One of my favorite aspects of the Montessori community is the diversity of the individuals who comprise it. At Charlotte Montessori, my fellow teachers have such unique and interesting life stories- many of which I am still learning about! Though our backgrounds may be different, our journeys have somehow all led us to become Montessori teachers. I thought it would be interesting to find out what sparked the beginning of that journey for our teachers, so I asked each of our lead teachers to briefly describe their first encounter with Montessori.
As for me, I remember distinctly the first time I heard about “Montessori.” It was summer and I had been working in marketing/customer service at a manufacturing company and realized the corporate world was not right for me. I knew I needed a change but I wasn’t sure what that looked like.
I was part of a theatre production at the time, and was rehearsing at the director’s house on a rainy day when I noticed her 7-year-old daughter. She was looking through a copy of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and decorating a huge paper to depict one of her favorite scenes from the book. She was gluing leaves, drawing trees and animals, asking questions about which animals would live near which plants, and seemed so excited by and engrossed in what she was doing.
I remember saying to my director with surprise, “Is her school still in session?” It was almost July. My director explained that no, her daughter had been out of school for the summer for well over a month. She told me, “Her school really encourages and inspires independent learning and exploration, so she is always busy with something.” My next question was, “Wow, what kind of school is that?” I guess I had assumed that a 7-year-old stuck inside on a rainy day would either be glued to their iPad, or driving their parents crazy because of restless boredom- not working passionately on a self-guided project! “It’s a Montessori school,” she answered.
I did not admit at the time that I didn’t know what that meant, but as soon as I got home I began to research. I was fascinated to learn about the progressive Maria Montessori and her revolutionary education method. I then began to look for job openings at Montessori schools in my area. That fall, I started my new job as a Montessori assistant teacher. 🙂 I have since decided to take the training to earn my Montessori certification. I would never have thought that a chance encounter with a 7-year-old would start my Montessori journey!
Here are our other lead teachers’ first encounters with Montessori:
Maggie- Toddler II
When I was in college, I had heard about the Montessori Philosophy but nothing in depth. When I was applying for jobs after graduating college, I found the listing [for a teaching position at CharMont] on UNCC’s job search website. Came in for an interview, fell in LOVE with the school. I will never forget that when I walked out, I called my mom and told her that I need to work here. And BAM!
Sophia- Toddler III
My Montessori journey began in the 90’s during my early childhood education. It was a long encounter that made an imprint on my teaching and guiding students by following the child. In the summer of 2013 I met a wonderful Montessorian and began a new path by attending workshops on Montessori education. During one session, I was told that it was okay to come out of the Montessori closet and so I did. 🙂 This new path brought a quietness and stillness to my spirit and mind. I allowed my internal instincts to guide me into becoming a Montessorian.
Katelin- Toddler IV
I first found out about Montessori in high school while in an early childhood education course. I thought montessori was such a cool word! I remember learning that everything [in the Montessori environment] was child-sized and that it was about being independent. My teacher really lit up when she talked about it which sparked my interest.
Meghan- Toddler V
Working with early childhood teachers in a traditional day care setting, I kept hearing this buzzword “Montessori.” “It’s a beautiful philosophy, she (Maria Montessori) is a genius.” However, no one could give me accurate information on what Montessori actually was. After doing my own research and taking my teacher training, I love the potential Montessori holds for outside-of-the-box students.
Jenny- Primary I
In high school, I needed a job. I applied at a local Montessori school that was looking for an afterschool person. I knew nothing about Montessori. The school had 2 rooms, privately owned and ran by 2 strong passionate Montessorians. In high school, I enjoyed the school and learned about Montessori from these 2 ladies.
I got my degree in teacher middle school and high school math. (I always returned to the Montessori school over college breaks and subbed when I could). My first job in Charlotte was through CMS teaching 8th grade math. I knew after a week that was not what I was called to do. I saw the ad in the Observer for Charlotte Montessori School and applied. Have been here every since.
I have been super fortunate to have worked with some really strong and passionate Montessori teachers. They shared their love of Montessori with me and ignited my passion for it.
Sarah- primary II
My aunt was a teacher at a Montessori school when I was in college. I had never heard of this type of school and had lots of questions for her. She tried explaining things to me but I just kept saying, “but how do they learn? How do they know what to do?” So she invited to me observe. I think I cried, to be honest, the first time seeing it in action. I remember this little boy was cutting up some bread. He had a tray, a napkin laid out underneath it to catch the crumbs, and a sweet little cutting board. When he was finished cutting, he walked around the classroom and served his friends pieces of bread. Then he cleaned up the entire lesson with more grace than I probably showed as a college student. It was beautiful. When I graduated I looked for a job in Charlotte at a Montessori school and found Charlotte Montessori. I loved the toddler program and made it my home for six years. As of now, my aunt still teaches at a Montessori school and recently my mom just started working at a public Montessori school. We’re a whole family of Montessorians!
Ana- Primary III
I was looking for a very part-time job. This Montessori school was hiring for after-care for 3 hours a day. I took the job. I quickly fell in love with the Montessori method. I worked after-care, then became an assistant. From there I decided to become a lead teacher.
Thank you to all my fellow-teachers for inspiring me, encouraging me, helping me along this journey, and taking part in this blog! 🙂