Spotlight Jessica Pina

We can't wait to introduce you to Jessica Pina. She's from Aruba. Do we need to say anything more!? It's been a real pleasure exchanging notes with her, getting to learn all about her experiences, and what her unique perspective brings to Montessori. As you'll see from the conversation, we've proposed to set up a student exchange. Any volunteers?

You should follow her new schools Facebook page.

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Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams? 

A: I was born and raised on the island of Aruba. (Aruba is situated 18 miles north of the coast of Venezuela and 12 degrees North of the equator.) Growing up I was always very interested in sports and was always very good at it. I traveled a lot to South America and islands in the Caribbean representing Aruba and did so up to the age of 15. Meeting different people all the time was already a characteristic an Aruban would have, since tourism is one the main source of income. Mix it with all the traveling I did representing Aruba in track and field and you get someone who is really passionate about tourism. So in 1998, at the age of 17, I moved to Holland to study tourism. I lived in Holland, mainly Amsterdam, for 7 years. 

Late 2004, I found out I was expecting my first child, so in early 2005 I moved back to Aruba to be closer to my family. I also knew that growing up here was the best thing for my daughter. Nice weather all year round at the ocean never more than 10 minutes away from the house.

Here we have only one educational system and it is the traditional Dutch system. Living abroad for 7 years made me open my eyes to alternative methods of education. I decided to educate myself about methods of education and even decided to go back to school attending the only teacher's school we have here. Even though I knew the only system we had was traditional, I wanted to know everything I could about it so I could guide my daughter the best way I can. Right before I applied I found out that a Montessori Primary school was looking for an assistant teacher. This school has only been open for a year and they had 17 children. Immediately I contacted the directress, applied for the job and scheduled an observation day. 

I was amazed at what I saw and fell in love with it :-). The feeling was mutual.  Long story shorter ;-), I got hired! So in August 2009 I left behind tourism and began my Montessori Journey. That same year I did my primary training and in 2011 I started with my Elementary Training in Dallas. I am proud to say that I will be graduating this summer.

Right now I am extremely interested in child development and also am very interested lately in healthy diets and recycling. I guess I'm catching up to the rest of the world! ;-)

I have a lot of dreams, but my main dream now, is to make Montessori Elementary happen here and leave something behind that will last forever. I believe with all my heart and soul, that this will dramatically change the future for the better. My dream is to help form happy, healthy, self-confident children who are not afraid to dream. For they are our future. 

Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What's your favorite color?

A: Can I have 2 favorite colors????? My favorite colors are deep purple and turquoise ;-)....

Q: Do you have a favorite book? How about a film?

A: My favorite book is Brida by Paulo Coelho and I am a big movie lover. But my favorite, the one we enjoy with the whole family and that is very inspiring is "Secretariat".

Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?

A: My new adventure is traveling to our sister islands and help improve the education of children and to make them realize that our children are extremely important and that we need to offer them nothing but the best, with respect and understanding. Always making sure that we are only here to guide them. 

Q: Can you tell us about your hobbies?

A: I still love interacting with visitors and I always inform them about Aruba the best way I can. I love to swim in the ocean, what I call snorkel-swim, I exercise while I enjoy the coral and the fish. Track and field was my first passion, so I still run every now and then. I prefer short distances though. I love to hike, I would hike everyday if I could. And last but not least, I love watching movies and "shame on me" I am a "Survivor" fan :-S

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Q: Switching to Montessori, what advice do you have for new Montessori schools? 

A: Make sure you have at least a handful of people (especially if on an island) who understand Montessori philosophy, who understand the mission of your school and who believe in it as much as you do. Who are in it for the right reasons. Strategize and plan thoroughly and carefully, find out about local educational laws and if you find yourself not fitting in those laws, do not give up. Keep fighting for a law where you do fit in.

Q: With that in mind, we suppose the same question can be applied to established Montessori schools

A: Our work is never over, we should never stop educating the community, never stop educating ourselves about what is going on and what is developing in the Montessori family. The bigger our family, the more we can accomplish. So, basically, always organize events such as open houses and keep attending refresher courses.

Q: While we're at it, can we set up an exchange with your school? We'll spend the Winter learning about Aruba?

A: :-D YES, you can! You chose a great time to come ;-)

Q: How have things changed since you first got started in the field of education?

A: I feel like I am finally making a real difference. Like I am finally part of something much bigger than you and I. A lot of things have changed, I am sacrificing everything, time with my family and my salary. But I feel like this is definitely my calling and that I was put here to do this. The sacrifices I have made to make my trainings possible are worth it and I am lucky to have a family who supports me.

Q: Did you have a "Montessori Moment?"

A: My never ending Montessori Moment ; seeing my daughter and other children through Montessori's eyes! It's beautiful. Watching them cross the bridge from first plane to second plane is amazing and I would have never noticed it if it wasn't for Montessori.

Q: What's your favorite Montessori quote?

A: "If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men".

Q: What do you think is the best introduction to Montessori?

A: Invite parents to observe classrooms in action and definitely organize an event where you give a parents lessons the same way you would a child and have a conversation about the lesson afterwards with the parents.

Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?

A: What inspires me the most about Maria Montessori is her perseverance, it continues to inspire me. Thinking about what she went through  and still never gave up and never stopped believing gets me through the day. 

What inspires me about the method is the sincere interest it has in a child's individual journey

Q: How do you feel Beautiful Sun Montessori has impacted your community?

A: Beautiful Sun has definitely improved the quality of life of a group of parents and children. It definitely got more people interested in the Montessori Method and got a group in the community thinking about different ways, better ways to raise our children. What it has impacted the most is me. Thanks to Beautiful Sun I will be the first AMI certified Montessori Elementary Teacher and will soon start the first elementary program on Aruba. Still needs a lot of work, but it's coming along, slowly but surely. The name of the elementary school will be "Nos Fortalesa Montessori Aruba". "Nos Fortalesa" means, "Our Fortitude". The definition of 'fortitude' is; mental and emotional strength, in facing difficulty, adversity, danger or temptation with courage. ....It sounds a little more serious in English :-).

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Q: What kind of legacy would you hope you and Nos Fortalesa will impart to students?

A: A legacy of encouragement and perseverance. I would love Nos Fortalesa students to inspire others, young and old, in being the best they can be. In always giving a 100% in everything they choose to do. In always choosing to be happy, respecting others and the universe we share. I wish for them to be friends with mistakes and learn from them, never giving up on their hopes and dreams.

Q: In what ways do you envision the future of education? 

A: Children taking their education into their own hands. Having the freedom to choose subjects, explore and experience, always acknowledging that freedom comes with responsibility and that collaboration is a main ingredient in learning!