Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a Montessorian through and through. I was raised with Montessori. I grew up, as a person and a professional, in my mother’s Montessori school. I’ve studied Montessori’s writings. I’ve adopted Montessori as a way of life.
But Montessori for me is not just a way of life with children (my own children, or any for whom I am responsible). It is also a way of life with adult relationships. I believe, because I have seen it to be true, that Montessori is about human nature as such.
What inspires you about education?
The “virtuous cycle” that Montessori describes is an observation not just on child development, but on human epistemology. Montessori talks about the connection between the mind and the hand, and the spiral of learning that takes place in their interaction. The “mind” makes a choice: “try this—lift this thing.” The “hand” experiments. Immediately, feedback comes: “it’s too heavy—it will fall.” The “mind” makes another choice: “try with two hands—bring it close to the body.” The “hand” executes. More feedback: “It’s stable.” And the person moves on, using both mind and hand for further exploration.
We can call it trial and error. Or we can put it in deeper philosophic terms: the fundamental integration between mind and body. Either way, it’s not only about children. It’s about human beings as such.
This is the way human beings learn. We think. We choose a strategy. We try to execute it. We get feedback from reality. We reflect. We adjust our strategy. We try again.
It’s how a baby learns to insert a chip into a slotted box; a toddler learns to slice a banana; a three-year-old masters the red rods; a five-year-old deepens his reading comprehension. It is also how adults learn. It is how a painter perfects his art; a scientist discovers a scientific truth. And it is how a Montessori Guide hones her craft.
How did you discover Montessori?
My Montessori story begins as a child. My mother started a Montessori school in New Jersey (a school she continues to lead to this day), and Montessori has been central to my life from my earliest memories. I attended and worked at my mother’s Montessori school through middle school, and continued to work there even after going off to high school, as an assistant teacher, administrator, and jack of all trades. Those experiences fundamentally shaped my approach to thought and life: my sense of order, my aesthetic, my respect for the agency of human beings, my independence and candor.
Can you share your Montessori journey?
Steve Jobs wrote that “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards… believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path.”
These words capture eloquently the way that I feel about my journey to becoming a Montessori trainer. Looking backwards now, it really seems that every course of study, every job, every experience and adventure was preparation for the great work of helping Montessori teachers perfect their craft.
When was the moment that you decided to make Montessori your career?
In 2009, I graduated from UCLA School of Law, and I landed a prestigious law firm job, making far more money than I felt I deserved at the age of 25. I joined the firm. Threw myself into that journey with enthusiasm. Worked hard to learn the craft. But as time went on, I became unsettled. This was a fun intellectual game to play. It was not a life’s work. It was not a purpose. It was not food for my soul.
Meanwhile, I had met and married my husband, who was a teacher when I met him. By 2009, he had left the classroom and become the leader of a small family business of three Montessori schools (the LePort Schools). I found myself repeatedly drawn into his work—into late night discussions of pedagogy, teacher training, the Montessori movement, the best way to set up a “prepared environment” for adults (teachers and Heads of School).
I was a Montessori child. I know when it’s time to make a choice, and I know how to make one. I walked away from the fancy law firm job and the fat salary. I joined my husband at the school. I took the title of “General Counsel & VP of Human Resources”. But I did what I had always done at my mother’s Montessori school, from the time I was a child: whatever needed to be done.
My husband and I have always had an ambitious vision for what we want to see take place in Montessori education. We think that now is the moment for Montessori to take its rightful place in history, to turn the tide of where we see that things are headed in this country and beyond. Generations and generations of children are having their eyes deadened, their souls crushed out of them, by years of meaningless, purposeless, alienating schooling. That cannot help but take its toll on our culture and our society. It’s time for that to change. We’ve reached a point of urgency. Montessori is the change, and it needs to come now.
Together, Ray and I and a team of others have built and are building the infrastructure necessary to bring that change.
Can you tell us about Higher Ground Education?
Our express goal is to create the infrastructure necessary to make Montessori the dominant pedagogy, world-round.
What have you learned from your time working at Higher Ground thus far?
If we wish to bring Montessori to the world, we must believe that the world is ready for it. We must believe that these new generations of teachers are worthy of it. We must give them our trust, and expect them to succeed. They will rise to our expectation.