We were happy to see former Willow Class assistant teacher Jessica Flaherty when she visited from her new school in Indianapolis. With Lena Atkinson.
By Heather Harvey
Our school has had many special visitors lately. Teachers and parents from A Children’s Habitat Montessori School in Indianapolis toured campus and met with our staff last month. They described MSGL as “a model of excellence” and returned to Indianapolis with lots of ideas for increasing and updating their programs, classroom spaces, and administrative processes.
Preprimary teachers Ana Ramirez and Melissa Valencia had their second classroom observation in February, as part of their Montessori Early Childhood practicum, and their field visitor was impressed not only by Ana’s and Melissa’s calm and kind demeanor in the classroom, but also by the large size of our “little” school.
Visitors from A Children's Habitat Montessori visit with MSGL staff.
Of course, we can’t overlook the important visitors who attended our February open houses. Dozens of new families were excited to tour the campus and register their children for classes in the fall.
Seeing MSGL through the eyes of these visitors, I realize that there is nothing “little” about us. We serve 150 families in three buildings here on our five-acre campus and we staff seven different programs with approximately 30 full and part-time staff. We have programs for children ages 12 months to 12 years. We're not small at all, but we are close-like a family-thanks to the teachers, staff members, and parents who are willing to step in and help when and where they are needed.
We have a history of hiring from within, so when experienced teachers retire or move away from the area we turn to the dedicated teachers we know and love to fill those spots. And many of those teachers started out as MSGL parents who signed up to work as volunteers and substitute teachers!
Our accreditation by the American Montessori Society requires us to have trained and certified Montessori teachers leading our classrooms. So it is our vision to have a sustainable program with qualified teachers available at each level ready to lead if a teacher needs to step away from the classroom permanently or just for a few weeks.
This winter we were grateful for this long-term vision when Mary McKay - a parent, board member, friend of the school, and Early Childhood teacher-in-training - stepped away from the Catalpa classroom. Veteran teacher Somdatta Datta Roy left her position as River Birch assistant to take on the leadership of Catalpa while also leading the 3-day afternoon Canoe Birch class. Spruce class assistant Ana Ramirez was happy to take Somdatta’s spot as Angie Shamo’s assistant in River Birch in addition to leading the Globe Willow Spanish class. And Melissa Valencia agreed to keep her position as Globe Willow assistant and also fill Ana’s spot in Spruce. Admittedly, our staffing arrangements can get complicated! But we always try to look within first to minimize disruptions in the classrooms and to maintain our high standards for a compassionate, well-trained staff that is in tune with our school culture.
In addition to classroom changes, there is also a new face in the office. MSGL parent Amy VanHorn was hired to work in accounting in January when our long-time parent and bookkeeper Beth Nichols took a new position outside the school. Amy is the person to talk to when you have questions about your tuition statement.
We can expect to see more new faces as MSGL grows during the coming school year. We will remodel the Elementary House this summer to add space for an Elementary II program (4th-6th grade.) We are adding a second Parent/Infant class which will take place on Tuesday mornings. Families of children ages 12-24 months can sign up for Tuesday morning, Friday morning, or both. Three-year-olds will have the opportunity to lunch with Machelle during Toddler Tea Time in the Spruce Toddler class. Other exciting new offerings are in the works, so stay tuned for those details next month. And thanks for being part of our growing family.
These new faces, Pierce and Katie, look happy in their MSGL
A car full of goodies is ready to be delivered to a local family sponsored by MSGL families.
A Lafayette mom got a big surprise Thursday night when Montessori School of Greater Lafayette (MSGL) teacher, Kelly Sallee, and her husband Randy delivered a car full of holiday cheer to her front door. Evelyn (not her real name), a 33-year-old mother of four who was recently diagnosed with cancer, knew the Sallees were bringing dinner and a few surprises for her older children, but she wasn't expecting armfuls of gifts and personal items for her 10-month-old baby, her husband, and even herself.
"She knew nothing about this," Sallee said of the mom's reaction. "She said she feels so grateful and blessed."
After being diagnosed with cancer in the fall and going through two surgeries, Evelyn worried that she and her husband would not be able to give their children a happy Christmas. Her husband works full-time and also helps her get to her treatments in Indianapolis every week. The travel expense and taking time away from work has made it difficult for the family to pay their rent and other bills, so Christmas presents were out of the question. When Evelyn reached out to local assistance groups in early December, she learned she had missed the deadline to apply. So she turned to a local Facebook group to see if anyone knew of an organization that could help her give her children just a little something to look forward to on Christmas morning, and that's where Kelly found her.
A basket of items just for mom.
"I called two local agencies to see if they knew of a family that my family could sponsor for the holidays but they didn't respond," Kelly said. "So I thought, I'm going to go find my own family."
When she saw Evelyn's post on Facebook, she sent her a message and they started talking. Kelly was moved by the young mom's situation and decided this was a family that could really use some help. When she shared the young family's story with the families of her Willow preprimary class at MSGL, they were eager to help. Teachers and families from other classes and Kelly's mom and sister also joined in, and that's when the fun really started.
Taylor and Kelly preparing to wrap packages.
"I am so overwhelmed with the great response," Kelly said. "I received so many gift cards in my mailbox and there were new items in the collection box every day. I am thankful for the classroom families and teachers who have contributed to this cause."
The box Kelly put in the hallway to collect items for the children was soon overflowing and the items had to be stored in the school's conference room. Although Evelyn was only hoping to have a few items for her 6, 8, and 11-year-old children, the outpouring of love from the MSGL community included items for the baby, a gift card for dad, and a basket filled with lotion, fuzzy socks, and candles to pamper mom. The family also received gift cards for gas to help with driving back and forth to Indianapolis for Evelyn's treatments. Classroom parents and Kelly's mother and sister wrapped all of the gifts and made stockings personalized with each child's name.
MSGL families sponsored a local family that could use a little extra love this year.
The family celebrates Christmas, so families donated gifts and stockings.
On Thursday, Kelly and Randy packed up the gifts, picked up pizzas for the family's dinner, and delivered them to their home. The children had to stay in their rooms until everything was hidden because mom and dad want the gifts to be a surprise on Christmas morning. Evelyn had just returned from having a port implanted for chemotherapy that day and was not feeling well, but she thanked the Sallees over and over again for everything they had done. She was especially touched by the handmade cards made by the MSGL children.
Cards made by the children of Willow class.
"She said she was surprised that the kids had made the cards just for them," Kelly said. "And she hung them up with all of her other Christmas cards."
Kelly hopes the MSGL family can reach out to a local family again next year and she intends to start planning in the fall.
"Not only did it bring so much joy to my family and myself to be able to help this sweet family this holiday season, but it was equally priceless to see how well-received this endeavor was at Montessori. I signed one of the cards on behalf of the school so that the family knew our community came together to make a magical morning for this very deserving family."