Many Montessori guides and parents have beautiful, moving stories about their first experience with Montessori, how they found the philosophy, how it called to them, and what made them fall in love. I often joke that I did not ‘find’ Montessori because I never had another choice! I have been a Montessori child since birth, being immersed in the philosophy and attending Montessori schools through high school. My experiences in Montessori schools have been from the perspectives of a student, guide, support staff, and administrative team member. So much of who I am today was shaped by my Montessori experiences and this drives me to help others create these experiences for future generations.
My family owns and has run a Montessori school in Houston, TX since 1979, when our school was founded by my great-aunt Marge. Ever since I was young, I have been helping and involved in the classrooms by helping guides rotate/make materials, cleaning, filing papers, processing payments, matching time sheets, moving furniture, painting, and spent many weekends exploring empty classrooms. Sometimes I would go help in the infant, toddler, or 3-6 classrooms while children were there (as long as I checked to make sure I could be counted in their ratio!). Starting in middle school, I developed an awareness of the intentional way we care and treat children infants and toddlers in Montessori. I spent hours flipping through our guides' manuals learning about HOW we do things. When I was 15, I read the book A Joyful Child by Susan Mayclin Stephenson and from then on, I was hooked. On teacher in-service days, I would visit the infant and toddler classrooms and chat with teachers about why they were putting out certain materials and began to learn the process of using observations to make changes in the environment. As I got closer closer to graduating high school and took on a more 'assistant role', the guides I had been shadowing since I was 10 began to let me try things I thought would be successful based on my observations. I am so appreciative of the grace and trust those guides showed me as sometimes my suggestions or materials were not successful. They would chat with me about their observations, what we could do instead, and encouraged me to observe and try again. Since 2014, I have been observing young children, mostly infants, to learn how to best meet their needs. I have been a lead guide in Infant and Toddler programs since 2017 and am a member of our school's administrative team. My success in these roles has been influenced by my own Montessori education, a strong foundation in observation, and the countless Montessorians who welcomed me into their classrooms with open hearts.
I have also had opportunities to expand my understanding of the Montessori philosophy through working and learning from people outside the context of my family's schools. In 2018, I officially began my journey to become a trained Montessori guide and attended the American Montessori Society (AMS) Infant and Toddler course at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR) in Boulder, CO. The Infant and Toddler course at MECR was not only an amazing educational experience that offered some unique insights (including a Parent-Infant class Facilitator Training) but it was also a spiritual experience for me as well. I learned so much about myself, how the philosophy has shaped my life, and how I bring that to my interactions with children. I had way more 'ah-ha' moments about my life than I expected and am so glad to have completed my credential program at MECR.
In 2019, I became a member of the team at Studio June. First, assisting with parent-child baking classes and then eventually leading parent-child classes. My year spent at Studio June working for and learning from Sarah Moudry changed the way I saw the Young Children's Community (or Toddler Classroom) and was one of the most influential learning experiences I had on my journey as a Montessorian. I was constantly asking questions, getting advice, and having problems solved. My time at Studio June and with Sarah helped me understand the importance of practical life with young children and feel capable in my abilities as a guide, which led me to bring many important practical life activities into my toddler classroom that weren't there before. I was able to supplement my AMS training with information and lessons presented from an AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) trained guide. My time at Studio June also allowed me to work with parents in a new way, as they were in the environment alongside me and the classes were primarily for them. Conducting so many Parent-Child classes, at one point doing 4-5 a week, helped me build communication skills and deepened my understanding of the philosophy. I was able to practice reflective listening and coaching skills I had learned in my infant mental health training. I discovered I love working with families in this way and have participated/led parent-infant/child classes in other capacities since.
I am continuing to have new experiences in the world of Montessori, including being a guest lecturer at training centers, presenting at local, regional, and international conferences, and conducting webinars. Before the COVID-19 crisis really hit Texas in March, I had begun working for an Early Head Start Montessori program as a support team member. I hope to continue my Montessori journey there once the school re-opens in the Fall! COVID-19 also brought new growth experiences as I collaborated with my school's admin team to create and implement protocols in order to open our school to serve essential workers along with designing and coordinating a remote service plan for the school.