Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
A: I grew up in Southern Maryland and I have one sister to whom I am very close. My mother was from Alabama, and my father from Upper Marlboro, MD. They were actively involved in politics, as my mother’s father was a well known congressman from Alabama. My father was a speech writer on Capitol Hill. My first job, at 16, was as an assistant for the Architect at the United States Capitol. My father died unexpectedly when I was 18 and my mother, sister and I moved to Washington, D.C.
I have always loved children and studied Early Childhood Education in college, with a minor in Drama. It was through my research of different methods of education that I came across Montessori. It made total sense to me, and I was very fortunate to have discovered that a Montessori Training Course was going to be opened in Washington, D.C. I was proud to be in that first course under Margaret Stephenson, and received my Primary Certificate in 1964 at The Washington Montessori Institute.
In 1965 I married my high school sweetheart, Michael Cobb. That same year, Miss Stephenson asked me if I would be willing to help establish a Montessori program in the inner city of Washington in conjunction with the Office of Economic Opportunity, “OEO.” Having joined the March on Washington with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1963, I was eager to do my part for those less fortunate. Unfortunately, however, I was not successful in getting this project established. Nevertheless, I learned a tremendous amount from this experience. I also consider myself enormously blessed to have had the opportunity to work so closely with Miss Stephenson!
President Kennedy had a great influence on me and I took to heart his appeal, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” While in Washington during the latter part of the 1960’s, I was involved in a number of exciting projects: researching the archives of the National Geographic Society for letters between Dr. Alexander Graham Bell and Maria Montessori, which I later gave to Mario Montessori, starting the first Washington Montessori Teachers Association with Sanford Jones and bringing the Ebenezer Baptist Gospel Choir to Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Georgetown, something I am certain the great Dr. King would have been proud of!
In 1970, my husband and I moved to Connecticut and had a son and daughter. In 1972, we moved to Bergamo Italy, and my husband took the Elementary Training. On January 6, 1974, I opened a school in Simsbury, CT with just nine children, ages three and four. Today, our school has grown to 160, with children ages 15 months to 12 years.
I am passionate about the Montessori philosophy of education, and never cease to be amazed at how very remarkable the work is that our students do each and every day! Currently, I am in the process of expanding the school, to include a second Toddler Community, a second Upper Elementary, and a Parent Infant Education Program. I would love to add a Nido in the near future.
I am very close to our children, Michael and Sallie Ann, both of whom are in education. Michael is a musician as well as a Spanish teacher in a Montessori school in New Jersey, and will be involved in helping this school to open a Montessori middle school in a few years. Sallie Ann works in Admissions at The Cobb School.
We have four grandchildren who bring the greatest joy of all! Our three oldest are at Cobb, one in the Lower Elementary, one in the Extended Day and one in the Primary.
Montessori has been my life and I can see that it works, not only in my children, but also in my grandchildren. They are all happy and fulfilled individuals.
Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite color?
A: My favorite color is blue.
Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?
I love to read. One of my favorite books is, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Victor Frankel. Another favorite is James Hillman’s, “The Souls Code.”
Recent favorites, include: “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by M. Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, “Olive Kiltteridge” by Elizabeth Strout, “The Help” by Kathryn Sockett, and “Cutting for Stone”, by Abraham Verghese
I also love movies. One film I would recommend is the French film, “To Be and to Have.” I tend to love foreign films, and I am not in love with Hollywood films!
Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?
A: If I were to start a new adventure, I think I would love to write a book about parenting.
Q: Can you tell us about your hobbies?
A: My hobbies and interests include reading, listening to music of all kinds from R&B, Rock, to Bach and Beethoven. I also love to sing and when I was young, I sang Gospel songs in a group.
Q: Switching to Montessori, what advice do you have for new Montessori schools? With that in mind, we suppose the same question can be applied to established Montessori schools.
A: One of the best things I ever did was to take a course on “running a small school” through ISM, Independent School Management. I highly recommend ISM to anyone who is starting a new school. I also recommend that Administrators join the Montessori Administrators Association. MAA was established five years ago to provide a forum where Montessori Administrators can support one another.
Q: How have things changed since you first got started in the field of education?
A: Quite honestly, I see huge changes in parenting today. Our society has changed a lot. Many parents no longer live near their families of origin; hence they do not have the support they might need. I subscribe to the notion that “it takes a village to raise a child,” and therefore I think this separation has implications on our children. We are losing the wisdom of our elders. Common sense is all too often forgotten, along with old fashioned values.
Q: Did you have a "Montessori Moment?"
A: I have had many Montessori moments over the years, which is why I believe so fervently in this work! I taught primary age children for over 35 years, and witnessed many children transform to become normalized, psychologically healthy individuals. Seeing this transformation is powerful!
Q: What's your favorite Montessori quote?
A: “It is possible to conceive a universal moment for human reconstruction that follows a single path. Its sole aim is to help man preserve his balance, his physical health, and build a secure orientation in the present. In the light of this, education should be a social and human endeavor of interest to all. It must be based in psychology in order to safeguard the individuality of the child. It needs a syllabus that provides an understanding on the conditions of modern man in society, and a cosmic vision of history and the evolution of human life.”
Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?
A: The best introduction to Montessori is seeing the children at work in the classroom!
Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?
A: Seeing the children helping one another and teaching one another with respect and kindness.
Q: How do you feel The Cobb School has impacted your community?
A: When I first opened the school in Simsbury in 1974, I discovered that many of the people in the community viewed Montessori as some radical form of education. Today, I believe that The Cobb School is highly respected for the excellent education that is offered, and for graduating students who love to learn, work hard and are compassionate, global citizens.
Q: What kind of legacy would you hope The Cobb School will impart to students?
A: I hope the Cobb School will inspire our students to go out and make a positive difference in the world and to give back by giving forward.
Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education?
I see more and more families being willing to step out of the box and seek out the alternative form of education that Montessori is. More schools are adapting Montessori principles, even if they do not admit it.
A: In short, I have hope that parents will refrain from putting their children in the, “Race to Nowhere.” It just makes sense to find a school, instead, that will inspire their children to become independent thinkers, collaborators, and stewards of the earth. After all, our future depends on it!