The following speech was presented at our Pink Tower Soirée on November 8, 2018.
I am humbled and honored to be Head of Chesterfield Montessori School, which has felt like home to me since our first child entered Ms. Laura’s primary classroom in 2000.
I am here to talk about the present, and to share our Board’s vision for the school. First though I’d like to build on Melissa’s nod to our past.
My husband David and I have two daughters, Maddie and Bridget. We were here before the advent of the Adolescent Program, so both of the girls were CMS students until they left for middle school. When Maddie graduated from CMS, she was our school’s only 6th grader. When she told her select soccer friends she was the only person in her grade, they couldn’t believe her. One girl asked, on multiple occasions, “Are you SURE there aren’t any other 6th graders?”
Being the only 6th grader didn’t keep Maddie from making good friends. In fact, her best friend from that year, a 5th grader named Anna Widder, is still an important part of her life. Maddie is a biochemist in Indianapolis now, conducting research at DOW/Dupont/Corteva. Anna is finishing dual degrees in Physics and Classics at Stanford while simultaneously pursuing a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering. They live 2000 miles apart and haven’t attended school together since CMS. But Anna is going to be in Maddie’s wedding, and they are getting together in San Francisco this month. Their relationship is a testament to the way our unique multi-age classrooms foster deep, meaningful friendships.
By 2010, our family had been at CMS for a decade. We were preparing for Bridget’s last year in elementary when we realized that the recession’s impact on our income meant we didn’t know how we were going to pay for tuition. I had never imagined filling out a tuition assistance application, but we did, and we were enormously grateful to receive the support that allowed us keep Bridget here for that final, critical year. Bridget is now attending Barnabas Prep, a college for young adults with special needs. Her teachers have told us she excels in independence and responsibility, qualities she learned here at CMS.
Our experience receiving tuition assistance for Bridget was a teaching moment for us: Montessori education should be for everyone. As we continue to grow our endowment through the Pink Tower Campaign, we can ensure that the families who are the best fit for our school are able to bring and keep their children here. To anyone who has ever contributed to the Pink Tower Campaign, I thank you, from my heart, for being part of our family’s story. Of course, tuition assistance is only one of many ways philanthropic giving strengthens our school. From invaluable teacher training to classroom materials, campus enhancements and enrichment experiences, your contributions have allowed us to provide an exceptional education in an unparalleled environment.
On to the present.
Change—even positive change—can be difficult, and our school has weathered some changes. Over the past few months, I’ve engaged in many conversations with parents. You’ve trusted me in sharing your hopes, fears and dreams for your children. I hold those hopes, fears and dreams in my heart, and I reflect on them each day.
I have also spent considerable time with our dedicated teachers and staff, to hear their ideas and develop a deeper understanding of our school’s history.
And I have worked closely with our volunteer Board of Trustees, each of whom is a fierce protector of our school’s mission and CMS’ long-term financial stability.
When I first arrived at CMS, many of you asked me to share the Board’s vision for our school.
Our vision prioritizes your children’s happiness and academic achievement, via an abiding commitment to authentic Montessori education. When you observe in any of our classrooms, you will witness the results of that commitment.
The toddler community is thriving with the addition of a second classroom. Our youngest students experience the satisfaction of doing meaningful work in their beautiful and nurturing environment.
Our primary classrooms are nearing capacity as the toddlers transition and we attract students from local schools and cities around the world. It’s such a joy to see the children’s faces alight with curiosity and a passion for learning.
Our three elementary classrooms are more vibrant than ever. We currently have one classroom serving ages six to eleven, one classroom serving ages six to nine and another serving ages nine to twelve.
Each of our classrooms exquisitely meets the developmental needs of the elementary child: Going Out, Intellectual Challenge and Constructing Morality. Our authentic Montessori environment provides opportunities for ongoing interactions between elementary students of all ages. Social engagement happens organically within and between all of our classrooms, instilling confidence and respect for self and others.
We will continue to afford meaningful connections for the students across classrooms and age groups. In order to serve the school in the most meaningful way, I am beginning the Elementary AMI training next summer, which will further enhance my understanding of our students’ needs. Your children’s academic achievement and development as happy and productive human beings will be central to our elementary classroom decisions.
Our Adolescent Program is flourishing. Twelve students are enjoying their new Green Trails Campus environment. The students initiated a beekeeping program. We’re welcoming visitors from other schools who are interested in our individualized, holistic and academically challenging curriculum. Our unique seven-acre land campus is a primary material for the students. Visiting the land each week builds on classroom studies in mathematics, science, and humanities while satisfying the adolescent’s developmental needs for manual labor and purposeful work. For instance, this year the students are working with the Audubon society to plant native species of flora, restoring the natural habitat to attract indigenous wildlife.
I am excited to serve on the Adolescent subcommittee on the board. We are exploring the possibility of extending our lease at the Green Trails campus as we research options for building a permanent adolescent structure.
At its best, a Montessori school operates like a happy, functional, renaissance family, where members of all ages learn from each other and support each other to explore the frontiers of human possibility. We are creating that environment for your children at Chesterfield Montessori School. It is an exceptional place.
CMS is special to me, not only because of what this school made possible for my own children, but because I see what it does for yours.
I see children excited to come to school each day.
I see children whose families represent 40 different countries and five continents working together in harmony.
I see teachers who spent years beyond college engaging in the transformational process of Montessori training, continuing to deepen and grow in their profession in order to be the best they can be for each student.
I see students who understand that they make a meaningful contribution to their community begin to wonder how they might contribute to the world.
As I grow into my role as your Head of School, I have been blessed by the support of an incredibly talented staff and a diverse and passionately dedicated Board. I want to thank you for your continued support as I learn and evolve.
I promise to nurture a culture of openness and honesty. Please, if you ever have any questions or concerns, reach out to me. You can count on me to listen to your perspective and to consider it as I make decisions that affect you and your child.
I wake up thinking about your children, and their potential.
I fall asleep thinking about your children, and your hopes for them.
We will honor our commitment to support your children in discovering their unique talents, so they can experience the joy of being who they were born to be. Our students give me hope for the world. Thank you for sharing them with me, and with all of us at CMS.