Happy New Year, readers! Today we share a special alumna interview with one of our very own faculty members, Dr. Andree Rolfe. As an instructor of the Special Education Core Course since 2015, Dr. Rolfe offers the valuable perspective of both a student and a teacher within the Loyola Montessori Graduate Program.
Tell us about your educational journey. What experiences motivated you to the career you have today?
For me, Montessori seeds were planted back in 1971 at an undergraduate education seminar. I purchased The Secret of Childhood and The Discovery of the Child and my curiosity was piqued. Throughout my 35 years in public special education, I maintained that interest as a Montessori parent, Child Study Team liaison to a local Montessori school, and as a spelling consultant working with AMS teachers. Over time, it became increasingly apparent to me that Montessori education has the potential to serve all children in a way that is developmentally sound. I acquired an insatiable itch to learn more and began to think about how I might be of service to the greater Montessori community. When the time was right, elementary training provided me with the opportunity to reconsider learning and behavioral challenges through Montessori eyes. Now I work as the Learning Specialist at my local Montessori school in New Jersey and I have the privilege of teaching the next generation of AMI guides each summer at Loyola.
Where did you take your Montessori training?
I completed elementary training at Washington Montessori Institute (WMI) in May, 2013. After so many years of working in schools and teaching graduate courses, it was a real treat to devote my energy to being a student again. Early in the foundation course, I heard, “Your task is to match the right lesson with the right child at the right time.” That was when I knew I would be able to integrate my prior experience with Montessori practice in a way that would benefit children with specific learning needs.
Loyola’s course of study for the Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) includes designing and conducting a research project. I had the good fortune to be [Director] Jack Rice’s first advisee! I developed a survey in which lower elementary guides reported their observations, practices, and questions regarding the spelling skills of 6 – 9 year old children.
When did you start teaching the Introduction to Special Education (SE761) course for the Loyola graduate program? What have you learned from the experience?
In 2015, I was presented with the challenge of adapting Loyola’s Introduction to Special Education course to “make it Montessori.” I recognized this as my way to make a meaningful contribution. It was and continues to be exciting and joyful work. Each year, I am so impressed by the rich and varied backgrounds of my students and their reasons for choosing careers in Montessori education. I have learned that our new guides are well prepared and ready to begin making a significant difference in the lives of children. I have come to understand how valuable it is for folks from various training centers to spend time together, developing new relationships and forming a supportive professional network.
What is your favorite advice to give to blossoming Montessori teachers?
During the SE761 course, we examine what special education has to offer through a Montessori lens. Students consider what this new information means for them as they think about working with children in their specific environments. My advice to new guides is to build bridges to the specialists in your community who can help you better understand the nature and implications of the challenges experienced by the children you serve.
Many thanks to Dr. Rolfe for sharing her story!
Loyola University Maryland ~ Strong Truths Well Lived