#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

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#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”

Dear 2017 Graduates

An open letter from Director Jack Rice.

Universities are beautiful places. They are spaces of youth and optimism set against a backdrop of stately trees and prominent buildings. Yet every summer our campus becomes even more beautiful because of the presence of a hundred Montessori teachers ready to complete their degrees.

quad-2At orientation, I asked you to find some time during the session to think; and I provided you access to a prepared environment to facilitate contemplation and study.

Maybe it happened in one of your Special Education classes when Dr. Rolfe or Dr. Epstein presented an idea that unlocked a possibility for a student you know (or soon will meet).

Perhaps it materialized in the library while you were poring over an article for Ms. Haddaway or Father Savard’s class; a question was awoken in your mind and you became a researcher searching for clues, using a methodology that was newly presented to you, but at the same time, felt so familiar.

Or it could be that your mind became settled at Dr. Fenzel’s Mindfulness workshop as we all meditated together, remembering to breathe and remain connected to our thoughts. It is only if we take care of ourselves that we can truly be the transformed adult ready to take on the important work of assisting the development of children.

But likely the moments that matter the most happened over a glass of wine in the Hug Lounge, or an evening study session in McAuley, or while strolling with new friends at the Walters Art Museum. These were intentional settings ready to allow you time with each other and your thoughts.

I hope as you finalize your capstone assignments you will share these thoughts and questions with your professors (Carrie and Jim). It was their intent to allow you to synthesize all of these experiences into a roadmap for your emerging career.

I take special pride in reflecting on your time on our campus, knowing that you have shared an experience that will connect you to our Loyola family and a growing professional network of committed Montessori educators. As I head out to our final picnic together tomorrow at Dean Smith’s, I am proud of all that you have accomplished, and I am humbled by your commitment and your energy.

Tomorrow’s children are in good hands.

Peace,

Jack

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Loyola University Maryland ~ “Strong Truths Well Lived”

#CapstoneConnections – Xin Yuan

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Happy May to all! As the term draws to a close here at Loyola, it is a time to reminisce on how far we’ve come, how much we’ve learned, and how our knowledge carries us forward (with some stressful exams thrown in there somewhere)! This month we had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Xin Yuan, a native of China whose Montessori journey has landed her in Ontario. We hope you enjoy her story as much as we did.

Tell us about your background. How and when did you get involved with the Montessori method?

Born and raised in China, I followed the traditional education system in public schools, and received my undergraduate degree in English linguistics and literature in 2008. Before I came to America, I have never heard of the Montessori education. As an English major student, I shared a common dream of my fellow students to explore and live in an English- speaking country for at least a couple of years. I chose to come to America to work as a Chinese teacher for one year. That school happened to be a multilingual Montessori school in Baltimore (The New Century School). I worked with a Montessori trained directress as a Chinese speaking assistant. Until this experience, I never worked with children and never realized how much potential they have and how much they could learn at this age range: 2.5-6 years old. As I worked there, I enjoyed establishing a trusting relationship with the children and being able to assist and help them learn a second language. This learning method is not dry, nor boring, nor dependent on punishments and rewards as means of motivation, but rather based in observing the children’s interests and following their inner guides. Working in a Montessori environment made me want to learn and grow with the children; it helped me to be more creative and encouraging. I loved it! Also, the teacher with whom I worked with, Mrs. Cathy Lawson, was a very experienced Montessori teacher with a caring heart. She inspired and encouraged me to be a Montessori teacher. So, there I was, starting and planning my journey to follow the Montessori path.

Why did you choose WMI as your training site?

Ha, initially I chose WMI mainly because of the convenience of the location. I was working in Baltimore area, and my teacher friends told me that the nearest AMI training center – Washington Montessori Institute has a great reputation; plus, it offered an M.Ed. degree in Montessori Education. So I chose WMI without a second thought. But actually, it was after I finished the training in WMI and started working in other schools in different countries that I realized how much WMI has impacted me and how much I have benefited from it.

Did you enjoy your training, and the intensive session that followed? If so, what were some of your favorite aspects throughout the course? 

Absolutely! As an international student, I have to say the first month of study really challenged my English listening and writing skills, because it required fast listening and writing especially for the lectures. Later, when I picked up the rhythm and got more and more comfortable, I started enjoying the course more and more.

I loved that it combined the lectures and presentations with some fun life skills that could stay with me for the rest of my life (For example, sewing, watercolor painting, material making, etc.). Before, I have never touched a sewing machine. It was during the training I got to learn the basic skills of sewing from Jennifer Shields and I just fell in love with it! By the end of the course, I was able to sew aprons, table mats, pouches, even a pencil bag and some curtains! To this day, I’m still sewing for my class and introducing those works to the children in my class. I remember Janet McDonell sharing a lot of beautiful songs through the course. Singing from the heart is so important for our teaching life, and the singing helped us release some pressure during the training as well.320352_4788235984305_84326017_n

I also really appreciated the opportunities to observe and practice teaching in different types of Montessori schools in the Maryland and D.C. area.

But what I enjoyed the most was actually after the intense training and following the instructions of the trainers. I found all the theories and presentations were somehow deeply marked into our brains and it made the final oral test a Montessori feast. (Some people might think I’m crazy, thinking of a test as the most enjoyable part, but I really felt that way.) We were so happy to show the other trainers from different training centers what we have learned and accomplished in the past 9 months, and we were sharing our understanding about Montessori education with experienced Montessorians. It was like a brain-storming experience and it was so special. They were there to listen to us, and we were there to talk and blossom for the first time as future Montessori teachers. It was fantastic!

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Tell us about life after graduation. Where do you work now? Do you feel that the M.Ed. has helped you in your career?

After finishing the training and the M.Ed degree, I was working under the F-1 OPT visa in a local Montessori school for one year. At the end of the year the school was trying to sponsor me to apply for the H-1B working visa. Unfortunately, that year my case went into the lottery system and it wasn’t picked. So, I applied for immigration to Canada as a Federal Skilled worker. My training in WMI and the M.Ed. degree really helped to add the points up for the immigration. The whole process only lasted for about 10 months and then I got the immigration paper.

I’m currently working in an AMI member school as a Montessori directress in Canada, Ontario, about 40 minutes drive from downtown Toronto. During the summer time, I work as a translator in the AMI training center in Shen Zhen city, China. In China, the AMI training centers are offering the 3 summers’ AMI casa training courses, and the trainers are from different parts of the world. I am honored to work with wonderful trainers: Louise Livingston from England, Ruby Lau from Inida, Teenaz Reporter from India and Cecilia Elguero from Mexico. At the same time, I always see myself as a representative from WMI-Loyola in this big Montessori family.

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Above: Xin Yuan with the Course 3 students and AMI training team at Peninsula Montessori Insitute, Shen Zhen City, China.

What advice would you give to individuals considering the Masters degree through Loyola?

The Montessori training and the Masters program are intense and could make this one year go by really fast, but when you are finished and look back, you will feel that all of the hard work was worth it. I benefited a lot from it, hopefully you will enjoy it even more. Come and join this journey with us, and be a Montessorian. You won’t regret it.

 

Our favorite insight: “Working in a Montessori environment made me wanted to learn and grow with the children; it helped me to be more creative and encouraging.” – Xin Yuan

#CapstoneConnections

Loyola University Maryland ~ “Strong Truths Well Lived”