Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
I grew up in a small town in Iowa. Until attending Denver for training, Sioux Falls was the biggest city I’ve ever lived in! I have a super cool husband that I met at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. There, I studied Elementary Education with focuses on special education and reading. I worked for 2 years in the public school system, before deciding that it just wasn’t working out. I started looking for alternatives, and began at Baan Dek as an assistant in the primary classroom.
My hobbies? I like reading and outdoor activities, especially in warm weather. I’m not a huge fan of the cold! My husband Aaron and I love to go for bike rides, and breakfast on Saturday morning is our special treat. In Sioux Falls, our go-to is M.B. Haskett, downtown.
Recently, I’ve started learning how to use my sewing machine a bit better, although I wouldn’t call myself a seamstress. My mother sews well, and hopefully I’ll learn from her one day.
Q: Now that the hardest question is out of the way: What’s your favorite color?
Blue or gray, I tend towards those color in all my decorating and clothing.
Q: Switching to Montessori, how did you find out about us? And Montessori in general?
In March or April of 2012, I was getting married and didn’t know what I wanted to do, although I knew I didn’t want to go back to a public school. I was a little stressed out about it, and was chatting with a colleague of mine when she mentioned Baan Dek. I shot Bobby and June an email and expressed interest. I got an email in response that said, come on in, let’s chat! The rest is history, I guess…
Q: I guess! What makes Baan Dek unique to you?
Baan Dek doesn’t only care about the outcome of the child, but every person we come in contact with, moms, dads, brothers, sisters. We are welcoming and loving and embrace people.
Q: You went to receive your training after working one year as an assistant in the classroom. Did having prior experience shape your training experience? In what way?
Having previous experience was really good, I think, because I knew the outcome of what I was learning. I was doing things in reverse, really. I had experience with two through six year olds, then went back to school to learn about children age 18 months to two years. I had experience with children whom I would, essentially, be creating.
Q: Did you have a “Montessori moment”?
For me, it was in second grade. I was super shy and didn’t like to talk. At that time, I had a teacher who invested in me as an individual, took time to find out what I was interested in, and to foster it. She made me feel like I was special and had value, and that experience shaped how I wanted to be as an educator. Montessori has that same focus on education as an individual and unique experience.
Q: What advice would you have for someone thinking about receiving their Montessori certification?
It’s a job that requires abundant patience and grace and love, and you don’t do it for you, you do it for them.
Traditional education and Montessori may have similar goals, but they are manifested differently. I was teaching for love of children in the public school as well, but there was no freedom in it. Every child had those milestones they needed to achieve, and that was the most important thing, with little flexibility or thought about the child as an individual.
Q: Can you tell us a little more about your training experience in Denver?
It was fantastic. I felt extremely lucky to be at that training center, The Montessori Institute Denver. I went to Denver two consecutive summers, 8 weeks and 9 weeks, while working at Baan Dek in the interim. During the school year, I put in 250 hours of observing children from birth to three, which was so intense! My trainer, Judy, was in the very first A-I class in Italy, which is getting excellent first-hand experience. She was the very first class to be trained for this age group.
Maria Montessori herself wasn’t in charge of the first A-I program, but before she passed, she was in the process of designing the program along with her colleagues.
It was nice to have a little previous experience in the classroom before starting training, but I would say not necessary.
Q: We feel that there are similarities in our path to discovering Montessori. We started down a traditional one, but then had a strenuous transition to get to where we are now. Can you speak about that?
Definitely. For me, what caused the switch in mindset was being in the public system. I was in a classroom for high and low achieving students. They have a recommended formula that just wasn’t working for the mixed classroom. It was stressful and hurt my heart, and I felt like I was failing as a teacher. I had learned about Montessori briefly and remember the independence component, and that really resonates with me. So the transition was difficult, and the realization that something needed to change only came after hardship and some self-reflection.
Q: You’ve started the first Montessori toddler program in the state of South Dakota. That’s huge!
It feels so exciting! When people ask about what I do, I have such great things to say. At the same time, it’s a big responsibility, and I want to do the age group justice and our school justice. There’s some judgement when I say I work with toddler’s, and I try my best to educate people. At Baan Dek, we strive to be the best of the best, and there’s pride along with responsibility in that.
Q: What are some of the challenges of starting a toddler program?
It was hard to build the program from nothing because the toddler environment is a different framework than Primary, which was what I had experience with. Also, because I am the first and only trained Toddler guide, I haven’t had someone to speak with about my decisions. Not having a mentor within the building has been a challenge, but ultimately a good thing. It’s made me be more independent and decisive.
Q: What are your greatest hopes for your students?
I hope that they will learn how to love others and to have a passion for life with self- control. I want them to be passionate, but also in control. I want them to explore and to desire to explore, and to desire everything they can.