June and July have been busy months for us! We have conducted two summer Residencies for early childhood this year, along with an Elementary 1 & 2 Residency. We have two more to go before summer is up! It fills our team with such joy to serve so many teachers to-be! It is a wonder to see the dramatic change within the individuals and in their attitude toward children that Montessori training, from the heart, can bring. And we love how our awareness of the beauty around us, in nature, in the children, and even in ourselves seems to expand, day by day.
(Below: Our dedicated students getting hands on experience
with the materials at the residency.)
But we have also been busy working with the state of Montana to consider MACTE-accredited training to be equivalent to other forms of teacher education. Montana Montessori public school teacher, Katy Wright, and I spoke to the State Board of Education in our state capitol of Helena last week to a warm reception. We hope they will vote favorably for Montessori
Above: Mary Ellen and Katy Wright at the Montana State Capitol
Commencement Address by Program Director, Mary Ellen Maunz
Bozeman, Montana Montessori Early Childhood Certification Residency
We have a tradition here at Age of Montessori to take a little time at each Residency to honor our students and recognize the hard work, the effort and the enthusiasm that they bring to the Residency. You surely reflect the deep, generous spirit of Maria Montessori and we are grateful for each and every one of you.
As I have read through the journal entries you have made I have been so struck by the level of excitement and joy you are feeling, along with the twinges of what your families might be wanting and needing from you at the same time. We applaud your courage in taking this program! It will change your life.
This experience is designed to meld together the vast and profound Montessori philosophy with the practice with lessons that Dr. Montessori has made available to us. It comes together through the hands-on experience of seeing the vast number of beautiful materials we have for the children, and we see how difficult it actually is to become deliberate about what we do rather than sail through the moments and movements of our lives on auto-pilot.
These beautiful materials, your efforts to slow yourselves down, and your diligent work to learn the richness of detail in each and every lesson, are all aimed at one purpose. It is the development of the child.
The materials are not here to create academic geniuses, although in fact in many cases they do. They are not here as a checklist that we push children through – what they are supposed to know this year at this age, what they are supposed to know at the next year and so on. Although we are certainly respectful of our state standards, we keep in mind that what is a normal expectation for one child may be wildly too much or too little for another, still “normal.”
The materials are not here to assure that our children will pass all their standardized tests, designed by a system that honors the product vs. the process, but, in fact, they do just that.
The materials are not here to help us teach, but rather to assist each child to develop. And each child that develops is unique, hence only through observing what he or she can do, likes to do and gets excited about, can you truly help.
I would have each one of you keep this firmly in your mind and in your heart: our goal is help to life. It is just that simple, and just that complex, requiring us to walk a fine line of absolute respect for each child and his individual needs, all the while making certain the child learns what is essential for moving on in life.
Honoring two new Master Teachers
We are having this celebration today in Bozeman, and we wish we had all our students, wherever they are finishing their Residency, whether in June, July, August or September, with us physically. Today is actually a very special day, one that has been a long time coming. I am very proud and happy to tell you that today we will be honoring two new Age of Montessori Master Teachers.
Age of Montessori is one of few Montessori organizations that has a formal program of “train the trainers.” We believe that it is of the utmost importance that when you come to us for certification, we can offer you the richest, most comprehensive, clear, supportive program, delivered by highly-skilled faculty and mentors.
The concept of Master Teacher hearkens back to the idea of apprenticeships and mastery of a craft and a body of knowledge. There is the idea of initiation into higher levels of service. Our Master Teachers have learned the art of teaching adults, have a deep understanding of the materials and the purpose of the materials and the overall applications of Montessori’s work. They have surely earned this award they are receiving today.
Dr. Elisabeth Caspari came onto the scene of my life in 1979. I received a letter to our school where I was then employed as director, from a woman claiming she had known Montessori and she wanted to know us. I followed up with a phone call and could barely understand her English. But I loved her story! (If you are enrolled in our courses and have the opportunity to see and hear her from our archival 1980 lectures, I promise it gets easier to understand her as you hear her speak more.)
Dr. Caspari came out for a visit and our faculty and I was impressed. There was talk of inviting her to come and train teachers. But before we did that I needed to see for myself if she was all we thought she was. I flew to her home in South Carolina to visit a school she had started, and then on to Miami for student exams that she was conducting.
I was convinced – she was everything she had seemed to us, and more. She came to our school in California and in January 1980, we began our first course together. She spoke and I did all the presentations. Within the week, she started to ask me to present the key lectures and she continued her amazing explanations and stories about every aspect of Montessori.
We taught all year long, and by June of 1983, I had given seven courses with her, each twelve weeks long. I had interviewed students, learned to keep the course records, grade papers, give the lectures, do all the presentations, oversee interns and plan graduations. It was a comprehensive program to prepare me to conduct training. My final requirement was to select a topic in Montessori and write a masters’ level 100-page thesis, which I did, on the subject of what Maria Montessori had written on Infants and Toddlers. When all was finished, I was awarded the Master Teacher credential in dual ceremonies in Los Angeles and Mexico City from Dr. Elisabeth Caspari and Dr. Feland Meadows.
Over the years I also received a BS in Child Development and my M.Ed. in Integrative Education, but this Master Teacher credential as a Montessori Teacher Educator means more than any of the rest of them combined. This has brought me my career. This has brought a lifelong passion to learn more, understand more deeply and to prepare teachers that can go out and worthily serve the children that come into their sphere.
Over the next couple of years, my friend and colleague Randall Klein followed suit and received his Master Teacher Credential in 1986. I have asked him to share some of his experience working with Victoria and Susan, which he will do in just a few moments.
Final Remarks by Randall Klein
Montessori changes you. It grabs you and compels you in a new direction. Seldom does it let you out of its grasp.
Montessori changes you because it is—most importantly—a message about life and respect and living honorably in service to the child. It is a way of life and a spiritual path for those who have discovered it—somehow, somewhere—and who have embraced the truth it offers us as parents, teachers and citizens.
I am very privileged to participate in today’s ceremony honoring the accomplishments, service and professional excellence of two of my dear friends and colleagues Susan Hoffman and Victoria Brailsford.
Susan Hoffman and I shared a special moment in time—a few short years—when we both worked with and learned from our great mentor Dr. Elisabeth Caspari. It was an exhilarating time, intense, seemingly non-stop.
It was a time of testing of our personal commitment to Montessori, of our stamina and of our willingness to learn from mistakes and to be corrected… often. We were humbled on a regular basis by an 83-year-old, fiery, Swiss-French taskmaster.
But then, if we follow Montessori’s admonishment to look within and remove our pride, aren’t we all humbled by the little child on a regular basis? I saw in Susan then and I see in Susan now an uncompromising commitment to the principles and ideals of Maria Montessori.
Susan’s integrity and professional skills and knowledge have influenced and inspired all of us at Age of Montessori—even as she guides and inspires the students she mentors in-person and online—and via Skype…and text…and Facebook.
Susan conveys the Montessori message with authority and confidence. She sets an example to all she works with and for of serious determination to make Montessori work and grow in classrooms large and small. Susan is a nurturer by nature and she is so good at nurturing students entering into the wonderful world of Montessori.
Susan, thank you for all you do for the Montessori way of life we all love so much. You have truly earned this Master Teacher diploma.
Victoria Brailsford and I also share a special bond with Elisabeth Caspari. Victoria attended the last Montessori Certification course that Dr. Caspari participated in, and Victoria was able to also receive—as Mary Ellen, Susan and I did—the profound message of the Montessori method from a direct and life-long disciple of Maria Montessori.
Victoria’s knowledge of and experience with the Montessori method was amazing to me—as was her commitment to creating and maintaining successful, well-staffed Montessori classrooms in a successful, vibrant Montessori school here in Bozeman for many years—Great Beginnings Montessori.
We have observed Victoria teaching Montessori interns, preparing Montessori environments and organizing and implementing our very successful Residency and Internship programs.
What I enjoy most is listening to Victoria coach and mentor our teacher candidates by phone and Skype from my desk a few feet away. All of us in the office stop and listen to Victoria articulate so beautifully the message and method of Maria Montessori. I have listened to the many webinars that Victoria has given on various aspects of the Montessori method. I have participated in conference calls that Victoria has conducted with our interns who have called in from around the globe.