New School in Miami Design District Will Prioritize Happiness and Emotional Intelligence Alongside Academics

Centner Academy

Centner Academy Launches September 2019

Serial technology entrepreneurs and philanthropists David and Leila Centner received unanimous approval from The Miami Planning Zoning & Appeals Board to open  Centner Academy, a progressive new school, equally committed to happiness and emotional intelligence as it is to academics and leadership.

Centner Academy

Opening in September 2019, the academy will initially serve a student body of up to 18 children between the ages of two and a half and six years old. Next year, the academy will offer first grade and will add new grade levels every year up to the 12th grade.


Drawing on the latest research in the field of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, and the science of happiness, the Centners seek to help children flourish cognitively, emotionally and interpersonally.


“Our philosophy is based on the understanding that success does not lead to happiness, but rather that happiness leads to success,” explains Leila Centner, founder and CEO of Centner Academy.  “Our goal is to transform the heart of education to ensure happy, confident, compassionate, mindful, empathetic and connected children, so we are building a 21st century school designed as a living, breathing response to new personal and social challenges.”


In addition, students at the academy will be on the road to being fully prepared for life in a multinational global economy through daily immersion in Mandarin. Spanish lessons are also available and  taught after-school.


Educators will focus on creativity and curiosity which in return will nurture a child’s emotional health and encourage independent and divergent thinking. Emotional intelligence, which encompasses awareness, understanding, and the ability to express and manage one’s emotions, will also be a key focus area.  Self-control, one piece of emotional intelligence, is particularly important in predicting achievement in children.


“Our goal is to make them emotional ninjas,” said Centner.  “We will teach kids that in just about every situation they can choose how to respond.  We will give them the tools to counteract negativity, and take back their power instead of defensively reacting to challenging situations.”


Centner Academy’s mission is to help shape young people into adults who are not only confident and poised to succeed but who have the character and skills needed to make the world a better, kinder and more loving place.  This philosophy strongly influences the curriculum’s five key pillars that include language mastery, leadership, character, mindfulness and life skills.


“It has been said that children are great observers but sometimes poor interpreters,” explains Centner. “Unaddressed emotional needs in children are what cause adults to suffer from limited belief systems which manifest as fears, obstacles, and/or challenges we struggle to overcome. The essence of a limiting belief is an emotion, so when we teach students how to recognize their feelings, understand where they come from and learn how to deal with them, we teach them the most critical skills for a successful, happy life.”


In a world that is gaining a greater awareness of the psychological and societal effects of bullying, where safety and security are at the forefront in American classrooms, and where insecurity and social pressure can follow children 24/7 through digital networks, Centner Academy aims to provide children with a loving school culture full of respect and compassion with zero tolerance for bullying and an emphasis on character, empathy and citizenship.  The academy is dedicated to providing a physically and emotionally safe, secure and nurturing campus and community.


Nutrition will also be strongly emphasized for its potential to positively influence students’ academic performance and behavior. The academy has tapped Dr. Kristin Reihman as their nutrition expert to ensure only brain nurturing foods are served at the academy.


Centner Academy will launch in a 16,000 square-foot, three-story building at 4136 North Miami Avenue, just steps from the Miami Design District. The custom-designed facility will provide an optimal learning environment for young children via adaptable classrooms built with safe, environmentally friendly and non-toxic materials, colorful décor to stimulate the brain and plenty of natural light.  A 3,000 square-foot outdoor play area allows children to exercise their bodies including a kid-sized soccer field, sensory equipment and quiet reflection areas to rest and recover.


Centner Academy’s curriculum was designed to “serve it forward” by offering an educational template to charter schools and public schools in low-income city neighborhoods nationwide.

David and Leila Centner are serial technology entrepreneurs with multiple successful exits. Their most recent company, Highway Toll Administration, was acquired in March 2018 by private equity firm Platinum Equity investing from their $6.5 billion global buyout fund, Platinum Equity Capital Partners IV.  David Centner was founder and Chief Executive Officer while Leila Centner served as the company’s Chief Financial Officer. The Centners are passionate humanitarians and philanthropists dedicated to helping the underserved achieve their maximum potential through education and sustainability-oriented programs.



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