By Patrice Cherico
Executing a professional development plan that brings lasting results is a shared effort between internal experts, who are walking the public Montessori walk daily, and outside experts who bring their years of experience and research to the table. Deeper learning like this prepares the student for long-term success in learning and in life.
Young students of today are being prepared for a work force and skills that have yet to even be defined. Most in the forefront of higher education are working towards bringing thinkers of the K-12 community to partner in the preparation of this future. A comment in an EDUCAUSE article by Dr. Ed Abeyta states, “In education, we’re no longer built to be a ‘conveyor belt system’ anymore; at the same time, we’re reconnecting with broader concept of learning. There are skills beyond math and writing that make us competitive. Our edge in the United States is not to say we’re better than others in these areas. Rather, it has always been creativity and innovation.”
We believe that a Montessori education will prepare students to respond to the future, whatever it holds. The Montessori model developed by Dr. Maria Montessori as stated on the American Montessori Society website, “is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive.”
Such unique attributes of the model include multi-age groupings which mirrors real world opportunities where we work and socialize with people of all ages, guided choice which assists students’ in managing freedom, and opportunities to be led in explorations around interests that may hail the next great interest or invention. Again, from the American Montessori Society, “Montessori students learn to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly—a skill set for the 21st century.”
Our professional development plan that began this past spring includes, first and foremost, a focus on staying true to our Montessori model, as supported by our public-school charter. Our new teachers were brought in for additional time over the summer where their specific needs could be met and addressed around all things IMO. Our focus included curriculum planning and writing what is commonly referred to as a “scope and sequence” of lessons for the Lower and Upper El teachers. We also made plans for outside experts to make observations, offer trainings and provide input for our guidance.
Our first visit in August was with Dr. Michael Dorer, former American Montessori Society president. Dr. Dorer began his work with us providing input on our elementary program last winter and spring. He provided guidance around lesson delivery and observations. He returned this year to help us dig deeper into Montessori math. Michael spent time with administration after reviewing our FSA data from 2017-2018 to map a path for intense training with the Level Leads. The training supported the Lower and Upper el Level Leads in transforming their classrooms into model classrooms for Math. Michael modeled lessons while breaking down the essentials of an effective Math lesson. The team also revisited the scope and sequence for the year.
This work of transformation will continue with ongoing video conferencing through the year. All elementary teachers have also received the addition of albums (which are teacher manuals for Montessori instruction) that support the deeper extensions of the math materials. Natalie Carr was also included in the training to support the needs of Middle school.
Next, we brought in Tim Nee. Tim is the Managing Director of the Montessori Training Center Northeast (MTCNE). He was the former Assistant Executive Director of Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) and the former principal of the highly successful CREC Montessori Magnet School in Hartford, CT. During his tenure, the school was twice selected by Magnet Schools of America (MSA) as a “School of Excellence” and named the recipient of the MSA Eugene M. Uram Award as the most outstanding Public Montessori Magnet School in the United States. He provides a variety of national consulting services through MTCNE.
Tim Nee, spent two days with our staff, training teachers around the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector’s rubric for essential elements of Montessori practice. This instrument was used by his highly trained and experienced Montessori observers to come in and spend 2 days observing classrooms. Tim Nee returned last week to share some of the preliminary comments and result of the observations. The final report will provide feedback that will provide opportunities for looking at the four domains of the prepared environment, work of the child/adolescents, work of the adults, and community of children/adolescents
In September, we also brought in Linda Barrett with “Shared Inquiry” Junior Great Books Training for Lower and Upper elementary teachers. This training was a one day, 2-part workshop. The first part consisted of training new lower and upper el teachers in the Junior Great Books programs. The focus was primarily on Shared Inquiry Discussion, detailing the role and delivery options for JGB Shared Inquiry activities for before and after discussion, especially annotating activities with the second reading. The second part of the day had Linda working with the teachers who had been trained last year. The focus of the time was on the questioning strategies for all texts including non-fiction. (share what levels Middle/Upper/etc)
All of the training is immediately put into practice, and with our Level Leads, there are regular check-ins and touch-points for teachers and staff. Our Administrators also are deeply involved with the training, so they can provide feedback and help develop staff even further. This all supplements the teachers’ own extensive educational backgrounds and trainings, along with their day-to-day experiences providing this Montessori model in a public school.
Our teaching staff loves our students, and they love their experience at IMO, which allows them to really explore how to best serve each student’s needs, while balancing those needs with an entire classroom of other students. Our two teacher and one aide per suite allows for flexibility and our student support services team provides critical support for the teachers and the learners who need additional supports. We could not be more proud to have such a slate of inspired and innovative professional educators at Innovation Montessori Ocoee, Innovation Montessori Casa, and Innovation Montessori High School.