NMS delegation posed with a friend at the American Montessori Society Conference in Denver, March 2018.
Each year, thanks to the generosity of NMS Annual Fund contributors, our school has the opportunity to send a group of at least 4 teachers to the national conference of the American Montessori Society (AMS). This year, the participants were (above, from left to right): Lisa Levine (Lower Elementary 1 Teacher), Elyse Kalins (Beginners 2 Teacher), Katie Quann (Music Specialist), Beth Black (NMS Head of School), Neus Carmona (Beginners 1 Teacher), and Michael Silverstone (Lower Elementary 2 Teacher).
This trip serves NMS on a number of levels: students benefit from attendees’ professional growth as they exchange new ideas and strategies to implement in the classroom; the school participates in a nation-wide network of accredited Montessori institutions; and attendees share a unique experience that strengthens their camaraderie and collaboration as educators.
Building Professional Capacity
The act of staff taking part in a conference helps convey our school’s commitment to the advancement of Montessori education. The opportunity to take part in the conference supports staff in establishing or deepening their roles as professionals in the Montessori community. They become aware of opportunities to conduct and share research, serve on professional committees, present or publish their findings, and lay the groundwork for future participation at the national level.
Michael presented some of his research on: “The Recruitment, Support and Retention of Male Montessori Faculty: A consideration of causes, effects, and strategies to constructively address the underrepresentation of men in the teaching ranks”.
Last year in San Diego, Krissy Canastar (NMS Diversity Coordinator and Drama Specialist) and Ruth Clifford (Upper Elementary Teacher) gave a presentation about anti-bias education practices at our school and beyond. This year in Denver, Michael Silverstone presented his research on removing obstacles to diversity, a project he conducted as a member of AMS’s inaugural cohort of its Emerging Leaders Fellowship.
The inaugural cohort of AMS's Emerging Leaders Fellowship collectively presented a series of “Hot Button Montessori Roundtables”.
As Beth Black notes, the traveling and working together is also an investment towards advancing teamwork and trust for the long term. “Sending a team rather than an individual has additional benefits because teachers from different divisions get to enjoy one another’s company while traveling, which builds trust and opportunities for collaboration later,” she explained.
NMS conference attendees participated in School Spirit Week from afar, wearing silly socks for Confidence Day!
Highlights and Takeaways
“The most valuable experience I had was being surrounded by like-minded individuals as a whole. It was really inspiring to see presenters talk about their passions. It was also amazing to spend so much time with colleagues to learn more about them as people, but also brainstorm ideas to help make our program at NMS even better. One takeaway for me was how to approach our community service and service learning to make it the most meaningful for our students.”
Katie Quann and Neus Carmona stood tall with the iconic Pink Tower material.
“I sincerely had the most amazing time at the AMS conference in Denver. I got myself involved in an environment full of new learning opportunities from a wide range of people and places. I learned from the keynote speakers and the AMS workshops without forgetting the great opportunity to learn from our lovely coworkers. These few days I engaged in matter-of-fact conversations about acclimating new staff to the Montessori philosophy and how to build a mentorship program at NMS. The keynote speaker Anna Deavere Smith inspired me profoundly while talking about how a school’s culture makes a difference in the lives of young people. During the workshops, I focused my attention to learn about new ways to introduce math in the toddler classroom as well as learning from Frank Leto’s new and exciting songs for circle time. I attended a workshop that focused on creating parent-children communities and how to better design toddler environments that suit their needs. I felt a special connection with my inner Montessorian and the joy of what we do, and how we follow this philosophy, enhancing the lives of the children that we have in our care.”
Outside of conference workshops, attendees explored Denver and enjoyed each other’s company.
“I had a wonderful four days at the conference. Major highlights for me were workshops that focused on the way in which Montessori is being used in social movements, discussed in one workshop run by young women using Montessori to take their classrooms to the next level of radical peace, another workshop about a tribal school in New Mexico using Montessori to support children's endeavors to become fluent in their native language, and Dale Daugherty's keynote address about lowering barriers to learning through the maker movement.”
Keynote speakers drew an impressive crowd of educators from across the country.
“Words to describe the Convention: massive, exciting, inspiring, awesome.
I appreciated the keynote speaker, Dale Dougherty, who is considered the ‘father of the maker movement’ and shared how aligned Montessori and the Makerspace movement are as they both believe what Maria Montessori said, that ‘the hand is the instrument of the mind.’ I walked away feeling proud of the work we are doing to extend student learning through our Makerspace.
It was valuable to brainstorm with Katie [Quann] about how to open up communication between elementary teachers and specialists. Out of this, came the idea to meet up on Professional Development days to share student updates so that we can all meet our students’ needs better. It was also a special moment to attend Michael’s research presentation, and support his hard work and ingenuity. (Of course, we also had some fun, including visiting one of Denver's many craft breweries and playing some hilarious games of ping-pong.)
For me, the best part was getting the chance to hang out with NMS teachers in different divisions. I now have a greater picture of what happens in Beginners, some of the challenges and rewards of working with that age group, and just how caring and bright those teachers are!”
During a break from the convention, many participants walked from the convention site to the Colorado State Capitol to take part in Denver’s “March for Our Lives” Rally, a call for legislation to prevent gun violence. A large contingent of AMS members showed support for the cause of safe schools.
“This conference has real value. Whether our teachers are presenting workshops for Montessori colleagues from around the country or attending sessions presented by others, conference participation allows them to enter a ‘stretch zone’ as professionals where they gain knowledge and skill that benefits our students.”
An interactive workshop on teaching Shakespeare called for improvisation with materials.
“This experience benefited me as a teacher and as a professional in so many ways. I was able to bring some things immediately into the classroom that I had learned about using storytelling, and refining the practice of observation to help students. The fact that NMS administration (and families) invest in staff in this way is wonderful, and is yet another demonstration of the kind of generous and caring spirit that resonates throughout our school community that makes it a truly extraordinary place to learn and work.”