Journal Entry

Higher Ground team travels to China for first international school setup

Guidepost Montessori at Wanhangdu Road will open this fall in Shanghai

Higher Ground Education’s U.S. and China teams joined together for the organization’s first international school setup in Shanghai during a whirlwind few days last month. Monna Istranyi, N.Y.C.-based International Marketing Manager, noted the impressive display of camaraderie, efficiency, and innovation.  

The teams outfitted three classrooms and a common space in a record-breaking three days to help establish Guidepost Montessori at Wanhangdu Road, slated to open fall 2019 with spaces for one Nido and two Toddler rooms. It will serve infants to age 3 and offer English-Mandarin bilingual programming. 

The setup also marked the launch of a pilot program with West Shore, a vendor of Montessori materials and furnishings. The entire process of receiving packages and sorting their contents was streamlined and revolutionized. The Nido materials arrived in several large boxes, and the Toddler materials were grouped together separately and only needed to be divided into the two classrooms. Many West Shore furniture pieces were pre-assembled, greatly simplifying the process as compared to previous operations.  

(Above) One of the toddler classrooms setup at Wanhangdu Road in Changhai. (Top) Cornelia Lockitch pieces together materials for the Nido classroom. (Main image) Monna Istranyi (from left), Sam Darling, Cornelia Lockitch, Edward Lunney, Steven Huang and Terrance Hui help school setup at Wanhangdu Road in Shanghai.


West Shore is amazing,” Monna said. “They sent a crew to our school and they were helping us with garbage and with assembling the tables and things like that.” 

Cornelia Lockitch, Director of Prepared Environments, was instrumental in ensuring the quality of the materials met standards and that the incoming supplies were organized well for ease and inventory purposes. IKEA also sent a representative to piece together in an afternoon all the items sourced there. 

For Monna, who has been involved in several stateside setups since joining Higher Ground in December 2016, this one was especially meaningful because she grew up in Shanghai and her family still lives there. Monna expects this new school site, set in a residential area, to attract “a lot of expats, a lot of international families, as well as local families who really want a quality Montessori education.” 

The setup was a remarkable collaboration between the local team and the U.S. team, Monna described. There were a few translation challenges, she recalled laughing, such as ordering supplies from Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon. The China team helped the American contingent select more applicable keywords to find specific items such as decorative hooks.  

After intense, productive days, they carved out time to be together and relish cultural experiences. Some in the group sampled bull frog. They sang karaoke. They visited a panda bar. Monna even introduced a few of her American colleagues to an authentic Shanghai household and her 100-year-old grandmother. 

“Its a true representation of ‘we work hard, and we play hard.’ And at the same time, you know, you just feel that everybody loves what they do,” Monna said. “Everybody just is so passionate about what theyre doing and the impact that theyre making.” 

Terrance Hui (from left), Edward Lunney, Cornelia Lockitch, Scott Darling, Sam Darling and Steven Huang visit the Bund in Shanghai.

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