#CapstoneConnections – Jennifer Robinson (Faculty Spotlight)

ICYMI! The most recent issue of our CME newsletter featured one of our new Post-Diploma M.Ed. faculty, who is also an alum:

JRobinson - copy cropLoyola is thrilled to welcome back graduate alumna Jennifer Robinson, who is currently teaching MO.638 Child Growth and Development online this Fall in our new post-diploma M.Ed. track.

Jennifer was introduced to the work of Dr. Maria Montessori in 2012 after previously receiving her B.F.A. from IADT. Following her life long passion for children, Jennifer started her Montessori training during the Summer of 2012 at The Montessori Institute in Denver, CO and opened a new Infant Community that Fall. She is now on her 7th year of practicing Montessori as a Guide in an Infant Community.

Jennifer received her M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland in 2016 and is currently a proud faculty member. She is a presenter at Montessori Teachers Institute for Professional Studies, and enjoys educating others on the philosophy behind the Montessori Method.

“Completing my M.Ed. on Loyola’s beautiful campus is an experience I will never forget. I will always be grateful for the opportunity and proud of what I accomplished.

As a student, I felt as if there was always more to explore, learn, and create. As an instructor, the feeling remains the same. You simply cannot help others delve into an idea, without also doing so yourself.” ~Jennifer

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Loyola University Maryland

Strong Truths Well Lived

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#CapstoneConnections – Vanessa Brink ’18

fullsizeoutput_1bHappy Fall, Readers! In the midst of the new academic year buzz here at Loyola, we’re saying our bittersweet farewells to the 2018 graduates setting sail. This month we’d like to highlight Vanessa Brink ’18, who shares her reflection on both traditional and Montessori approaches to education, as well as her experience in the Loyola graduate program.

 

My Journey as a Teacher:

Education, particularly education for the young developing child, has always been very important to me. Even as a child, I recognized there were teachers who cared to understand the children they taught, and those who simply taught ideas and didn’t take into account the individuals in front of them.

During my almost 15 years of teaching in private Catholic schools, where I had a fair amount of freedom within the curriculum I taught, I was constantly reflecting both on my childhood and on the experiences in the classroom. I knew that each child was very different and unique, each child learned in their own way and each child had their own particular interests that developed through their own personality, character, talents, interests, and strengths. I had never met two children who were alike in every way.

Traditional school, however, allows for adults to make comparisons and ratings of children according to an interestingly ambiguous and abstracted ideal of what a child should be and what a child should know. I was beginning to tire of an educational system that worked within a framework of comparison between children to the esoteric ideal. Was there education that valued the individual over the standards? Was there an educational pedagogy that recognized children were not made for standards, but that standards were made for children, and the standards are simply guidelines, not always requirements?

Finding AMI Montessori has been a coming home of sorts, because the method both recognizes the common reality of human nature: self-creation through the five senses, the human tendencies, the sensitive periods, the planes of development, the physical and spiritual nature of the child, the concrete to abstract knowledge, the simple to the complex ideas, the art and the science of methodology. Yet within the framework of commonality, the glorious acceptance of differences is kept intact, in some sense sacred. The Montessori method allows each child to breathe, to develop or self-create, with recognized differences such as personality, character, interests, stages of development, desire, temperament, abilities.

AMI in particular offers such a rigorous training in the Montessori method that I have felt very well equipped as I work with my primary children. The theory classes gave valuable insights on Maria Montessori’s understanding of human development and the adult’s role within that context, as an observer and guide rather than as an author and ruler. The presentations were thorough and our many hours of practice and album work reinforced the correct use of the materials well.

My Loyola Experience:

Quite candidly, I was initially attracted to the Loyola M.Ed. program because of the status symbol that comes with a Master’s degree. Not the personal status symbol, but status of Montessori education as a viable and competitive option within the current milieu of early childhood, primary, lower and upper elementary and high school education. For Montessori to be available to all children, Montessori guides need degrees that are respected by institutions and by parents who choose the Montessori pedagogy for their child’s development.

After deciding to pursue the Master’s program, it became clear that the classes offered in the Master’s program were a perfect addition to the AMI training. The class on Action Research gave many valuable insights and tips for data collecting and record keeping. It also made clear that if Montessori education and the universally prolific difference it makes on children’s early development is to be understood through research, Montessori guides will be key instruments offering supportive data.

The Special Education class gave amazing insights into detecting and discerning signs of children with disabilities at all levels of development. I found this class hugely helpful because there are nuanced signs that can indicate numerous disabilities. Our professor made it clear what signs indicate what kinds of disabilities we may see, and how to observe and record those signs. This class was profoundly insightful and gave hope to the possibility of Montessori guides being aids for children with disabilities. There were several recommendations, both by the professor and colleagues who have taught children with disabilities, of what possible actions could be used within the Montessori environment for children with disabilities.

The capstone project was helpful in aiding me to think of my five-year goals. I found my advisor gracious, humorous, pointed, directive, and open-minded. This helped me think through future possibilities according to what is important to me in terms of Montessori education.

Beyond the academic material, I really enjoyed meeting fellow Montessorians from all over the world. There were several colleagues who brought humor and songs, sorrows and challenges, and ultimately joy and inspiration. For me, I came into the program thinking I would bury my head in books (which I did), and hole up in my room for hours studying (which I did), and hide in a nook in the library (which I did); but what was most helpful was getting to know others in my cohort who brought joy and life to the course with their perspectives and histories and talents which inspired the love of community, learning, and working.

My Advice to Current Students:

The program is intense and the theory is important, but this is only possible because there are people interested in being in the same place at the same time. For those of you joining the Summer 2019 Cohort, remember to take advantage of the opportunity to meet each other. You will be invaluable to each other’s lives. In the short month, you will meet some amazing friends and develop an international support system. Be sure to allow yourself time to rest and relax with good company. And above all, remind yourself that you are there for the children you will get to serve in the future. You are truly fortunate to get to guide these developing children, and they are fortunate to be served by you.

“Every contribution able to bring out the latent power of love, and to throw light upon love itself, should be welcomed with avidity and considered of paramount importance. I have already said that prophets and poets speak often of love as if it were an ideal; but it is not just an ideal, it is, has always been, and will ever be, a reality …. It holds the universe together because it is a real force, not just an idea.” Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, pg. 290, 295.

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Loyola University Maryland

Strong Truths Well Lived

Voices from the Evergreen Cohort

humanities 3This summer, we were thrilled to launch our first cohort of post-AMI-diploma students into the M.Ed. Evergreen pathway. This pathway is offered as an alternative to those who either have already completed an AMI diploma, or are currently training at one of our partner institutes but missed the deadline to apply for the graduate program. Beginning with the on-site summer intensive at Loyola’s main campus, students earn an M.Ed. in just one calendar year. Once leaving campus, they will engage in online courses spanning all four planes of development, then pursue action research in the classroom. Here’s what our students and Director have to say so far:


I am grateful that you started the Post-diploma program for students like me, who finished their Montessori training a long time ago. While I was doing my Montessori training, I was still new to this field and wasn’t very sure if I wanted to commit myself to this career. Recently, I found a master’s program concentration in Montessori is what I want for my future! I am understanding the concepts better, and always want to find out more after class, knowing I will serve my students better.  I love this feeling! ~Andrea


I am thoroughly enjoying my courses. I’ve learned so much about special education, just in three days, that would have been so useful to know years ago. Also, my research course is really exciting in that all of the methods in research I’m learning here will help me to write the research paper in the spring. The access to online databases has been incredible; so much information is out there and I love having this access. ~Keri


I am excited to be a part of the inaugural Post-Diploma M.Ed. program at Loyola. I see this as not only an opportunity to attain my Master’s degree but also as a way to build off of my previous experiences in Montessori education and take them a step further.  I am confident that furthering my knowledge of action research and refreshing my understanding of Montessori theory will offer both practical and pedagogical support to my daily work with Montessori educators.  I see my work in the program as a recommitment to the profession I began over 20 years ago, and I look forward to reviewing, renewing, learning and growing through this process. ~Nikki


Our post diploma students have invigorated our intensive summer session. These experienced Montessori Teachers provide wisdom and balance to our discussions. As they move through the program, they will focus on the deep connections within Montessori and amongst the entire educational landscape. I believe the experiences they will share and the community they will form will create the conditions necessary for each of them to become transformational Montessori leaders. ~Director Jack Rice


Learn more about the Evergreen (Post-Diploma) master’s program by visiting our website or contacting Montessori@loyola.edu.

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Loyola University Maryland

Strong Truths Well Lived

#CapstoneConnections – Summer 2018 Scrapbook

Last Friday we commemorated the end of our summer intensive with another stellar crew. We are so proud to celebrate our graduates! To know them is to know that the care, compassion, and determination of Montessori teachers will lead us toward a more peaceful future in service of the child. #StrongTruthsWellLived #LoyolaEducation

A Letter from Director Jack Rice

“There’s a reason you’re here.”

That was my message to 129 Montessori Teachers that descended on our campus this week. Soon each of them will receive their Master of Education degree from Loyola University Maryland, the culmination of a great deal of time, thought and sacrifice.

For me, the four week intensive session at the Evergreen campus is sacred – it’s most important component the bringing together of future leaders of our movement. I believe what makes the session special is the fact that every person on campus wants to be here. Weary learners tired from training and travel become energized in each other’s presence. Visiting faculty are captivated by students that are incredibly passionate and thoughtful. Montessori teachers are tough, in a world that implores them to view education from an institutional frame, they have chosen a different approach, one that focuses on the joyful development of the child.

One of the students observed the other day that I have the best job in the world. They are correct. I am blessed to meet so many exceptional educators and support them on their journey to make a lasting difference in the lives of children. Over the next four weeks, I hope the students all discover the reason they are here, why Loyola is the right lesson for them at the right time. In true Montessori fashion we will discover it together.

Enjoy your studies,

Peace,

Jack

 

#CapstoneConnections – Jennifer Littell

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Jennifer and her daughter Harper, seated at commencement with our Center Director, Jack Rice.

With so many of our students studying off-site and returning home to their different corners of the world after the capstone at Loyola, we don’t often get to see many of them walk the commencement stage in May each year. However we are always happy to welcome back the tireless few who do make this journey, and love to share in celebrating all of their accomplishments! One such traveling alumna this year was Jennifer Littell (’18), whose reflection embodies our university motto of strong truths well lived.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and why did you want to be a Montessori teacher?

I am from Sacramento, CA. I started touring Montessori schools as an educational option for my daughter, Harper. Being exposed to the Montessori Method was like an awakening for me. As I was looking for a school for my daughter, and did extensive research into the Montessori Method, I not only discovered a learning environment in which my daughter would thrive, but also a calling for myself to be an agent of social change. My goal is to open a Montessori school.

How did you hear about the M.Ed. program?

I first heard about the M.Ed. program through correspondence with the Loyola Graduate Department of Education and researching the Loyola University Maryland website for the Center for Montessori Education. There is also a link on the Loyola Maryland website to Loyola’s off-site AMI affiliated training institutes, which I found to be very accessible and helpful.

How would you describe your Summer Session in residence at Loyola?

Being on campus gave me the opportunity to add the university influence to my studies, to interact with Loyola Department of Education and Montessori leaders, and to be part of a cohort that was a blend of Montessori graduate students from around the United States. The Summer Session in residence at Loyola was extremely beneficial to my experience with the program, and brought it full circle.

I embraced the Summer Session in residence for the Jesuit education influence, and for having a grounding impact on my graduate work, as I had completed the Montessori Studies off-site, at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. The Summer Session was very rigorous, but did not lose the element of being a part of a very powerful and passionate movement. It was a personalized setting that offered me the chance to grow and thrive, not only as a Montessori, but as a Loyola graduate student.

Congratulations on graduating summa cum laude in your class! How did your AMI training in San Diego compare with the rigorous schedule of the education core courses at the end of your program?

Thank you! I worked extremely hard to excel and do my best. It has been a privilege to grow as Loyola graduate student. Both my AMI training in San Diego and the Summer Session courses on campus at Loyola were very rigorous. There is no doubt that I received the highest level of training possible from both the MISD and Loyola. The MISD and Loyola University Maryland set a precedence that offered challenge and a journey that changed me from the person that I was when I began the Masters program.

Everything that I had ever considered the means to educating a child, I put to the side, as I learned a new way of learning, one that I embraced fully. The AMI training in San Diego focused more specifically on the Montessori classroom curriculum, whereas the Summer Session at Loyola focused on courses in research, special education and a formative Capstone project.

Tell us about your coursework while on campus. How, if at all, does the research and special education knowledge inform your teaching practice? What was your final Prezi project about?

The coursework on campus was very educational and beneficial to my teaching practice. In Foundations of Research, taught by Father John Savard, I was challenged to develop critical thinking skills in how to research, and explored a research proposal surrounding mindfulness. I had the opportunity to lead my cohort in a short mindful practice, demonstrating how even a few minutes of quiet breathing and visualization could have an impact on increasing relaxation and reducing stress.

Due to my interests and research proposal in mindfulness and how it relates to teaching, I specifically focused on how we develop mindfulness to increase student concentration and personal development and also teacher’s development and stress reduction. By incorporating mindful practices such as yoga, listening to music and exercises into the Montessori learning environment, students concentration will increase and stress and anxiety in both teachers and students will decrease.

In Ann Epstein’s world-class special education class, I was able to cover a number of topics that relate to different issues for individuals with exceptionalities, and how to be able to understand their needs, offering them the necessary resources to be able to be included in the Montessori learning environment.

My final project was the Capstone Prezi project. I found it to be an invaluable experience, as I reflected through critical thinking and self-analysis over the course of the program and outlined a future professional and educational development plan. Going forward, I am looking forward to having the Capstone Prezi as a personal reference, and also in sharing it with those who have been a part of my journey through the program. I am looking forward to the future and my part in this incredible mission.

We have a new crop of ~130  students coming to campus this summer. Most will be completing their final 9 credits, like you did last summer. What’s the best advice you can give them?

The Summer Session is an opportunity for the students, to embrace their time on Loyola, and to identify as a Loyola University Maryland student. This is the final portion to the program that will open the doors to the future, as a Montessorian, and a Loyola Masters of Education candidate, in the setting of one of the most elite universities in the United States, and in particular, the most elite educational setting to receive a Masters of Education-Montessori Studies.

The best advice that I can give to incoming students is to be present and mindful in their Summer Session experience. By the time that the students arrive on campus for the Summer Session, there is a significant amount of very hard work that has gone into the program and AMI training. I advise the students to embrace and honor themselves for what they have accomplished. Bond with their cohort and the remarkable members of the faculty. Have pride and joy in their accomplishments, and reflect this through positivity and finishing this program on the highest level possible.

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#CapstoneConnections

Loyola University Maryland ~ Strong Truths Well Lived

#CapstoneConnections – Amy Grandia

Grandia photo

Happy Spring, readers! Meet Amy Grandia (M.Ed. ’14), who earned her AMI Primary diploma at Montessori Northwest in conjunction with the Loyola master’s program. Below she shares her reflection on education for peace, the graduate campus and M.Ed. core courses, and life after Loyola.

Some background: When did you become involved with the Montessori method, and what drew you to it?

From a very young age, I knew I wanted to become a teacher. Knowing I wanted to gain experience with children, I applied for an assistant job at the closest school to my house, which happened to be a Montessori school. After a brief time in the classroom, I fell in love with Maria Montessori’s work. I loved how, with Montessori, children can meet their full potential and work at their own pace, the guides meet each child where they are, it fosters independence, the list continues…but above all, what drew me to work in Montessori was the peace education focus. Montessori recognized children as the redeeming factor in the evolution of humankind. To bring about a world of peace and tolerance, where war is an absurdity, it is important to teach peace, collaboration, and acceptance early.  Dr. Montessori saw education as the most powerful and universal way to reconstruct society; a way to transition from war to peace. Therefore, it is necessary to think of education as peace, not education for peace.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” ~ Frederick Douglass

 

How would you describe your Summer Session in residence at Loyola?

The Loyola campus is beautiful; when walking to class or working outside you are always surrounded by beautiful buildings. The library offered a lot of research options and was a great space to work. Not having a car there, I took advantage of the multiple offers for buses that would take the students to the grocery store. The gym on campus has great exercise equipment and fun classes. One thing I was able to take with me from my time on the Loyola campus were the friendships I made. If we are thinking of this work as a collaboration toward unity and togetherness, connecting with others dedicated to that same mission is paramount in achieving those large scale objectives and I was able to build some strong connections that are still with me today.

Where are you working now?

For the last four years I have been a guide at SunGarden Montessori Children’s House, a quaint and beautiful AMI school just outside of Portland, Oregon.

In what ways, if any, do you use some of the things you’ve learned about educational research or special education in your daily teaching life, now?

I have kept the notebook I used at Loyola close since I graduated. I often review the handouts and notes I took while I was there. The educational research class strengthened my abilities in finding information as well as sharpened my competency in reading articles more effectively. I have been using this skill a great deal when finding articles for my work with Oregon Montessori Association. The special education class offered at Loyola deepened my knowledge of the different steps to take to assist with all of the diverse and varied needs of children. I have been a part of many IEP’s for my students, and learning about the process before facing it in the classroom gave me the confidence I needed to adequately support the children utilizing them.

What was your final paper/project about? Did you feel that it enriched your practice as a Montessorian?

My final paper was on movement in the Montessori classroom and I do feel the project enriched my practice as a Montessorian. While writing the paper I had to dive deeply into my feelings about movement in the classroom and my approach to supporting it constructively. It forced me to step outside of the Montessori realm to research what other professionals were saying regarding movement and how other groups felt it to be affecting childhood education. During the process, I was able to look at the ways Montessori uses fine motor movement and gross motor movement, and how every movement that is made by the guide is done with purpose.

How do you feel the Master’s degree has affected your career trajectory?

I feel having a Master’s degree has enhanced my career. With the parents of the children I teach, I feel it shows my commitment to education and that I have worked hard to learn as much as I can about this topic. Also, with people that may be unfamiliar with Montessori, my Master’s degree communicates I have a deep knowledge of education and I am proficient in the topic. And lastly, my Master’s degree has given me a great sense of accomplishment and pride. It represents the high level of importance and value I place on what is my life’s work.

Thanks for sharing, Amy!!

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#CapstoneConnections

Loyola University Maryland ~ Strong Truths Well Lived