Sarah Walker ~ Head of School
Words from Sarah Walker ....
Dear Families of The Montessori School:
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance” Eckhart Tolle.
Welcome to a new school year! The Montessori School and its community are the keystones. This year, our theme is Belonging. As we nurture and strengthen our community together, we rely on our partnerships with you. Throughout the year, we look forward to sharing with you in ways that will continue to build strong bonds together, especially as we serve your children, our students. Thank you for this privilege.
This summer we have been renewing our campuses including cleaning, painting, and construction. The ceilings in the original portion of our Whipple Road building, the Toddler and Primary wing, have been replaced. I extend gratitude to Gerard Bisceglie and Alex Kranzlin for their hard work, and especially recognize Gerard’s efforts with the construction team in ensuring our timeline needs were met for our opening of school. In addition, I extend gratitude to our staff for their flexibility and many long hours spent in readying their classrooms; they did this in a more abbreviated timeframe than in past years. We have such a positive, dedicated team on both campuses, and I am grateful to all for everything that has been accomplished. The result is the consistency of beautifully prepared environments.
In the spirit of Belonging, The Parent Room space has been extended this year! On behalf of our school community, I offer our on-going appreciation to our Parent Association Leaders Melissa Ellis and Judith Fluck who coordinated the lovely, fresh makeover. We hope you will continue to make yourself welcome here when you are on the Whipple Road Campus.
As we move through these next weeks, I will be sending out additional notes regarding other blessings from our community—we are gifted with an abundance of talent and generosity.
And speaking of gifts, this summer I received a copy of a book written by our founders, Pat and Larry Schaefer. It captures their 40 year journey at their second school, Lake Country School Montessori Learning Enviroments. Their words below resonate with me for all we value, too:
The life of a school begins in beauty and grows in beauty as it harnesses the energy of hundreds of people, young and old. This is the architecture of a real school. Its foundation is the child. Upon it is built a purpose-driven community. The building process and the resulting structure liberate and uplift everyone, children and adults. The natural wonder and energy of children spark an urge to learn and make learning an adventure for all. Human-hearted partnerships spontaneously emerge, leading to good conduct and moral relationships. A child educated in such a school arrives in adulthood as a lifelong learner emboldened to believe that all people can be friends, that peace is attainable (From Creating A Real School, by Larry and Pat Schaefer).
In this spirit, I encourage and welcome your ideas, creativity, good will, and support—the continuation of our human-hearted partnership on behalf of our children and staff, and all we strive to provide together.
With love and cheer for this new year—
Sarah Walker, Head of The Montessori School
Dear Families of The Montessori School:
I hope your summer vacation is well underway and filled with fun and plenty of special occasions with family and friends. Speaking of fun, our Board of Trustees is sponsoring a Supper and S’Mores gathering on our Whipple Road Campus tomorrow, Tuesday, June 28th from 6-8 PM. An email invitation was sent from our Trustees on Tuesday, the 21st. I look forward to spending a lovely evening with those of you in town and able to join us tomorrow. We appreciate this idea coming forward to our Trustees from our parent community—thank you for your thoughts and support! Rest assured, we will be having our traditional array of annual kick-off events at the start of the school year, too, so if you miss this event, there will be more at the start of the fall. As per usual, by mid-July, you will be receiving an email notice from Donna when our complete list of all-school and community events for the 2016-2017calendar will be active on the website.
Speaking of community, I am delighted to announce we will be creating an all-school family directory with photos for the 2016-2017 school year. Parent Volunteer Christine Donnelly has graciously agreed to be our photographer for this project, and she will be on hand at the start of the school year to take a photo of you and your family. We will be in touch with you in early August about these September dates. Please know times for taking these pictures will coordinate with the start of the school year. It will be such a helpful community-enhancing resource for all of us to have the capability to place faces with names for our entire Montessori family. As you may recall, our theme for this upcoming year is Belonging, and we look forward to continuing to strengthen our community bonds through meaningful relationships and opportunities to connect with one another. As you reflect on recent and cherished events as we closed this past school year, I invite you to view the beautiful photos of our Grandparents Day and our 8th Year Commencement by clicking here--our gratitude to Parent Volunteer Photographer Pam Vlahakis.
Last but not least, our hard-working staff have completed the year-end progress reports for your children. Curriculum Coordinator Heather Maccabe has been the point person and manager for this process, and I extend my gratitude to her and our entire Montessori School Staff on both of our campuses. The end of the year reports were mailed on Tuesday, June 21st, as a reference for you.
Happy Summer, and I look forward to being with those of you who are able to join us for Supper and S’Mores on the evening of June 28th —
With love and gratitude,
Sarah Walker, Head of School
Dear Montessori Family,
When seemingly intangible experiences are artfully captured, we have reason to celebrate the ability to share in the understanding. Such times enrich us and bring us closer together. I am deeply grateful to Richard Dupre for his beautiful contribution for Peer to Peer; it is my honor to introduce his artful, heartfelt, poetic capture of our culture.
Happy New Year, we look forwad to welcoming you all back tomorrow!
WHY WE CHOOSE THIS SCHOOL
I confess that I went to a name private high school. I didn’t get a bad education there, but I came away from the experience wanting no further contact with the place or people I knew there. I remember the school as a high pressure, high stakes machine which churned out people adept at using their sharp elbows, socially and in their work, to eviscerate anyone in their path to advancement. It felt like a predatory environment where only the most fit, according to the school’s criteria, succeeded. I did not succeed there, I just survived the experience. I remember a high casualty rate among my classmates, people who ran away from school, were expelled, dropped out, or simply were, in the school’s euphemism, “not invited back”.
Using a proverbial broad tarring brush, based on my harsh high school experience, I came into adulthood with a strong prejudice against private schooling. Friends’ positive experiences at other schools challenged and puzzled me. I was even dimly aware that other students at my school mustn’t have shared my experience or feelings towards our school.
When longtime friends living in the same town as I sent their children to The Montessori School, I wondered why they did so, thinking of the high local taxes we pay, 90+% to fund our town’s school system, and the commensurate high national rating of our town’s public schools.
Then, late and unexpectedly, I became the husband to a public school teacher. Seeing up close the energy, passion, intelligence, and creativity which Judith brought to her students and her work, certainly her colleagues also to theirs, left me with no doubt as to my commitment to public education.
Still later and even more unexpectedly, I became father to two sons whose presence rocked my world and utterly changed my views. These boys have been profoundly different people since before their births, each with his distinct strengths and particular needs. I find the extraordinary degree of difference between our sons wonderful as I think it makes possible their sharing the same air in a way which would not occur if they had to compete with each other for it.
Strange and even laughable to think with them so close in age as they are but so different from each other as they are, that many people asked if they were twins! But they so clearly are not identical in their interests--other than soccer and Lego--or in their gifts and their challenges or in how they learn and express themselves.
As Judith and I contemplated our move from Switzerland to the US, friends on both sides of the Atlantic encouraged us to look into Montessori education for our sons. A Swiss friend who studies pedagogy and whose sons are friends of our sons recommended Montessori to us in principle. Our American friends whom I mentioned above and who sent their children to The Montessori School years ago recommended this school in particular.
Lo, in October 2013, our sons and we came to see the school. At first sight, they and we, my principles and prejudice in favor of public education notwithstanding, were moved, at moments to tears by what we saw.
Our introduction to the school, the hospitality of the students who brought us to their classrooms to observe and offered us tea, the open and substantial conversation with the Head of School--more time with the Head in my first hour at our school than I spent with the Headmaster of my school in four years there.
Certainly the school’s environment, the tall oaks overhanging the building, open classrooms with large windows bringing sunlight and a view to the garden, the school flows physically out from and back into the outside world, as our children go out from the school to surrounding towns to research questions of interest returning with the answers they find.
I found so telling our observant and wide-seeing older son’s comment after our first visit to The Montessori School, in his special, gentle way: “I want to go to school here”. I know no more convincing or telling endorsement.
Of course I write of subjective, emotional things, and omit vital subjects such as pedagogy which I, in my second year as a Montessori parent, am fascinated by and I attend many Parent Education workshops and events. While I still struggle to comprehensively understand the pedagogy, I deeply respect the depth of the educational philosophy and see the strong academic opportunities along with the focus on the development of the human being.
I see and feel the vitality of the community, cherish the occasions when our sons allow me to accompany them into the school and I can spend a few moments in the corridors whether heavily trafficked with children preparing for school or quiet and I can hear the sounds and feel the energy of children and their teachers hard at their work. I am so glad that we are here.
As we enter this week of Thanksgiving, it is with joy that we look to our time-honored traditions on both of our campuses—from classroom celebrations and ‘feasts’, to welcoming our Grandparents and Special Friends to our Middle School Campus.
As you visit our Whipple Road Campus, I invite you to take a moment to reflect on the collaborative Thanksgiving art offering on the entry Wall. It is my pleasure to share with you words from Mark Stephenson regarding the creative process that he, Lina Gomez, and our students engaged in for the formation of this piece: “As Lina and I were considering imagery related to Thanksgiving, we wanted to avoid cliché but still capture the spirit. In the end we selected the nautilus shell as a representation of the classic cornucopia. We feel this is an apt choice because of the physical similarity between the two forms and because of the structure so clearly embodied in the nautilus shell. This “organization” which underlies everything is truly what gives rise to the incredible bounty of the natural world and which extends from subatomic particles and waves through all of those things we most cherish in our lives.” The words surrounding came directly from the children of our community, expressing those things for which they are thankful. The beautiful nautilus rendering is by Lina Gomez. Thank you to Mark, Lina, and our Whipple Road Students for this inspiring contribution.
And, as mentioned, it is with happy anticipation that we look to our Grandparents and Special Friends Day at The Middle School this Wednesday, November 25th. I look forward to greeting our families and joining Mark Dansereau, Lisa Potter, Ted Stonbely, the staff, and students who have created a morning of welcoming activities that will engage our guests and spotlight the warmth and richness of our Middle School community. Thank you to Gerard Bisceglie, Jason Brasher, and Alex Kranzlin for their help with our set up and parking coordination. This is a labor of love by all and an event we cherish. (We are delighted our weather forecast is cooperating this year!)
We send blessings and gratitude to all of you along with wishes for safe travels, especially as we enter this holiday season.
With warmest regards,
Sarah Walker, Head of The Montessori School
Dear Families of The Montessori School:
As we finish the week with this sunny fall day of conferences on both campuses, we are mindful of the depth of commitment of our entire community. Thank you to our families for your partnership and trust as we work together for the children of our community, and thank you to our dedicated Staff for their expertise, commitment to professional growth, and for their caring guidance with our students. Our experience and our hope is that these meetings are positive and productive as we continue through this year and look to the year ahead. I know Mark Dansereau joins me in extending to you our availability for follow-up and feedback, as well. Speaking of such, I would like to take this moment to extend special gratitude to Mark Dansereau. Joining us this summer as Interim Director of The Middle School, Mark has already contributed greatly to our learning community and has provided inspiring leadership in particular to the Middle School. Mark, thank you for your compassionate and insightful work, and we look forward to the road ahead!
And speaking of depth of commitment within our community, I would be remiss not to recognize the hours of work and dedication from our parents and staff for our recent events that help to make The Montessori School the warm, welcoming, family community that we are. Our Annual Fall Clean Up was, once again, a day of Big Work and Great Fellowship! The Whipple Road Campus looks especially well-loved as a result. Thank you to Outdoor Committee Chair, Veronica Brasher, and the entire Outdoor Committee as well as our volunteer project leaders. We were kept especially warm and cheered by the hot chocolate, coffee, bagels and muffins as we worked in the morning—special thanks to Soundari Kumar and her parent volunteers from Susan and Diane’s class for providing this welcome refreshment, and special thanks to Lisa Potter and our Development Committee along with Richard Dupre, Patricia Clahar, Alex Kranzlin, Norbie Longman, Gerard Bisceglie, Jason Brasher, and Heather Maccabe for the Alumni Family Homecoming event that followed our clean-up efforts. We had delicious chili courtesy of Norbie, Ted Stonbely, and Andrea O’Meara, and we kept warm with the portable and covered fire pit, thoughtfully provided by Gwenna Williamson.
And as we finish this week, we have enjoyed our annual and timely Book Sale for the convenience of our families-- our Grammar Box! We are grateful to Andrea O’Meara along with the support of her core group Sara Borden, Ria Mehta, Archana Rajangam, Christine Smith, and Elle Archer, and our other parent volunteers, Priya Kottapalli, Karen Carr, Rachel Milton, Becky Guo, Melissa Ellis, Luisa Ramirez, Katie Beery, Julia Piterbarg, Sean Berry, Teffany Davenport, Peggy Sawala, Amy Serrano, Leila Shields, and Priscilla Graham, as well as our wonderful student helpers! The titles and variety of books were terrific, as always, and Grammar Box is a way to celebrate our community commitment to literacy and the sheer joy of reading.
Wishing you a beautiful fall weekend and looking forward to our Thanksgiving week activities ahead—
Sarah Walker, Head of The Montessori School
Dear Families of The Montessori School:
We are already nearing the end of September—a month filled with joyful exploration throughout our loving and creative learning community. So much important work happens every single day on both of our campuses and we want to be sure to share with you snapshots along the way. So, as we move through this year, we will be focusing on some of these experiences to share with you through a wider lens.
Below, Interim Middle School Director Mark Dansereau captures the genesis and evolution of our brand new Middle School Art Installation, courtesy of the entire staff of The Montessori School under the guidance of Art Director, Mark Stephenson. I am grateful to Mark Stephenson, Mark Dansereau, our entire staff, and our Middle School students for what is now our beautiful installation. We encourage you to visit the Middle School!
Sarah Walker, Head of School
Middle School Art Installation
At this summer’s staff retreat, the whole staff gathered one afternoon in the field next to school where they found Art Specialist Mark Stephenson. With the help of our facilities team of Alex and Gerard, who had primed for painting and set up nine tree branches, each between seven and eight feet high, the staff was informed they were going to take part in a communal art project that, in the end, would be a gift to the Middle School to signal to the folks at Lois Street everyone’s support and best wishes for a great year. With colorful paints and brushes in hand, the staff gathered around each tree in teams of four to six people and painted each tree with Seussian whimsy and color, all not quite knowing how all this was going to come together. In addition to the painting, Mark Stephenson provided strips of paper that would be scrolls for messages of good will and love for the Middle School students and staff; he explained these would be affixed to the final installation.
Flash forward to the first week of September and the second day: all the Middle School students were at the school together, and now the students were wondering what these nine colorful trees were doing in their outdoor space? Mark Stephenson explained that these painted trees and the basket of scrolls with messages were gestures of love and support from the entire school staff of both campuses, and that it was up to the students to determine how best to bring the branches together and how to display this work of art that would, ultimately, be handled, painted, positioned and shaped by over 70 sets of hands.
Mark Stephenson facilitated a discussion with the students to determine how to “bring together” the colorful branches, and after some discussion about a wide range of possibilities, the students agreed they wanted to take half of the tree branches and bundle them with the other half of the tree branches “trunks to trunks.” The students were both pleased and surprised by the object they created by gathering these materials, and as they bound together all nine branches into a kind of crazy giant bowtie, some of the students got to work affixing the scrolls with their affirming messages to the structure.
Next, the students needed to decide upon a place to display this work of art that, Mark Stephenson cautioned, was not designed to last forever. This was meant as an installation to carry a colorful and loving message for the Middle School, and, reminiscent of Tibetan prayer flags, its tattering with the weather would represent the gift of a prayer given.
So, where can you find this beautiful work of art? Come to the main entrance of the Middle School. There you will find that colorful, playful giant bowtie affixed to the building just over the entrance. The installation reminds me of a neuron with its exuberant tangle of dendrites spraying out from its tail and head, signaling that inside this building you will find a bunch of brainy and imaginative Middle School students and teachers joyfully engaged in big, creative work – all supported by the love and efforts of The Montessori School community.
Dear Families of the Montessori School,
Happy New School Year Eve!! We are officially (and finally) at the eve of the opening of our new school year! Our staff has worked tirelessly over the summer and we can’t wait to greet your children and you as we begin this week of orientation.
We had an excellent All-Staff Retreat on Thursday, August 27th. Connecticut Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) Executive Director Doug Lyons joined us for a morning forum of questions/answers and discussion. This was followed by a catered lunch. Staff enjoyed Japanese cuisine, complete with an on-site sushi chef. After lunch, we gathered in North Park for a collaborative art effort. Guided by Mark Stephenson, staff applied a rainbow hue of acrylic paint to “trees”—the result will be an installation art piece as a gift for our Lois Street Campus, created by all staff.
The art medium, the “trees” symbolize several things important to our culture:
- The woods/nature: Our extended classroom--our children’s place of play and exploration.
- Freedom and Responsibility
- Our Heritage/Our Traditions: A capture of our former logo of the 3 trees as an important part of our heritage
- Unification: The unification of our art branches—our continued commitment to the integration of a unified school serving the Montessori continuum for all of our children
As you may recall from my recent letter, our overriding theme and focus for this new school year is “Being and Becoming”, and we look forward to this application throughout the year in myriad ways. You will have an immediate greeting of this theme when you enter our building on the Whipple Road Campus. The beautiful painting installed on The Wall in the foyer of Whipple Road is by our own resident artist and teacher, Mark Stephenson. Mark has captured our theme in a stunning representation, resplendent with light, color, growth, and hope. Thank you so very much for this campus gift, Mark!
There are so many exciting things happening on both of our campuses as we welcome our students back this week. We can’t wait to see you and start the year!! Thank you to our talented, dedicated staff, and thank you to you, our families, as we move into this bright future serving your children.
Happy September and here’s to a beautiful year!!
With love and gratitude,
Dear Families of The Montessori School:
Happy 2015 and welcome back! We hope your holidays were filled with peace, joy, love, and renewal. Our dedicated staff returned on both campuses yesterday (and joined by our 8th year students on Lois Street) as we prepared to welcome everyone back from our winter holiday break. While the weather has certainly turned cold, warmth of all kinds radiates on both of our campuses. It was such a pleasure to welcome our students and families to our campuses today, and the hallways were buzzing with good cheer and “Happy New Year!”
As we look to this New Year and to the many upcoming activities on both of our campuses, we encourage you to join us for as many as you are able. It is so important when we come together as a community to learn together as well as to celebrate, and we love being with you! Our Parent Association provides monthly meeting opportunities for us to gather together to share information, and Co-Chairs Sara Borden and Priscilla Graham do a tremendous job creating a comprehensive agenda and leading our gatherings—our heartfelt gratitude to them for all they do. In addition, as you know, Ashley Grob leads the coordination of our Parent Education series and has sent a beautiful update today about education opportunities this month for our community. Ashley’s leadership with this most valuable program continues to inspire us all as our offerings continue to grow and expand—thank you to Ashley and to our staff.
Here’s to a wonderful January and beyond as we continue on our magnificent Montessori journey together with you and your children, hand-in-hand.
Dear Families of The Montessori School,
Happy Holidays! As we continue full swing into this holiday season, we are reminded of the beauty of our Montessori community and how especially powerful it is when we have occasion to come together -- families, students, and staff. Whether we are delighting in the student performances at our winter holiday concert, basking in the glow of our family holiday sing-alongs, or joining our Middle School students in preparing the food, serving, and hosting our shelter guests at the Civitas Holiday Lunch, we have many occasions where we are mindful of the power of good, the power of love, and the power of our shared philosophy and values.
While we are operating in full mode and, often and necessarily, at a rapid and efficient pace, it is also so valuable to stop and reflect on the wonders around us. There is so much beauty in our community. This week, many of our classes enjoyed opportunities for these very important moments of reflection. Ashley Grob invited Whipple Road classes to reserve time to walk the labyrinth and stated most beautifully,” During these final days before the holiday break, please take a moment and enjoy the gift of walking on our labyrinth. As we continue to celebrate this month's touchstone of Rituals, Celebrations and the Labyrinth, we would like to put intention and focus on the many ways that the labyrinth may be used for growth, healing, celebration and great joy! “
We would like to extend an invitation to all of our families on both campuses to please feel free to come and walk the labyrinth at any time over the holiday break. Perhaps this will become a new family tradition for you. In addition, we would like to designate the first days we are back from break in the New Year, January 6-9, as Montessori Labyrinth Days of Peaceful Reflection for this beautiful New Year before us.
Wishing you and your family joy, good health, peace, and beauty this holiday season and all year long: Thank you for the gifts you give to us every day, your continuing support, and the gift of our opportunity to guide your children on this Montessori journey filled with beauty and possibility.
With love and gratitude,
Four years ago, our school first offered what we refer to as “Peer to Peer” articles. Each piece is written by Montessori parents offering their insights into their families’ experiences at our school and speaking to what our school community means to them. This week, as we celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday and reflect on the beauty in each of our lives, I am deeply struck by the blessing that is The Montessori School.
As I wish you and your families a peaceful, loving (and delicious!) Thanksgiving, I offer you our most current “Peer to Peer” from Steve Kranzlin, father of Sara Kranzlin, 8th Year, as well as parent to four graduates from our school, Alex, Kathleen, Lauren, and Debra. I extend my thanks to Steve for this piece, and also offer my gratitude to each of you for welcoming me into this fabulous extended family that isThe Montessori School.
A COMPLETE JOURNEY
We all have our own story about the journey, and ultimately the decision to join The Montessori School. The journey is unique to each family. For some, the thought of a Montessori education for your child might surface during casual conversation with a friend or neighbor as you observe their young Montessori child greeting others with a handshake, and making eye contact. Or perhaps, after observing your child’s first steps, quickly prompting a “Pre-school” Google search, where “Montessori” is listed. Or, as in my family’s case, a family connection to Montessori education. Whichever path your family travelled, as you know, the decision to enroll your child at The Montessori School was, and remains the most important decision you will ever make for your child’s/children’s development.
Our family of five Montessori School educated children (four graduates/one current Middle Schooler) each entered The Montessori School at the Primary level. In the beginning, our educational focus was on adaptation and integration: Are they behaving? Are they happy? Are they making friends? After our first Primary conferences with Alex, our oldest and now 22, we knew there was more to the Primary program than clever materials and multi-age socialization. The depth and breadth of the conferences were immediately impressive. Alex’s assessment went beyond basic learning skills evaluation, and covered how he was learning, his adaptation and emotional/behavioral development. In his second Primary year, we asked what many Primary parents ask: What’s next? Montessori and the materials fit perfectly with the primary ages, but what about the next stage of elementary education, when more complex subjects are introduced? What about the five-paragraph essay and computers? I wanted to learn more about the Lower and Upper Elementary program as well as what other private schools offered in order to make the best education decision for Alex, and hopefully his siblings. Lower Fairfield County offers many highly rated public and private school choices, and the private elementary schools presented very strong cases for careful consideration of their programs.
The Montessori School offered us several opportunities to observe each Lower and Upper Elementary class. We settled into our slightly larger than Primary, but still small chairs and observed. After receiving my freshly made tea from a second year Lower El student, I observed much of what I had observed in Primary: intelligently planned classroom spaces, brilliantly designed materials, engaged students, and an active, yet calm classroom led by a highly trained Directress and Assistant in complete harmony. Rather than the one dimensionality we observed in a traditional elementary classroom, the Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary classes were multi-faceted and a community. The multi-age classes, growing student independence, challenging work, and opportunities for leadership within and across classes were and remain impressive. The same was true for the Upper Elementary observations, (and several years later at the newly formed Middle School.) Ultimately, the decision to enroll all five children in Lower and Upper Elementary and later Middle School, for us, was a confirmation of what we based our decision on to first enroll our children in Primary.
Alex’s early passion for math accelerated beyond our expectations at The Montessori School. Lower and Upper Elementary provided Alex with an opportunity to become immersed in math work, whether working individually or in groups. In his third year of Upper Elementary, Alex was challenged to compete with another equally, math-passionate student as to who would finish the Upper El math materials first. Alex’s ability to focus on math work based on his drive (but not at the total expense of other work) and not limited to “45 minute periods four times a week” as dictated by a typical school schedule, was key to his development. His deep interest in math continued through Middle School, where Mrs. Krulwich’s classroom instruction and inspiration further fueled his passion, and in high school at the Kent School, a boarding school in Kent CT. His quantitative ability was one of the main reasons Alex received a scholarship to Santa Clara University.
Our children greatly benefited from the Montessori classroom, teachers and community, be it Kathleen, aged 20, pursuing a degree in Behavioral Biology and Global Environmental Change and Sustainability at Johns Hopkins University, or Lauren aged 18, also at Johns Hopkins, studying International Political Science and Languages, or Debra, a Sophomore at Hopkins School, New Haven, enrolled in accelerated math and science classes, while co-captain of the JV Soccer team. Sara, will complete her Montessori School education and graduate from the Middle School this spring. Her graduation will mark twenty years since Alex first stepped into Margherita Shaw’s Primary classroom and commencing our family’s journey at The Montessori School. We are deeply grateful for the education and formation of our children, and the many friends we have made in partnership with The Montessori School.
144 years ago a visionary was born… Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori, August 31, 1870. How appropriate we begin our new school year as we remember and honor Dr. Maria Montessori and her life’s work: we enter our future together continuing this incredible journey, enlightened with this extraordinary charge…
"Supposing I said there was a planet without schools or teachers, study was unknown, and yet the inhabitants—doing nothing but living and walking about—came to know all things, to carry in their minds the whole of learning: would you not think I was romancing? Well, just this, which seems so fanciful as to be nothing but the invention of a fertile imagination, is a reality. It is the child's way of learning. This is the path he follows. He learns everything without knowing he is learning it, and in doing so passes little by little from the unconscious to the conscious, treading always in the paths of joy and love."—Maria Montessori
Dear Families of the Montessori School:
I am delighted to send my first letter of welcome to you as we begin the 2014-2015 year together on this incredible journey with your children! With loving care, our beautiful environment has been prepared by our truly exceptional staff— and this includes the behind-the-scenes efforts that make all we do function for this intentionality. It is quite a beautiful orchestration. Many, many hours outside of the normal day are spent in this preparation—I extend to all staff my sincerest gratitude for their love and dedication to our children and our shared Montessori philosophy through these their loving efforts. The grounds and the maintenance of the buildings (very special thanks to Gerard Bisceglie); the lentil and the spoon; a new 3D printer in the Middle School; furry, feathered, finned, and webbed friends in the classrooms…down to the last hallowed golden bead—all have been renewed and "finely tuned", and how exciting that the children now join us again to continue their individual compositions of renewal, discovery, and growth—what an amazing symphony we have in store for us to experience together!
And speaking through this musical metaphor, join me as we review important notes below:
- Our 10 Touchstones presented by our former Head of School, Mary Zeman, and former parent and trustee, Susan Niederhoffer, will be themes in variation throughout our school year; these will serve as ever-present reminders of all we hold dear in our common language and shared Montessori philosophy.
- Be sure to join us for Parent Education opportunities throughout the school year, as well as the new slate of enrichment offerings available for your child. We extend our gratitude to Ashley Grob for her leadership and incredible organization in the development of these wonderful opportunities! Gratitude to our staff who are integral in both our presentations upcoming as well as in the enrichment offerings that are available.
- Our Revered Wall on Whipple Road is continuing, and it will display renderings of our Touchstones throughout the year as we continue this sacred tradition so beautifully created by Marissa Ferguson through the years. Our gratitude to Marissa, along with our excitement for her continued work with us throughout the year in other capacities—thank you, Marissa.
- For our staff retreat and in preparation for our opening of school, Art Specialist Mark Stephenson has graciously accepted the palette passed on by Marissa by creating an opening Wall depicting a unity of all of our 10 Touchstones (you may note the yellow Italian "fresco" background as a nod, too)—we are indebted to Mark for this beautiful contribution. Moving forward, Mark, Lina Gomez, Kim Clark, and Ashley Grob will collaborate in the creative process for monthly displays created with and for our children and community, honoring each of our 10 Touchstones in this sacred space. Simplicity and beauty will continue as foundations for this focus.
- This year, our theme unifying our two campuses is The Art of the Teacher and our professional development through shared pedagogical study and discussion will evolve from this umbrella theme.
- Undoubtedly you have noticed our inspiring new logo—car magnets are being offered to you and will be available upon your arrival on the first day; you will find these in your child’s mailbox. (Be sure to remove your magnet when having your car washed; the magnet may become lost in the process!)
- We are pleased to announce that IT Director Cindy Dineen anticipates our new website launch for September 9! Our gratitude to Cindy! Cindy has been working tirelessly over these many months in this preparation—truly a herculean task that will benefit our entire community in myriad ways. Thank you to Cindy and to Communications Director Ruth Hurwitz for her tireless work, as well as to our administrative team for the coordinations for this upcoming launch. Undoubtedly there may be a few challenges as we go live, and we thank you in advance for your continued patience.
- For the benefit of your child, your child’s classmates, and your child’s teaching team, we ask that your child arrive on time for the start of each day. We do understand that life throws some unexpected challenges on occasion and that late arrivals are unavoidable in those instances; we are asking for your partnership in managing the expected challenges so that you have a plan for your child to be here on time.
- In addition, we respectfully ask that you honor your committment to the Montessori program for your child; this includes avoiding making outside appointments for your child, whenever possible, as well as avoiding involving him/her in outside activities that cut into the time already allocated for our program.
- Speaking of our program, the new Specials Schedule coordinated last spring is finalized and available in the Class Pages section of our Parent Portal. You’ll recall that in order to meet the AMI required uninterrupted work time for our students, the specials class time was adjusted—thank you to all of our staff in this collaboration and coordination, and special gratitude to Middle School Director Ramani DeAlwis, Jason Brasher, Susan Clark, Mark Stephenson, Lina Gomez, Terry Ullman, Carolina Martino, and Rob Silvan. Our children have such a rich experience thanks to the contributions and coordinations of all of our staff.
Along with that theme, your child’s teaching team is first and foremost dedicated to the care and guidance of your child and his/her classmates during the school day; you have entrusted us with that responsibility and we are committed to serving and honoring this trust.
- Time in the classroom with your child is of paramount importance. With that said, please honor our staff and our 24 hour window of response for email communications; teaching staff will not be responding to email communications during the school day. In our dedication and service to you, please know if there is any urgent matter, or needed communication, you are always most welcome to contact our offices directly and we will assist you.
Finally, and importantly, our collective gratitude to you, our families. You have given us a tremendous gift in our work with your children. We continue as stewards with you for our community. We ask for your help as we renew our commitment together to Civitas, especially on our school grounds. We are mindful that we model for our children every moment of every day and we ask that you join us in keeping this awareness as we protect the spirit of our loving and respectful community. Holding Grace and Courtesy to the light for all in our community is something we can honor and model together.
I look forward to being with you on every occasion and we have many coming very soon! Please be sure to join in our Parent Association Coffees as we begin this new year together. Thank you to Sara Borden and Priscilla Graham for their leadership and preparation.
With every blessing to you for the year ahead, and with joy and anticipation for our mutual homecoming this week—
Sarah Walker ~ Head of School
Dear Families of The Montessori School:
A month has passed since my arrival—it’s almost hard to believe! Our school is buzzing with activity and so much loving work is on-going in the collective effort to renew our sacred, Prepared Environment. Please join me in recognizing these efforts by extending gratitude to our entire staff on both campuses! I have loved every minute in support of this preparation. A big portion of my preliminary work has involved a comprehensive needs assessment. As an on-going pledge of transparency, clear communication, and commitment to our goals together for this incredible year before us, I write to you to share the implications of my campus needs assessment thus far, in the timeliest way possible.
Since my arrival on campus, one of my major goals has been to schedule meetings with all staff for one- on- one discussions. These discussions are not only get-to-know yous but also discussions of what is currently in place, programmatically, and how our abilities to best serve our children are affected—in other words: What are our immediate and long-term goals, and what action steps do we need in place to ensure the success of our children and staff?
Before the end of last year, Headmaster David Blanchard sent out a letter announcing a planned move/reorganization of all Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary physical classrooms to be in place for this coming year. As explained in his announcement, the impetus for this was to provide for pedagogical opportunities for children in the 6 year to 12 year plane of development—a truly admirable objective. As this was to fall under my purview for execution and program oversight as Head of School, and as I was being brought into this after the announcement, I asked that the move be placed on hold until I arrived on campus. I also requested the planning information. David Blanchard kindly acted upon my request to place the move on hold.
Through one-on-ones, I have learned that, despite the very best intentions, there are additional and lingering questions concerning the genesis of the move as well as the nature of the ultimate decision.
The following is based on discussions with Lower and Upper Elementary Staff as we work and plan together going forward for this year in the best way for our students:
- While the desire to have integration between the Lower and Upper Elementary classes is an excellent idea and a shared desire, no plan existed for the execution. I conclude that time simply ran out at the end of last year for this collaboration. We will be remedying that in support of our staff by creating planning opportunities where they will be able to put together thoughtful cross-level lessons in place for the 6-12 year students’ benefit as individual needs arise. This effort will continue throughout the year.
- The physical classrooms do not need to move to achieve this integration and such a move would cause unnecessary upheaval; therefore, we are not moving the classrooms.
- The current physical juxtaposition of the classrooms can be leveraged to provide optimum occasions for a greater and combined cohort for the Upper Elementary classes—another reason to leave the classrooms as they are. With great credit to our Upper Elementary Staff, we are working together on a plan for integrating the two Upper Elementary classes in the most optimum way to benefit our students. In addition, we will be discussing with Middle School Director Ramani DeAlwis and the Middle School Staff about the potential for more collaboration and opportunities to bring our students and the two campuses together.
- My sincere appreciation to Ramani and all of our staff as we work together for concrete opportunities for this shared vision and for these shared goals.
We have a wonderful year ahead for our students and an incredible, dedicated staff determined to assist in the “help to life” for each child.
I look forward to welcoming you in person to our new school year together, and in the next few days, I will be sending out an opening letter with specific greetings and details about this exciting and joyful year ahead.
With warm regards to all,
As we have already noted, a succession of acts dependent upon an interiorly preconceived plan is of utmost importance for a child’s development— Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood.
Dear Family of The Montessori School:
I’m home! Those were the first words that crossed my mind as I entered Wilton, ending my 2-day road trip from the south. I have been on an amazing journey of life experiences that have had a tremendous, positive effect on me and my subsequent service in education as both a teacher and as an administrator. I am so delighted to be here to begin my role serving our incredible school community. I am closing my third day on campus as I write this letter to you.
This summer, part of my preparation for coming home included taking the Foundation Course offered by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI-USA). I sincerely thank our Board and our entire community for this opportunity. It was enriching beyond measure for me, and I had the great privilege to be a student of master trainer, Lilian Bryan, who has served the international Montessori community for 50 years. Needless to say, my experiences reinforced my initial feelings when I first set foot on our beautiful campus last January—that The Montessori School is truly a sacred place, and the partnership of parents and staff is an integral bond of love and dedication to the nurturing of each child. The magic of our community, this divine, loving bond was so evident and so exquisitely sensorial in the many ways we shared joy during our 50th celebration. From the dedication of the serene meditation garden to Mary Zeman, capturing the spiritual essence and beauty of her amazing vision and 30-year devotion, to the honoring of visionary founders and ground-breaking educators, Pat and Larry Schaefer, our 50th anniversary was truly a momentous occasion. We celebrated with joy our school, our “preconceived plan” that has so successfully engaged our children through these years in the “help-to-life”—in the unfolding. And how wonderful that so many alumni returned for our celebration and were sharing their own personal iterations of their appreciation and love for their Montessori experience.
I am so passionate about the Montessori philosophy and our school—I see our roles as educators as an absolute calling. I regret I didn’t know to give my own children a Montessori education, even though I know they attended an excellent institution and had a wonderful education—it’s not the same. I am grateful to be awakened now, however, and to realize the parallels in my own life, as well as the many lenses I bring with me. I think this appreciation and deeper sense of understanding (that will continue) is something that will enable me to serve our community in the best way possible. This is my commitment—to keep our children as our compass, to join our amazing staff as we continue our own pedagogical journey, and to lead with clarity and a shared vision towards the future as we look to our next 50 years. I am honored to be at the helm and look forward to my partnership with you. Thank you to our families for entrusting us with this most sacred charge—working together in the best interest of the children of our community. Thank you to our staff as we look to this new school year ahead with your professionalism and heartfelt dedication to our children, families, and to each other.
Happy summer to all and I look forward to a glorious opening of school with you—
Head of School
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