MNW Looks Forward to 2014

Here at Montessori Northwest we often have the privilege of seeing people encounter Montessori education for the first time.  When people enter these dynamic learning environments and get a glimpse of how education can be engaging, integrated and fun, their response can often be frustration. They ask: why didn’t I have this kind of education?  Why isn’t this more available?  Do other educators know about this?  Or they exclaim: I could have been good at math if I had these materials!

Several weeks ago, I was in a meeting where the following video was presented by the Oregon Business Council for their Oregon Learns campaign:

This video describes best practices in education and how they can be applied to Oregon’s classrooms. The language they use is surprisingly close to what we describe in the Montessori approach.

It can be frustrating to work in a quality educational system that seems to be one of the best kept secrets in education. We know that Montessori gives children the opportunity for more academic and social success. It prepares children to think creatively and develop into creative independent thinkers and problem solvers. Montessori education works, but too few people know about it.

Here at Montessori Northwest we are committed to improving the visibility of this system of education with the end goal of making it available to more children. Here are some of the ways we are doing this:

Preparing excellent teachers

MNW is the only training center in the nation to regularly offer AMI teacher training for working with children from birth to three, three to six, and six to twelve. It took nearly 10 years of strategic action to accomplish this goal and now we are finally seeing it come to fruition. We have hired a full-time employee to further develop our marketing and communications strategies to continue attracting excellent candidates to this work.

In 2014 Montessori Northwest will launch a tuition assistance fund to make teacher training available to those who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise. This fund will be targeted to support individuals who plan to bring Montessori education to underserved communities. Good teachers are at the core of any successful educational system and this is one of the ways that our organization can do our part to elevate our work for children. Preparing extraordinary Montessori practitioners is our highest priority.

Building a strong network of teachers and schools

Portland is fortunate to already have a remarkably cohesive and strong Montessori community. A wonderful example of this is for the 2013 Congress when a group of schools joined together as sponsors to post Montessori light-post banners around Portland. These banners increased our community’s visibility all around the city. Inspired by this type of collaboration, MNW plans to partner with schools to make our community more efficient and stronger as we work collaboratively.

Supporting other training centers in the US

Montessori Northwest has developed the staff and infrastructure to be a leading training center in the US and the world. We would like to leverage our success to contribute to the success of other training centers. From becoming more involved in MACTE, to developing marketing and communications strategies or internal office systems, MNW is working to raise the quality and efficiency of training in the US.

Developing partners in the community

Montessori Northwest is establishing relationships with like-minded organizations and governmental agencies. Our goal is to find opportunities for building new complete Montessori classrooms as well as applying essential principles to non-Montessori environments for children. MNW is also participating in local advocacy efforts specifically to work toward teacher licensing for diploma holders. Our goal is to simplify the path toward having more Montessori in the public schools in Oregon.

Public awareness

In July 2013 thousands of people saw Montessori in action in Pioneer Courthouse Square. We plan to repeat this successful event again next summer and beyond. Future events will also connect with partners to make this a statewide publicity event to promote Montessori education.

Our staff is working to develop a content rich newsletter and blog and expand our online presence with helpful information for teachers and parents. We hope to expand Montessori’s reach by increasing our visibility on social networks and directing new contacts to quality information about Montessori.

It is fair to say that Montessorians have had over 100 years of “product development,” but our outreach, communication and visibility has not received the same attention. Our intention with all of these actions is to make Montessori more visible. We believe it is possible to maintain our high standards of quality and still reach more children who would benefit from our work. More than any other action we can take in our lifetime, the tools that we can give to children to act responsibly, compassionately and will shape our legacy as educators.