observations of quite a few parents and caregivers in the Valley, if I could encourage adults to change one thing about their interactions with the children under their care, I would want to encourage them to not feel bad about being the authority for the child. Children are so much happier when they don’t feel like they are in charge of everything, and when they can instead rest in your authority. Give them a choice between two good things if you like, but don’t give them an open-ended choice. You are better equipped to make a decision than they are in most situations, and they will be better off obeying you than trying to make up their own minds. They will be happier and healthier if you are the authority, and you will find that you are more patient and kind to them if you expect them to obey, and if you provide consequences gently, firmly, and immediately if they do not do so. If you have done this badly in the past, apologize to your children, and tell them that you are going to try to do it differently in the future. Then tell them exactly what you plan to do, and try to stick to it. If you find you need to change your method, that’s fine, but again, apologize to your children for a mistake you made, and tell them about the changes so that they know what to expect going forward.

How would you describe the most important work that needs to happen for young children?

For parents to grow in confidence that God knows and loves them and their children, and that He will provide help for them if they ask. For organizations to come alongside parents to resource and help them whenever possible instead of taking over responsibility for their children for them. Just like you all are working toward doing!!

If you could change one social factor impacting families and young children what would it be and why?

The expectation and need for a two-income family. I’d love it if every kiddo had a parent at home with them for the first two or three years at least.

The work has many rewards-what are some of the challenges and how do you deal with them?

I think the worst is broken relationships and divorces between parents. The children inevitably suffer the consequences. My commitment is to stay in relationship with both parents, and to not take sides, so that I can have the best chance at helping their kiddos through the chaos. 

What do you feel you personally get from working with families and children?

It is exhilarating when you see a child excel in a discipline or skill that nobody thought they could ever do. It changes their perspective on themselves and their own abilities, and it changes their caregiver’s perspective as well. Sometimes I come to work and I’m amazed that I get to work barefoot, in such a fun place, with such wonderful people!!

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