What inspires you about education?
Tectonic plates are shifting in the digital media landscape — and everyone knows it. But there's also a sneaky renaissance happening in the education world, driven by tech, yes, but also pedagogy.
Montessori is still a bit of an enigma to me and, I think, to a lot people, even those who have looked into it. But the century-old paradigm is stronger than ever. It's principles and spirit are infusing both private and public initiatives, from our friends at Mystery Science in San Francisco to South Dakota's own Montessorium and New York's WeWork. Oh, and Jeff Bezos' recent billion-dollar(!) investment in Montessori ventures.
This is an incredibly inspiring space to work in. And it's still Day One.
How did you discover Montessori.
I met Ray Girn, the CEO of Higher Ground Education, in 2014 at a rooftop party in Chicago. He was so jazzed about the arcane aspects of effectively teaching math to elementary students. But I was much more interested in talking to the cute girl in the corner.
A few drinks (and years) later, I was fortunate enough to come back into contact with some friends and join the HGE marketing team. I'm a public school kid, and learning about Montessori education as an outsider has been a tremendous perspective change.
How does Montessori philosophy inspire your daily life?
I'm inspired by certain people, projects, and places. So much that I just have to learn about them. In that way, I've always loved Montessorium's mantra that, "learning is a lifestyle," because I think it's been so crucial to my own happiness.
I feel like I'm a different person after learning something new, whether it's how to cook the perfect Tuscan wedding soup recipe, sweating the details of a classroom photo shoot, or reading a memoir of a heroic individual.
This deeply personal, value-centered perspective on learning is exactly what I didn't find enough of in my high school and university experience, but did from minute-one at HGE and in our Montessori classrooms. The team is a passionate group of parents, educators, and specialists who are all in some way voracious learners.
Do you have a favorite Montessori quote?
Maria Montessori's life was epic. Seriously, she needs a biopic starring Meryl Streep. I appreciate her reverence of both a child's potential and for education, because it can help to establish and maintain world peace.
"How can we speak of Democracy or Freedom when from the very beginning of life we mold the child to undergo tyranny, to obey a dictator? How can we expect democracy when we have reared slaves? Real freedom begins at the beginning of life, not at the adult stage. These people who have been diminished in their powers, made short-sighted, devitalized by mental fatigue, whose bodies have become distorted, whose wills have been broken by elders who say: 'your will must disappear and mine prevail!' — how can we expect them, when school-life is finished, to accept and use the rights of freedom?"
— Maria Montessori, "Education for a New World" (1946)
What have you learned from your time working at Higher Ground thus far?
Practical idealists exist in the world everywhere, and when they band together they can achieve a lot, quickly, efficiently, and without being martyrs.
What do you enjoy most about working with your teammates?
There's a saying that floats around the startup world: "Nothing is sacred." I hate it.
At HGE, "everything is sacred." We sweat the small stuff. Twice. We have high standards. We push things further and faster. I like the constant dance we all do of shipping high-quality content — and high quantities of it.
Also, impromptu singing telegram pranks might be a thing soon ...
What are your passions, interests, and hobbies?
Just finished reading: "How to Build and Furnish a Log Cabin"
Currently reading: "Sprint" for the awesome HGE marketing team book club.
Also reading: "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," because freedom.