Teacher Spotlight: Monica Pearson, Primary

f4d914d9-dc63-4926-baf3-8dd8b43cb39cI grew up in Flossmoor, Illinois.  From being a little girl pretending to be a teacher, playing school in my bedroom, to attending college at Illinois State University, studying Child & Family Relations, I always knew I wanted to work with children in some way.

In 1996, I attended a Montessori information meeting to learn about the Montessori teacher training program in Hinsdale, Illinois.  I remember walking out of that meeting feeling confident that I knew what I wanted to do.  Hearing about Maria Montessori, her passion, her life work, was so inspiring.  At one of Montessori’s many lectures, she said, “establishing peace is the work of education.”  I knew I wanted to be a part of that philosophy, that way of life.  I felt an overwhelming sense of peace in that I had found my calling and felt that I could make a difference by becoming a Montessorian.  This is where my Montessori journey began.

In 1997, I had the fortunate opportunity to do my internship year working under the leadership of Diane Roberto at the Horizon Montessori School in Cleveland, Ohio.  This internship led to a position as the lead directress for the full day program at Horizon.  After teaching there for 2 years, I moved to Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania and began teaching a Primary full day class at the Western Pennsylvania Montessori School under the leadership of Carol Miskell.  I taught there for 2 years until my personal life led me back home to Illinois, to the charming town of Lake Bluff.  As soon as I walked into the Montessori School of Lake Forest and was greeted by so many smiling, friendly faces, I felt at home.  I have been a directress in the Primary 5 room for 13 years now.

When I was in my teacher training, I learned about The Prepared Environment, which has since become a passion of mine. Daily, I put my heart into creating a space that is beautiful, nurturing, and inviting for the children and adults.  It is such a privilege for me to prepare an environment for the children where they can develop independence and build confidence through trust and respect, and I am delighted to witness the sense of wonder, the love of learning, and the respect the children have for themselves, one another and their environment.  I recognize that these precious children are the future and do my best to prepare them to be good citizens.  Having a Peace Flower in my classroom with which children can learn to communicate with words and solve problems peacefully is just one example of my ultimate goal and passion to prepare children for life and give them tools to carry on Maria Montessori’s vision for peace.

— Monica Pearson, February 2015

Teacher Spotlight: Eva Leung, Primary

elI was born and raised in Hong Kong. The oldest child in my family, I grew up with my grandparents, parents, two sisters and two brothers, and I spent many hours taking care of my brothers and sisters and helping them with their homework. My grandmother and mother taught me how to cook, knit, and sew. In so many ways, my childhood home represented Maria Montessori’s vision of an ideal classroom. On the weekends, I took music and piano lessons.

Learning and teaching came naturally to me, so I decided to follow my heart and pursue a college degree in Early Childhood Education and become a kindergarten teacher. I learned about Montessori education at Grantham College of Education in Hong Kong, where I graduated  with a degree in early childhood education, and then started teaching in Our Lady Kindergarten in Hong Kong from 1980-1995. After I married, I was very excited to start a family of my own.  I had my first son Keith and was doubly-blessed the following year with twin boys, Andrew and Daniel. I was so excited that I was now able to raise my own children with the Montessori philosophy.

In 1995, my family and I moved to the United States, and the following year, I started to work as an assistant at MSLF. I was fortunate to work with two wonderful mentors. Through careful observation and working along with them, I saw how the philosophy, materials, and environment are all natural ways to support how children work and learn. I fell in love with my work and enjoyed it so much I could not wait to have my own classroom. With my mentors’ strong encouragement, I started my Primary Training at the Ohio Montessori Training Institute in Cleveland OH, which I completed in 2004.

For the next ten years (1996-2006), I recognized that many children spent long hours in school, and I thought it would be wonderful to create a Montessori After-School Club for the children and their families. I created an environment with music, art, cooking, knitting, sewing and Chinese where the children could continue to work and grow in a Montessori manner after school hours. In 2006, I became the directress of the Primary After-School Club. In the Clubroom, we work as a big family with primary children from four different classrooms; siblings and friends work together in a homelike environment which embodies the Montessori philosophy. I encourage children to choose their own developmental path: to learn at a deeper level, increase their social skills, and have more authentic experiences. In addition to my primary training, I hold a Certificate of Music in Pianoforte Playing and Theory from The Royal School of Music in Hong Kong, which enables me to teach the children the art of music appreciation and movement. The children are now enjoying many songs in English and Chinese.

I have taught Chinese lessons in the Primary classroom since 2008 and in Elementary since 2012. I have created all of my Chinese materials according to the Montessori Method while also using music, songs and videos to help children enrich their learning experiences.

All three of my sons are successfully living and working in Hong Kong, and I have recently been blessed with a grandson, Princeton. In my free time, I enjoy my exercise classes and playing the piano. I love to visit my 98 year old grandmother and most importantly to visit with Princeton on Skype in Hong Kong.  I look forward to Princeton attending MSLF in the near future.

— Eva Leung, February 2015

Teacher Spotlight: Tami Levandowski, Primary

3c8732c5-0828-4997-8508-4343b1acdc81When I was a young girl, my Dad decided he wanted us to live in what he described as “God’s Country.”  So we moved from Illinois to Wyoming when I was ten years old. Our house was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by trees and mountains.  The nearest town was 30 miles away and had a population of 600 people.  Our driveway was about 5 miles long.  In the winter, my two brothers and I would actually have to snowmobile to the bus stop!  It was very beautiful in Wyoming and I had some great experiences.  But I knew one day I would move back to Illinois.

I always wanted to be a teacher.  At the age of five, I would pretend to be in front of my imaginary classroom of students.  It was no surprise to anyone that when I went to college, I majored in elementary education.  During the summers, I worked as a nanny in Arlington VA, and Hampton, CT.  After I graduated with a BA from the University of Wyoming, I worked in public school, but felt like something was missing in this traditional way of teaching.  There was never enough time to work with every child that needed my help.  I felt most of the class was on task, but some children needed extra help and some children needed to be challenged more.  I didn’t know how I could reach every child’s needs.

In 1998, I finally did move back to Illinois and responded to an ad for an assistant at MSLF. I had never heard of Montessori before.  It was never mentioned in any of my college classes, and I had no idea what to expect.  When I first observed a classroom, I was blown away!  I saw these little children doing amazing things: three year olds sewing with real needles, four year olds learning to read, five year olds doing multiplication!  It wasn’t just the academics either.  It was the way these children showed respect for the environment.  They were cleaning up after themselves and helping each other without being asked.  The children showed confidence and independence I never knew young children could possess.  It was so different from anything I had ever seen, and it seemed just the right fit for me.

That first year, I worked as an assistant with Mia Stompanato.  I loved it so much I decided to become a Montessori teacher.  I went to the Montessori Midwest Teacher Training Center in Evanston, IL, where I received my Montessori degree.  When Mia went on maternity leave with Gianna, I took the position as lead directress and have had my own class ever since.

Every day, working here at MSLF is a new experience.  I LOVE teaching and learning from the children, and am inspired by their love of learning. Recently, I have become a mother, and I know my son, Griffin, will benefit from my experiences here. At the same time, I think being a mother will help me be an even stronger teacher.

— Tami Levandowski, February 2015