By Kristin Chase, Communications Chair, Board of Directors
It’s true – I am a joiner. I love to be part of something bigger than myself, part of a team, group, or organization that is growing and changing and making an impact in the world. I’m a parent of two children at IMO, Cameron and Jillian, who have attended from their first day of kindergarten following a solid foundation of Montessori teaching at West Orange Montessori School (WOMS).
My husband Nathan and I researched the concept of Montessori and liked what we read, but the real experiment was to see how our children would do in this type of learning environment. Well, it has been everything I’ve hoped for and expected and more. Independence and creativity have flourished in both of them, challenge has been present in healthy doses, and an honest sense of caring has been encouraged by their friends and teachers. They have built a thriving network of supporters to carry them forward in their academic careers and social lives.
After experiencing this, we were hooked! Nathan and I jumped in with both feet first in 2014/15 as I took on the role of PTO President, and he supported me as the PTO Communications Chair. We were truly a power couple contributing together as our caricature at that year’s Share the Love Gala showed! As PTO President, I fostered communication and collaboration throughout the school community by leading the creation of a school-wide newsletter and raising $20,000 in Planned Giving to support Specials programs, $4000 in Pizza Fridays, $2000 for classroom supply grants, and $2500 for playground improvements.
I also led the execution of numerous community-building events such as Fall and Winter Fest, our first entry into the Winter Garden Christmas Parade, Healthy Family/Healthy Planet Day, Spring Concert/Dance Party, and other smaller events such as Spirit Nights, Worthwhile Wednesdays, and Fun Fridays.
All of this was NOT without countless hours at the school and at home in the evenings after my full-time job at Universal was done, and my part-time job of mom at home was also done! The hours and time dedicated were fulfilling in that I knew what I was doing was not only going to benefit my own children, but hundreds more. It also helped me to expand my own personal network of relationships, make new friends, and feel part of a team that was committed and fully engaged in their work.
After my PTO service, I took some time to catch my breath, and then decided my talents were best used in a more strategic capacity to lead the school forward on the Board of Directors.
Communications continued to be a need at our growing school, and I found a way to leverage my talents in that area (tapping also into my husband again for support periodically!), as well as remaining connected to the PTO in a liaison capacity. The excitement of putting on two Share the Love Galas raising $10K and $15K each was certainly a thrill. I love to see what kind of impact our community can make when we come together.
There has also been a lot of behind-the-scenes work on materials that conveyed messaging proactively to our parents and community, from hosting a forum on our uniform policy, to developing a survey to help inform our school’s name change, to writing content and developing branding for weekly newsletters and events, to helping build and refine job descriptions for our Board of Directors, posting on social media, and much more. In addition, my experience serving for Innovation Montessori has helped me immensely to grow my leadership skills that I apply daily in my role as Senior Director of Organizational Development at Universal Parks & Resorts. It’s amazing how it can be more challenging to select, engage and retain unpaid volunteers versus employees!
As we move forward as a school and grow our offerings and Montessori footprint by embracing our vision of bringing independent, innovative, and inspired education to as many students as possible, I feel as though I can continue to help align our course for a successful journey. I am continually striving to keep the lines of dialogue open and flowing between parents, teachers, Operations, our new professionalized corporate staff, and the Board of Directors.
Growth is not without challenges and changes, and with change comes learning and a better definition of priorities about what we stand for and are working so hard together to build. As I experience the world around me having much negativity and complexity and divisiveness, I truly believe our Montessori educational approach inspires students to be stewards of a better future. One where offering a helping hand and a kind word is equally important as making the grade on a test, where tolerance and understanding of differences is embraced, and where respect and care for the world around us is an essential value. I want to be a leader in an organization like ours that pulls together for a common vision shared by all who walk among the beautiful oaks on our campus.