A Blog by Colleen Noll - June 2021
As the Founder and CEO of four private Montessori schools in the Bay Area and our newest one in Texas, I am often asked how I keep myself grounded.
Well, it is pretty simple. I stay very connected to my first school, Calaveras Montessori (2001) very much like the founder of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, who still carries in his pocket the key to his first Starbucks location in Seattle so he can start his day there before any of the employees arrive for the day.
Our staff at Calaveras Montessori are quite accustomed to me showing up to help with breaks at playtime. I do this for multiple reasons; to support the staff, to stay in touch with the school and frankly because spending time with the children makes me happy. It is a great reminder why we work so hard every day to provide a Montessori education in a safe and healthy environment: for these amazing innocent little children. Enjoying time in the garden and out on the yard keeps me very connected to our motto “Children First, Always”. Also, by doing this, over time I get to know an incredibly special group of children.
One of the beauties of working with young children is their innocent and unconditional love for their caregivers and teachers. Each day, our staff at MSOSV experiences the joy of their classroom communities, witnessing the “aha” moments, laughing, discovering, learning, and loving. The smiles, hugs, the way the classroom comes together as a peaceful and caring community really is priceless. We carry these memories in our hearts and minds forever.
Every year there are children that touch our hearts in a very special way. They touch us for very different reasons at different times. Sometimes they are leaders, sometimes they just can’t sit still and have an energy about them that reminds us that we need to be free. Some are shy, some are outgoing and very funny, others have a kindness in their heart we hope they carry with them forever.
When we meet MSOSV graduates in their later years, often they do not remember much about the Montessori preschool. They usually have a few memories. We have more. I am pretty certain, when I see a child a few years after they have left the school, they will likely have a vague memory of the school where they went to school from 6 months old all the way to Kindergarten.
If I had the time to write a letter to every child who graduates from our Montessori program, I certainly would. For now, I have written this letter to one of these unique recent students, a young girl named Sophia who represents all the wonderful children I have had the privilege to get to know and love over the years. I so appreciate all the laughs, the learning, the moments we shared together.
Today is Sophia’s last day, it is time for her to take the next steps in her educational journey.
From the moment we all met you, we knew we would love you and were so glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of your early years, be a part of your family and watch you grow.
In the Nido Community, we sure had fun watching you learn to walk. You didn’t really “crawl”. Of course, you were on-the-go. Instead of crawling, you would sit up, use one leg to “scoot” yourself across the room. You didn’t want to put your hands on the floor. You managed anyway. Once you stood up and started walking, you were off like the wind and haven’t slowed down since.
You also met your friend Adviti in the Nido classroom. I sure hope the two of you stay in touch. You love her so very much. Adviti had to stay home during the pandemic. Every time I come to the Primary classroom, you show me the class photo with Adviti, I know how much you miss and care about her.
When you transitioned to Pre-Primary, Miss Nikki was your teacher. She tells a story we are all too familiar with. You had gone to Italy for a visit. Like a proper Italian, you speak fast, and you speak a lot. When you returned to the classroom, after your visit to Italy, you were speaking in full Italian!
For about one week, you kept repeating one word, over and over. Ms. Nikki kept telling you that she didn’t understand. You would become frustrated and look her right in the face saying the word slower and slower. You tried so very hard to get Ms. Nikki to understand. The word was “orso” which means “bear”. You just wanted Ms. Nikki to read “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?”. When Ms. Nikki finally read the book, you were overjoyed.
This wasn’t the last time this happened. It has been very fun having conversations with you, particularly when you returned from Italy. You would laugh and laugh when you were actually speaking in English, but so fast I couldn’t understand you and I would say “are you speaking Italian?”. So funny!
I was so touched the day you asked me about the band aid on my arm. I told you I had just gotten the COVID vaccine. You told me about your shots and how brave you were. I know you have to get a lot of shots to enter Kindergarten. You asked me if I was ok, then gently blew on my band aid. I sure hope you never lose the spirit of kindness you carry so large in your heart.
This photo of you with the Square of Pythagoras, an upper piece of Montessori academic material.
You can see this work takes patience, attention to detail and concentration. Not only did you stick with this work from start to finish, but you also then asked Ms. Tanya for various colors of paint, to work at the easel. Very carefully and patiently, you painted this picture. It was clear you were inspired by the Montessori material and wanted to continue. You methodically placed all the little dabs using the tip of your brush and then started to use the entire brush to make the dabs even bigger. Look carefully, you can see that you painted the Square of Pythagoras. Of course, the background is pink, it is your favorite color!
You have left an impression on my heart and my soul, I am not sure you will ever know how many days I came to see you and play on the playground, running, riding the scooter, laughing, up and down the slide and play that game you made up that I could never understand the name or even the rules. But we sure had fun playing it.
Thank you, my dear Sophia, your smile will live in my heart forever. When you get older, come find me, I will be in the garden. As we say “see you next time” today, please take this letter with you, and don’t forget to come and visit!