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

 

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#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

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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

#CapstoneConnections – Dr. Andree Rolfe

_MG_9750-Andree-H-ResHappy 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!

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#CapstoneConnections

Loyola University Maryland ~ Strong Truths Well Lived

#CapstoneConnections – Nicole Barba

It was a race to the finish line this application season, and we are happy to see another large new crop of graduates entering the program! Many may be wondering what lies in store for their capstone experience here at Loyola during the final summer, so today we share some reflection from 2017 graduate Nicole Barba. Below she discusses her 4 weeks on campus:

Living on campus was the best choice I could have made.  We were able to gather as a community and have “Montessori summer camp,” where we shared songs we sing in the classroom (toddler through elementary) and just fun songs, danced, and played different instruments (whoever brought one!).  We passed the soccer ball around and we cheered each other on as we rock climbed!  We also shared recipes and chatted over meals.  Having that time on campus allowed us to discuss what was happening in class, in our lives, in our society, and share a few laughs.  Being able to study together, or just being there for emotional support, made the learning more relaxed and enjoyable. 

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Nicole Barba (second from right) poses with fellow graduates at the end-of-session celebration at Dean Smith’s.

The capstone project allowed me to explore and think about what I was going to do with my life as a Montessorian and have heartfelt conversations about it with my roommates and new friends.  Even the teachers were there for support.  I know I can count on my classmates and teachers for advice and suggestions after this summer. I am grateful for the connections I made and look forward to my work in the toddler classroom as well as what the future may bring.

~Nicole Barba

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#CapstoneConnections

Loyola University Maryland ~ “Strong Truths Well Lived”

 

#CapstoneConnections – Chase Deutschman

As Fall moves in and a fresh school year begins, we hope that exciting new leaves are turning in the Montessori community  across the world. In this month’s blog, Chase Deutschman (’17) reflects on his M.Ed. capstone experience this past summer:

Extending my Montessori training with Loyola University ChaseMaryland was a decision I would recommend to anyone considering Montessori training of any kind. On campus housing was very easy to manage – the units were more like apartments and came with full size kitchens. Being from out of town and arriving without a vehicle, I was admittedly anxious about what I would do for meals and exploring town, but found that eating dinners at Boulder Cafe and taking the scheduled shuttles/carpool to grocery stores made life a lot easier. I feel that living in the dorm enabled me to access as much of the campus as I could for the month that we were in school. The FAC was a comfortable walk away and was a place that I looked forward to visiting on a daily basis, whether I was on my way to swim, the weight room, or challenge Jack Rice to a few rounds of squash.  

My favorite part about the final summer session was learning about more universal educational concepts (outside of the Montessori realm). I felt that this gave my own educational practice some more perspective and it was inspiring to explore these and work  towards applying the concepts in the classroom through a Montessori lens. Introduction to Special Education and Foundations in Educational Research, the two in-class courses for the summer session, were very different experiences, independently. Introduction to Special Ed, for me, was more of a traditional feel to a course but provided a strong basis of understanding children with disabilities and how education can evolve to accommodate accordingly. Foundations in Educational research felt more like a lab than a “class” to me. Jessica Haddaway provided the fundamentals and scaffolding to what education research is, then gave me the space to explore my particular interests/questions. I left this course with the confidence to take action within my own classroom.

I feel that my time at Loyola, though short, imprinted a particular drive within myself to do more – to do more for children, for education, and for the Montessori community. The capstone project was the most authentic way I think this experience could have ended. It was a vehicle for questions to come to life, goals to be set, and visions to develop. I ended my time at Loyola with a feeling of ‘awe’, as I was astonished of what could be accomplished in such a short period of time. 

~Chase Deutschman

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#CapstoneConnections

Loyola University Maryland ~ “Strong Truths Well Lived”