Chief Operating Officer

Maris Mendes


Maris Mendes

Following the completion of her bachelor’s degree in English Education from California State University Long Beach, Maris Mendes spent six years at the Starbucks Coffee Company, where she was tasked with turning around a succession of underperforming stores from the perspective of efficiency, culture, and profitability.

In 2013, Mendes joined LePort Schools, where she was rapidly promoted, over a three-year period, from Campus Manager to Operations Manager to Director of Talent Management. Mendes developed a full range of expertise in leading a network of schools, from the nitty-gritty of school operations, to management of both campus and corporate teams, to high-level strategic work, particularly in the area of creating rapidly scalable Human Resources systems.

Her combination of ground-up operational experience and strategic judgment is now at work at Higher Ground, where Mendes oversees and coordinates all aspects of the school business, from opening, hiring and initializing systems to marketing and managing new campuses and maintaining the growth of existing ones.

My Story

Learn more about Maris

  • Tell us a little about yourself.

    I’m a mother of 3 that loves spreadsheets, project plans, spreading Montessori education, and cheese.

  • What inspires you about education?

    Observing small moments of exploration and discovery for individual children is incredibly inspiring for me. Nothing beats the pure joy of watching a child attempt a task repeatedly and ultimately wind up beaming with pride at having accomplished the task independently.

  • How did you discover Montessori?

    I discovered Montessori almost accidentally, as it unfortunately seems that many do. Although I had taken college courses on education, I didn’t come in contact with Montessori until I had children myself and began to look at what options existed. I distinctly remember being pregnant and touring a Kinder Care and leaving in tears saying that I would choose not to go back to work if that was what was available; little did I know that less than a year later I would stumble upon Montessori and it would not only change the course of my child’s education but change the course of my career.

  • How does Montessori impact your daily life?

    Montessori philosophy has shifted my view of people and the world in a fundamental way. Preparing the environment for success is now a key starting point for solving problems or getting different outcomes, both literally and figuratively; I both aim to offer people the resources and freedom to act independently and I also find myself collecting baskets and arranging every space I encounter.

  • Do you have a favorite Montessori quote?

    “We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”

  • When was the moment that you decided to make Montessori your career?

    Although I knew immediately that Montessori was right for my child, it took almost a year of building interest and discussion with amazing Montessorians for me to realize that I needed to be involved in spreading Montessori education. After a year of interactions and observations I knew I wanted to be a part of the team but didn’t know how or where I could contribute. I had multiple conversations and considered different paths, including entering the classroom, before ultimately deciding to apply my operations and business skillset to further the mission.

  • What have you learned from your time working at Higher Ground thus far?

    I’ve learned that great people that are aligned can do seemingly impossible things.

  • What do you enjoy most about working with your teammates?

    The Higher Ground team is unlike any other. I am so inspired and grateful to work with people that are relentlessly benevolent and ruthlessly seeking to both grow individually and as an organization. Essentially, the team treats each other with the same respect and approach as the guides take in the Montessori classroom – seeking to offer independence and autonomy to individuals as we work on a common mission of mainstreaming and modernizing Montessori.

  • What are your passions, interests and hobbies?

    Work and my family are my passions, but when I have free time, I also love to sprinkle in trying new food, traveling with my family, hiking, and eating cheese.

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