When did you decide to be a teacher? Was there something in particular that inspired you?
I decided to become a teacher kind of on a whim! I never ever thought that I would be able to do it, especially after seeing how hard it was for my mother, but after college I found myself wondering what to do next. I intended to go to graduate school, but nothing seemed to really hold my interest enough to want to study it in depth. Then I remembered the Montessori school that I had worked in over the summers during college and how impressed I was with the students, families, and staff there. Everyone was so dedicated to this way of learning and the children were so happy to be at school every day. So, I contacted the training program in Holly Springs and jumped right in. I felt like I had finally found something that suited me.
My introduction to Montessori came through my stepmother. When I was in high school, she got a job as the office manager at a Montessori school. I had never heard of Montessori at that time, and when she asked if I wanted to come check it out, I said yes. I spent a lot of time there over the next few years, getting to know the staff and students and reading about the philosophy. During college, I worked there for a few summers as a camp assistant. It was then that I really saw how powerful Montessori can be for children. I'll never forget being out on the playground with the toddlers one day and hearing a few of them naming the birds that were flying overhead. I asked them how they knew the names, and they told me that they had learned at school- I couldn't believe that these 3 year olds could remember something like that!
What was your own early education like?
Luckily, I was a student who really liked school. But because the work was not always challenging, I could have easily lost interest and things could have turned out much differently. I was fortunate to be placed into the academically gifted program in the 3rd grade, which did a lot to motivate me and helped me gain some experiences that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. The reality is though, that I didn't know how to learn and study until I was in college; I had always just learned the process of doing things, rather than the meaning behind it. Montessori could have helped me to be much more engaged in school and love learning for its own sake earlier in life.
Which lesson do you particularly enjoy giving and why?
There are so many! I especially love the math and history lessons, but the one that comes to mind is the geometry lesson on parallel lines. It's basically a little story about two friends who are walking on a set of lines, one person on each. There are funny little drawings of kids that go with it, some are smiling and some are frowning. The story is that when the two friends are walking toward each other on intersecting lines and finally meet, they are happy and smiling. When they go away from each other on the intersecting lines, they are sad. Sometimes the children walk along on their lines and never ever meet each other, and those are parallel lines. It's kind of a goofy lesson, but the kids always remember what parallel and intersecting mean!
Describe one of your student's ah-ha moments that you particularly remember.
I have two, both about math. In my first year, Jo Ann and I had a student that was particularly good at math. She devoured every lesson that we gave her and pretty soon, she was through most of the curriculum and only in 2nd grade! I decided to start showing her some more difficult stuff, and one day I pulled out Pascal's Triangle. We spent weeks looking at all of the patterns in it, which then led to lessons on permutations and combinations and other things that most kids learn in high school. It was amazing! The other one is about the dreaded long division. So many children struggle with it, no matter how many materials you use. JoAnn and I always teach it with the racks and tubes and on paper at the same time, so the kids can see why the process goes the way it does. Its so rewarding when it finally clicks and the students can do it on paper while explaining exactly WHY they do it that way.
What is the question you are asked most frequently about Montessori?
Aren't the kids just allowed to do whatever they want? How do they learn?