Nestled in the hills of North Greenbush, the Woodland Hill campus overlooks the Hudson Valley and with the city of Albany in the distance, provides a truly inspiring learning environment. Woodland Hill Montessori School nurtures a child’s love of learning and sense of social and personal responsibility using the child-centered Montessori philosophy. more…
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The events of the past week have been heartbreaking and tragic. This week we have seen the brutal murder of George Floyd by white police officers, and the reaction and protests from all over the U.S and the world. Our new Board President of the American Montessori Society, a Black Muslim who has been a leader in public school Montessori schools, is quoted in this week’s AMS bulletin,
“Now is the time for us to be intentionally anti-racist, and to denounce and call out injustices that are occurring right before our eyes—injustices that impact the students, parents, staff members, and schools within our community, and in some cases determine whether they live or die. It’s time to stand for, and with, justice.” - Amira Mogaji, AMS Board President.
We want our children to grow up in a peaceful world, free from racism and injustice. Unfortunately, this is not a reality, and if we approach our parenting or teaching by always protecting them from unpleasant or upsetting truths, we do them an injustice. We need to empower our children to speak up and work for racial justice. Of course, this must be done in a developmentally appropriate way. Here are some resources that you as parents and we as teachers can use to help our children learn.
Dr. Montessori was revolutionary and advocated for the education of those who were discriminated against and who needed a voice. One of her most famous quotes is that “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education.” Our work with children is important and as a Montessori school we are committed to helping our children find their voice and determine and live their own values.
We continue to be part of the problem of the systemic racism prevalent in our society if we do not actively do what we can to raise awareness and learn how we can participate. Our children will be deciding the future. They will be the citizens who will be leaders and voters. We need to consider what we are teaching them and how we can influence them to actively engage in working for justice.
“Our task as educators is to ensure that an intense consciousness of universal solidarity will flourish in our children… This is the great task of education: to make the child conscious of the reality and depth of human unity”
~Maria Montessori. “Human Solidarity in Time and Space” The San Remo Lectures, 1949. Amsterdam: AMI, 2003/2004
Susan Kambrich, Ed..D, Head of School
Michelle Edwards, Incoming Head of School
This school year will be different as we look at this time through the lens of a pandemic. Still, the excitement remains and the preparations are underway. As Montessorians, we are approaching this work by thinking first of the child. We are holding tight to the critical elements of Montessori education and getting creative about implementation. We are reimagining our physical space, keeping physical distancing in mind, and also expanding our concept of the prepared environment to include the outdoors and home environments.
We have created plans that will provide a safe and nurturing environment for children returning to in-person instruction while also offering an integrated option for children learning from home. The Distance Learning Task Force has been collaborating with Jesse Roberts and his tech squad to outfit each classroom with mobile technology learning carts, designed specifically to align with the way Montessori teachers teach and Montessori students learn. This technology will facilitate meaningful connections between the students and teachers in the classroom and the students at home. Families opting for the distance learning model can expect the school day will be a combination of synchronous learning (live-streamed lessons, class meetings, group work, and time to socialize), and asynchronous independent work. This dual model will also provide continuity of learning for children that need to be home for a period of time due to illness or quarantine restrictions. More details about this option will be shared in the coming weeks.
Head of School
Woodland Hill Montessori School’s Board of Trustees has announced that it has named Michelle Edwards as the new Head of School, effective July 1, 2020. Michelle has served as Assistant Head of School for the past four years and played a critical role in the establishment of the Toddler program at WHMS in 2012. Michelle will succeed Susan Kambrich, Ed.D., who has served as Head of School for 20 years and announced in January that she would be stepping down at the end of the academic year.
When accepting the role, Michelle remarked, “It is with deep gratitude and great excitement that I accept the position of Woodland Hill Montessori School’s Head of School. I recognize the excellence in our school community, deeply value our roots in the Montessori philosophy, and enthusiastically embrace the challenge of continuing to provide an outstanding educational experience for each of our students and families.”
Woodland Hill has become a leader in Montessori education, with a history dating back 55 years. WHMS currently serves 314 students ages 18 months through 8th grade from the greater Capital Region, attracting students from six counties. Woodland Hill prides itself on its mission to ‘nurture a child’s love of learning and sense of social and personal responsibility using the child-centered Montessori philosophy and curriculum to develop the intellectual, spiritual, physical, artistic and academic excellence inherent in each child.’
Michelle joined the Woodland Hill community in 2012 as the Head Toddler teacher, helping to develop the new Toddler program. Under Michelle’s leadership, the program grew to a robust size serving over 30 families. In 2016, Michelle joined the administration team as Assistant Head of School. Prior to her time at Woodland Hill, Michelle worked as a teacher at Our World Montessori School and Birchwood Elementary School in Niskayuna, and Hawthorne Elementary School and J.T Brackenridge School, in Texas. Michelle holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Grove City College and a master’s degree in educational administration from Lamar University and holds an AMS Infant and Toddler certificate.
Michelle resides in Niskayuna with her husband, Ashley, and her daughter Emma (WHMS class of ’17), and son Will (WHMS class of ’20).
The search committee was formed in early January, chaired by board member Jason Allen. In February, the search committee engaged Metro Consulting, a firm specializing in Montessori leadership placement, to conduct a Head of School (HOS) needs assessment. They were asked to develop a report outlining the type of leader needed to carry Woodland Hill Montessori School into the future and to recommend how best to approach the HOS search.
Though Metro Consulting was unable to physically visit Woodland Hill Montessori School because of the Covid 19 crisis, they conducted multiple remote focus groups and in-depth interviews with just under 100 members of the community. Stakeholders included faculty, parents, administration, and board members. During HOS need assessment focus groups and one-on-one interviews, it became clear to Metro Consulting that WHMS had, within the school, a beloved and respected leader who had the profound support of the community.
Metro Consulting, who specializes in Montessori leadership, concluded that Michelle was “the strongest internal candidate they had ever interviewed” and they conveyed how fortunate WHMS was to have Michelle as a member of our community.
Art teacher Megan Stasi and Lower El Assistant Teacher Sandy Schneider recently wove rainbows. Fabric for the rainbows was donated by Up-Stitch. The rainbow locations include Madison Park, St. Catherine's, Ridgefield Park, and Woodlawn Park.
Albany Common Councilman and WHMS faculty member Owusu Anane helped them coordinate this project with the Mayor's Office and Parks Department.
Thank you for bringing brightness and smiles, Megan, Sandy and Owusu!