Suman Harshvardhan, Executive Director of the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette (MSGL) since 1999, is stepping down in October.
Suman was hired as an assistant teacher in 1989 and she worked as lead teacher for the Toddler and Parent-Infant programs from 1990 - 2012. During Suman’s 16 years as Executive Director, the school added several new preprimary programs, expanded to include lower and upper elementary programs, and moved from the Morton Community Center to its current campus on Soldiers Home Road.
Board Member Hilary Cooke said, “We are sad to see Suman leave this position, although we are whole-heartedly grateful for her many years of loyal service to MSGL and this community. We also know that Suman will continue to remain connected to MSGL.” Suman looks forward to spending more time with her children and their families.
The MSGL Board has formed a search and hiring committee. Interested applicants should contact email@example.com.
This week we look back at some photos from 1998.
Anita McKinney, our first executive director, was leaving MSGL to live closer to her family in Florida. Her MSGL family held a farewell reception in her honor just before the winter break. These are photos of some of the children wishing her well.
Anita started working at MSGL in July, 1991 when the parent-owned school decided it needed a full-time. Up to then, the office staff coordinated with the Board of Directors. This next photo is actually from about 1996. It shows Anita with Beth Nichols, who was then the office manager, in the teeny, tiny office at Morton Center.
Beth is still with us and now works as our accountant. Anita has been working with Florida's Duval County Extension office since 1998. She is currently teaching personal financial management in Jacksonville. She is retiring in January and will start another "job" taking care of her twin grandchildren Dominic and Danica. She is excited about this new chapter in her life and told me, "They will be three by then , so I will start my own little Montessori home-school with them. I am looking forward to this next step!"
Best wishes, Anita! And happy Wednesday to you, faithful readers.
Montessori School of Greater Lafayette Staff, 1992
Here are the year's class photos. If you recognize any of the children, all should be in their mid-twenties now, consider directing them here. We would love to hear from them and from the teachers.
Class A - Morning Preprimary, 1992
Class B - Morning Preprimary, 1992
Class D - Morning Preprimary, 1992
Class E - Afternoon Preprimary, 1992
Class C - 3-day and 5-day Toddlers, 1992
Class C - 2-day Toddlers, 1992
The MSGL photo archives are a bit disorganized and I usually have to sift through them to come up with a Wayback Wednesday post, but this week the work was already done. After leading the toddler families on this field trip to Lafayette's Columbian Park Zoo in the Spring of 1998, teacher Suman Harshvardhan put together this little photo album for the children.
These kiddos are college freshmen (or nearly) now. Thanks for reading and have a great Wednesday!
We Love Our Teachers!
The lovely ladies of MSGL, August 2014
It's Teacher Appreciation Week and it's the perfect time to give a shout out to the Montessori School of Greater Lafayette's amazing teaching staff. Our teachers come from all over the world and from many different backgrounds, bringing their experiences, understanding, and love of children to share with our Montessori families. Did you know that West Lafayette is the most culturally diverse city in the Midwest? This is largely due to the population of Purdue University which is ranked 2nd in the nation for total international student enrollment. Since over 60% of our families have a connection to Purdue either as staff or students, it's not surprising that MSGL's teaching staff is also diverse.
One way we measure this diversity is with a tally of languages spoken by the staff. Over 26% of the staff speaks English and a second language fluently. And 10% of staff members are trilingual, allowing MSGL to offer students daily exposure to Spanish, Russian, and Korean language and culture. Here is a breakdown of staff languages.
The teachers' love for their work shows in the number of years they have been with the school and their eagerness to enroll their own children here. Over half of our staff members have been with the school for over 10 years. And 61% of the staff currently have children enrolled at MSGL, are parents of MSGL alumni, or are MSGL alumni themselves.
Some of our teachers came to Montessori after studying education. Many others followed their children here before deciding to become a teacher with backgrounds including art history, biology, interior design, psychology, anthropology, nursing, journalism, medieval studies, philosophy, history, and chemistry. However they discovered Montessori, we are grateful they found us and chose to stay. Here is a look at these hard-working ladies over the past year.
Mary Dyrenfurth and Cathy Stier
Somdatta Datta Roy
We salute you, beautiful ladies of MSGL! Thank you for bringing your dedication, your love of children, and your sense of humor with you each and every day.
This week's installment of Building MSGL focuses on the work of the jackhammer, a tool that was put to much use during the first few months of the construction project. Lots of concrete had to be broken up and hauled away so we could remodel the buildings and install new steps and sidewalks.
Tony Harvey breaks up concrete in Building B to make space for new plumbing for sinks and bathrooms. This was one of his least favorite days of the entire 6-month project.
Looking at Building A as the concrete demolition gets underway.
Later that day, it looked like this. Watch that first step - it's a doozy.
Don Harvey and Craig Lamb prepare to take out the upstairs landing.
As the demolition continued, it became apparent that the light-duty jackhammer they had been using was not going to cut through some of the steps. One parent volunteer took a look at the slow progress they were making and set off to find a better solution. Half and hour later he pulled in with a trailer-mounted mobile air compressor and a much more powerful jackhammer. Tony Harvey said that was a real game-changer for this phase of the project.
"We had a little jackhammer that you could plug into an outlet in an airplane bathroom," he joked. "This parent came back with a rig that looked like Iron Man built it. When we flipped the switch on the big one you could see lights flicker in the apartments across the street," he said, once again, joking. "We had been working all day on those steps and in just 20 minutes with the big hammer, they were dust."
The old steps are broken up to make way for the new stairs/ramp that will lead into the upstairs hallway in Building A.
Just for fun, I am including before, during, and after photos from Building A so we can admire the progress from an old church basment entry to a modern, ADA-compliant school entrance.
Here it is with the concrete walls freshly poured.
Here, the railings are being installed.
And here it is that first summer, looking quite lovely.
Thanks for joining me in the wayback. Have a super Wednesday!
Two years ago, before their daughter was even old enough to enroll at MSGL, Zoe Neal and Desiree Chuang made an historic donation to our school. Owners of Virtuous Cycles in downtown Lafayette, Zoe and Desiree gave us a bright orange Strider balance bike to try out on the tricycle track. It soon became the most beloved of all the bikes because it is the only two-wheeler and it has no pedals. And most importantly, it goes FAST! Well, it goes as fast as the square bike track will allow and with all of the tricycle traffic? The bike track is sometimes more like the intersection of 52 and Salisbury when Purdue heads home for the day. Still, it feels really fast.
On the bikes of my youth and quite possibly yours, I learned to pedal with a set of training wheels attached to the hub of the back wheel to keep the bike, and me, upright. I learned to pedal the bike but never felt what it was like to be truly balanced on two wheels. When the training wheels came off I wasn't really ready at all. I had to learn to balance, and quickly! - and my parents had to watch. Spoiler alert: we all survived.
Balance bikes let a child master the balancing part - the most challenging part - of riding a bike, first. When you are coasting on a Strider bike with your feet not touching the ground it feels exactly like riding a bike. You ARE riding the bike, you're just not pedaling it. And since many children already learned to pedal on a tricycle the year before, the two skills of balancing and pedaling come together nicely after they have mastered the Strider. Several online reviews point out that if a child can walk she can ride a balance bike, so some children skip the tricycle stage altogether.
Maria Montessori observed the importance of a child developing his sense of balance. She created activities such as walking on the line to help fine-tune this sense. At MSGL the Strider is an extension of that balance exercise.
Last year, the Franklin family donated a new, dark blue Strider and now the children can have a turn to ride in half the time. That's important because learning to have a turn and to wait for a turn is one of the biggest works of preschool. The children at MSGL and their teachers have come up with an almost fool-proof system for taking turns on the Striders and all the bikes. It came to be called the "waiting bench."
The Waiting Bench
The waiting bench is right next to the bike shed which is sort of the starting line of the bike track. The first two children take the bikes out of the shed and ride them. When another friend wants a turn, he sits on the waiting bench. This signals the riders that someone is waiting for a turn so they need to consider how many more laps they will take before handing the bike off to the next friend. Sometimes the rider stops riding and negotiates with the waiter.
Waiter: How many more times are you going to go around?
Waiter: That's too many! How about 7?
Rider: How about 5? (When you're learning numbers and quantity, it's sometimes more important to pick a number you like than to negotiate for the most turns. Negotiation skills improve with experience :)
Once an agreement has been reached, the rider continues his laps while the waiter and his friends count down from 5 to 1. At the hand-off between rider and waiter, the cycle is repeated with new riders. Sometimes there are misunderstandings and an experienced child steps in to mediate. A teacher is always nearby to see what is happening and make herself available to help, if needed.
The idea of the waiting bench just sort of happened, like lots of great things happen in child-centered environments. It's possible that the teachers could have made an arbitrary rule about each child getting only 5 turns, but that would diminish the child's ability to make choices and consider the feelings of others. For example, 5-year-olds can recognize a child who is struggling with being patient and they will sometimes hand the bike over early to help this child. This leads to another cycle that I call the "Cycle of Benevolence." Benevolence is an inclination to perform kind, charitable acts. When a child sees a peer giving freely of herself to make someone else happy, it feels good. Soon, that child is looking for a way to help a friend. The cycle repeats and those kind acts and good feelings spill over into the community and, ultimately, the whole wide world.
Heike Larson, an administrator and blogger at Leport School in California, writes frequently of the importance of fostering benevolence in preschool communities. All of us at MSGL are inspired by her blog. She has also written about balance bikes on the Leport Schools blog here.
If you are considering buying a balance bike for your child, be sure to visit Virtuous Cycles to check out their selection of models and colors. Tell them MSGL sent you and be a part of the Cycle.