The institute of Montessori Education (TIME) hosts two conferences each year- Montessori New Year’s conference, beginning of the year and the Montessori Back to School conference beginning of the ACADEMIC year. I was privileged to attend one of the two being held in Texas, this Fall. It was hosted by TIME in collaboration with the prestigious Shelton School and Evaluation Center, where I happened to get my Montessori Early Childhood, Elementary and MACAR (Montessori Applied to children at risk) credentials from, as well.
My day began with being in awe as I entered the hall, full of Montessori wisdom. I spotted Munir Shivji, American Montessori Society President and Director of The Institute of Montessori Education, the AMS 2020 living legacy Ana Maria Garcia Blanco, Shelton School Living Legacy Dr. Joyce Pickering (proud to be her student), Debby Riordan, Executive Director of Association Montessori Internationale/USA, Dr. Amira Mogaji who is an AMS board liasion for AMS Peace and Social Justice Committee and Jackie Grundberg of Backpack Sciences, just to name a few amongst other countless known montessorians.
Dr. Joyce Pickering who is one of the founding members of the Shelton School and a former American Montessori Society President, shared her story with us. She shared, how she became friends with Sylvia Richardson and was later introduced to June Shelton. She proudly mentioned that the Shelton School and Evaluation Center is the biggest Montessori School in the world, that caters to children with learning differences. Her valuable book ‘Montessori Strategies,’ was also available for sale that is a collection of decades of experience of Dr.Pickering and Ms.Richardson. They share strategies about Montessori environment highlighting the fact to be inclusive of children with learning disabilities.
Our next speaker was Melanie Thiesse, AMS Director of School Quality and Accreditation. She shared how she was introduced to Montessori at the age of 13. She also highlighted upon steps that would help schools with the proper accreditation.
Later we broke into groups based on our teaching levels. As I entered the third floor Library, I was super excited to meet Jackie Grundberg of Montessori Consulting Services and Backpack Sciences, whom I’ve been following since I don’t know when. The exciting part of being a blogger, is when you meet your virtual contacts in person. We had two sessions with her on very important topics to be introduced to our students, giving them the gift of ‘Field Biology’ and how ‘Stem and Montessori’ are two peas in a pod. Jackie, Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us and we cannot wait to share it with our students.
You may want to follow her on instagram @backpacksciences and join her facebook group ‘Elementary Science Lessons with Backpack Sciences.’
After lunch, it was an honor to hear the American Montessori Society 2020 Living Legacy Ana Maria Garcia Blanco, as she shared her story and left a major impact on everyone present in the hall. She spoke about her commitment, hard work and hurdles she went through to transform the Public Montessori education system in Puerto Rico. She left many of us in tears, as she shared the impactful video at the end. She brought the number of students from 90 to 450 in her school and 100% 9th grade students who moved on continuing with their high school education. We applaud you, Ms. Blanco!!!
The Living Legacy was followed by Debby Riodron, the Executive Director of Association Montessori Internationale. Now this was huge, I feel. The title of her presentation was my favorite, ‘The vegetables in the muffin.’ She discussed standards and procedures of the Montessori method of education, and highlighted the fact that when one steps back, the impact of Montessori is much deeper and broader than some discussions might indicate.
Our wonderful day that was filled with the wealth of knowledge came to an end with the spotlight session featuring Dr. Amira Mogaji. She has been a past board member of the Montessori for Social Justice Board of Directors. After listening to her, I sure am a stronger Muslim and a ‘Woman of Color.’ The song ‘Brown Skin Girl’ will be an anthem of our household as well, as I proudly raise my brown skin girl, who turns three in a couple of weeks and I just know how to introduce this to her!! Ahhh, your story about those skin tone bandages. Wait till our school first aid kit and my home’s medicine cabinet will be filled with them.
As I conclude, I would like to mention two awesome things from this conference. I commend Munir Shivji, American Montessori Society President and Director of TIME and Debby Riordon, Executive Director Association Montessori Internationale/USA for working together to bridge the gap between AMS and AMI, as they announced to share the AMS Living Legacy donations amongst both (AMS/AMI) teacher training scholarship programs. Last but not the least, the introduction of ‘Montessori Voices,’ is also very exciting. It is something similar to TED talks, where a group of Montessori masters will motivate, move and delight everyone as they share personal stories from their life and work.
Thank You so much, The Shelton School and The Institute of Montessori Education for being the best hosts ever!!! See you at the Montessori Event 2020!!