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.
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!
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.
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
Loyola University Maryland ~ “Strong Truths Well Lived”