Hershey Holds Senior Signing Ceremony

Hershey Holds Senior Signing Ceremony

Hershey Upper School staff and students recently held a Senior Signing Ceremony as a formal declaration and celebration of each senior’s post-graduation plans.
This year, one hundred percent of Hershey graduates are enrolling at colleges and universities. Seniors were invited to wear apparel representing their chosen college or university. They were given a sign with the name and logo of the institution where they have enrolled.
Two seniors were also recognized for their athletic commitments; Lucy McNees for tennis and Michael Swank for lacrosse.
We wish our soon-to-be graduates much happiness as they begin to transition into the next chapter of their lives. We are proud of who they are, what they have accomplished, and we are certain they will make an impact wherever they go.
Staff Spotlight: Valerie Raines

Staff Spotlight: Valerie Raines


We created a Staff Spotlight series to bring recognition of the many amazing guides and administrators while connecting with them in a personal way.

This month, we honor

Valerie Raines


Valerie Raines has been with Hershey Montessori School since 2015. She serves as our College Counselor to Upper School students and families. She works with students from grades ten through twelve as they make plans for their life after high school. Valerie provides advice and support in navigating college selections, college admissions, scholarships, and financial aid.

Valerie’s career includes three decades of service in education and philanthropy with positions at Laurel School, Oberlin College, Connecticut College, the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland, United Way, and KeyBank Foundation. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Northwestern University and her master’s degree at Case Western Reserve University. She is also president of VRaines Consulting.

Her knowledge, expertise, and passion for what she does makes for an invaluable gift we are all grateful for at Hershey.

Check out our interview with Valerie below.


Where are you from and where do you now live?

I grew up in Cleveland, and lived in Illinois and Connecticut. I have traveled to most U.S. states and across Canada. I’ve also been to South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.


What did you do before coming to Hershey?

I worked in admissions at Connecticut College and Oberlin College. I was college counselor at Laurel School (my alma mater). At KeyBank Foundation, I facilitated grants for education programs.


What brought you to Hershey?

I met Laurie and Jim Ewert-Krocker at a gala for Montessori High School in Cleveland. At the time, Hershey was looking for a college counselor for the new Upper School.


What drew you to Montessori?

My son attended Ruffing Montessori School in Cleveland Heights. As a college admissions recruiter, I visited hundreds of schools that felt like cinderblock tunnels where students had factory-like experiences. I knew I didn’t want that for my child and that all children deserved better learning environments and experiences.


What is your favorite part of your work at Hershey?

I love celebrating with 12th graders when college acceptances arrive. I also love getting started with 10th graders because we begin earlier than other schools and the students are so excited!


What is your favorite Hershey memory?

Our day trips on the Hershey bus to visit nearby colleges with our students: Allegheny, Wooster, Kent State, Hiram, Cleveland State, Case Western Reserve, Lakeland Community College, Oberlin, John Carroll, and Mount Union. I love hearing their oohs and aahs as they discover what is possible at colleges.


Where is your favorite place to go?

I long for the spectacular fireworks in Sydney, Australia every New Year’s Eve!


What is your favorite thing to do?

I love summer festivals for jazz and theater in Canada.


What is a little-known fact about you?

I’ve been cutting my own hair during COVID (don’t inspect too closely).


Who has made the biggest impact in your life and what does that impact look like?

I have benefited from a loving family and strong network of educators my whole life. I am inspired by how they have gone extra miles to foster and celebrate my successes.


What is your favorite book?

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I still wonder about those characters.


What is your favorite quote?

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Dr. Martin Luther King in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.


What is your favorite movie?

Fences, based upon the play by August Wilson, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis.


How would your friends and family describe you?

Caring, determined, always learning.


How would you describe yourself?

Always looking for ways to address big problems.


What is your happiest moment?

Seeing my son graduate (high school and college).


What is your biggest life lesson you would like to share with others?

Adapt to what life calls upon you to do and find the lessons in each situation you are in.


That is great advice and profound wisdom, Valerie.

Thank you for taking time to share with us. On behalf of students, families, and all Hershey staff, we appreciate you and greatly value what you bring to our community!




Hershey Embarks on Social Discovery Journey

Hershey Embarks on Social Discovery Journey

The crises we are witnessing is not one of those that make the passage from one era to another, it can only be compared with the opening of a new Biological or Geological period, when new beings come upon the scene, more evolved and more perfect, while upon the earth are realized conditions of life, which had never existed before.” Dr. Maria Montessori, Peace and Education (1932)

The events that unfolded over the last year brought a heightened awareness of the social injustice and inequity that has plagued our nation’s history and profoundly affected fellow citizens.

Dr. Montessori, and many other scientists, demonstrated that an education that removes the obstacles for healthy development, and that allows the student’s innate energies for good to develop in accordance with their natural capacity, will reveal a “new child” who is intellectually independent and emotionally drawn to contribute to moral and social conditions of their environments.

That is why this year’s whole school professional development day centered on social-emotional development that included emotional intelligence and communication skills, as well as social leadership capacities and abilities. We learned about Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) from specialists with Cleveland consulting firm Sage and Maven.

A number of staff as well as some Upper School students also took the opportunity to dive deeper into learning about Restorative Justice with specialist Tarek Maassarani. Maassarani’s work on the science of peace, on both the national and international level, includes organizations such as Restorative DC and Communities in Transition.

Several topics were covered in the two half-day sessions, including Privilege, LGBTQ language, how we create our identity, the difference between explicit and implicit bias, the difference between “not racist” versus “anti-racist,” the different types of racism, and restorative practices.

Hershey staff deepened their understanding of how to create practices and environments that strengthen community inclusion and connection so that our students will learn even more about community responsibility and leadership.

“It is this conviction that imbues us with hope that education may be the most effective instrument to attain the union of all humanity. To this end, education must channel the powerful creative energies of the child toward an ultimate spiritual independence, utilizing to its utmost (their) miraculous capacity for adaptation, according to an ideal of altruism and love.” – Dr. Maria Montessori, Citizen of the Word, San Remo Lectures, Montessori-Pierson Publishing Co. (1949)

A DEIB circle (a.k.a. “committee”) has also been formed to help further progress in this area. The circle is made up of staff and Upper school students who select consultants and trainers, meet and attend workshops, webinars, and trainings for the purpose of sharing and advancing DEIB work and initiatives at Hershey Montessori School.

“There was a group of seven students who participated in the 3-hour workshop, which focused on being actively affirming and inclusive of all identities,” said Lucy McNees, a senior at Hershey.

She and two other Upper School students, sophomore Kylie Golden-Appleton and senior Cecilia Carney, lead an antiracism initiative and meet with the DEIB circle biweekly to discuss the school’s efforts and goals.

“In this way, we can move forward with the whole community on the same page,” says McNees.

As a staff and whole school, Hershey will continue to ensure it has healthy, prepared environments that allow for personal reflection and deep dialogue about our personal contribution to growth in DEIB.

Self-awareness and growing in social emotional intelligence as a community can be wonderfully restorative and inclusive. It is important that Hershey maintains an environment where all feel safe, represented, heard and valued.

Watch for a Hershey DEIB resource webpage to come in the near future.


Alumni Spotlight: Maya Harwood ’20

Alumni Spotlight: Maya Harwood ’20

Featuring Maya Harwood, Class of 2020

Maya is from Cleveland Ohio and attended Hershey Montessori School for sixteen years. She began her Hershey journey back in 2004 in our Children’s House program when her mom, desiring a Montessori education for her, chose Hershey while in the process of house hunting.

Maya graduated from Hershey in the spring of 2020. She has since enrolled in the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Savannah, Georgia. She is currently studying to receive her Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Film & Television and her of Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Dramatic Writing. Maya is currently undergoing her studies remotely, living at home with her turtle, Fred, and her new Labradoodle, Sadie May.

Maya’s friends describe her as dedicated, hardworking, and responsible, and hardworking is an adjective she and those of us at Hershey would agree with. Along with her current school studies, Maya does video project work for Hershey.

Here are some fast facts about Maya. We wonder if her friends or fellow alumni know these things about her.



Favorite part of attending Hershey?

The freedom that we were allowed to have throughout their day.


Favorite memory of Hershey?

My sixth grade trip to Washington DC and my ninth grade trip to Findley Lake, New York, which was part of her Education and Peace class.


Favorite space at the Upper School?

It was either the Upper School Café or the Community Room.


Enjoyed most about senior year?

Being able to go off campus for lunch.


Favorite book?

The Harry Potter Series.


Favorite movie?

The Devil All the Time and Harry Potter.


Happiest moment?

Being a camper during the summer, which later led me to become a camp counselor.



 It was great to catch up with you, Maya. We wish you all the best and look forward to our continued connection.

Thanks for chatting with us!


Staff Spotlight: Venus Kohler

Staff Spotlight: Venus Kohler


Welcome to our Staff Spotlight series. We want to bring recognition to the many amazing guides and administrators while connecting with them in a personal way.

This month, we honor Venus Kohler.


Venus began her work in Montessori education in 2004 in Washington. She went on to pursue her AMI Elementary training in 2006 at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee and worked as a guide. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from the University of Mumbai and a Bachelor of Science in Education, as well as her Master of Science in Education.

Venus came to Hershey in 2012 and is an Upper Elementary Guide. She is a wonderful part of our Hershey family and we hope you enjoy learning more about her.


Tell us about your family:

I’ve been married for 18 years now to the most dedicated and supportive husband and father. I have three children Isaac, Eli, and Anouska who are 12, 9, and 6. I also have 14 chickens.


Where are you from and where do you now live?

I am originally from India. I now live in Concord, Ohio.


What first drew you to Montessori?

I vividly remember walking into a Montessori classroom 17 years ago, and I saw two 6-year-old girls working with the checkerboard on long multiplication. Their concentration was amazing. I looked around that classroom, the guide was in a corner giving a lesson and everyone else was working independently in a group or by themselves. There was a lot going on, yet their independence, the calmness in the room, and the sense of respect and responsibility toward each other and their work was amazing.


What brought you to Hershey?

I was planning a change in our lives. I wanted to be in a place where my children could be in a Montessori environment through most of their academic life.


What is your favorite Hershey memory?

This is a tough question. There are so many memories. You create them every single day. It is hard to choose just one. As a community (pre-COVID) we went on so many trips, camps etc.


What is your favorite place to go?

Home or to visit India.


What is your favorite thing to do when you’re at home?

Spend time with family and of course run my cake/baking business!


Little known fact?

I am a tree hugger! I’ve always loved trees and I’ve hugged some of the largest trees in America.


Who has made the biggest impact in your life and what does that impact look like?

Well, there were a lot of people who made an impact on my life, but in terms of what I do now, it was my former administrator and mentor in Washington, Nikki Skinner. She told me that she knew from the moment she saw me that I need to become a Montessori teacher. She believed in me and my abilities and ever so lovingly coaxed me to get my training. I learned a lot from her, especially that the sky is the limit for each child. We, as society, place limits on what a child can do, but they can do so much more, you have to learn from observing them, guiding them and most of all believing in them.


What is your favorite book?

I have a few favorites, and I have always loved reading. Since one of my graduate degrees was in English Literature, I was exposed to tons of different genres: The Bible, Anne of Green Gables, Pride and Prejudice to name a few.

Venus works with students in the Hershey kitchen.

What is your favorite quote?

“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


What is your favorite movie?

I actually love action movies – Fast and Furious (Tokyo Drift) used to be my all-time favorite!


How would your friends and family describe you?

According to my husband and sister: Dedicated and creative as well as ambitious, personable, organized, and disciplined.


How would you describe yourself?

A minimalist.


What is your happiest moment?

I am truly blessed to have many happy moments; the birth of my children would definitely be one of them. 


What do you do at Hershey that is unique to you?

I grew up in India, so I guess I bring my cultural uniqueness into my classroom. I grew up speaking multiple languages and have traveled a lot and bring those experiences with me.

I am an entrepreneur and started my own business, Cakes Inc. by Venus, in 2017, so I enjoy teaching children different aspects of being in the kitchen and encouraging the children to experiment.


Is there anything else you would like to share or let others know?

I love puns, my kids (school and home) roll their eyes.


Venus and her students enjoy movement in the outdoors.


What is one of your biggest life lessons you would like to share with others?

Never give up, persevere, and work hard. C.S. Lewis put it best “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” – C.S. Lewis. 


Thank you, Venus. It has been an enjoyable experience getting to know you better, watching your incredible work with students, and sharing this journey of life together. We are grateful for your work, your passion, and your compassion.




Adolescent Boarding Set to Reopen Fall 2021

Adolescent Boarding Set to Reopen Fall 2021

We are thrilled to be able to bring our boarding students back home to Hershey this fall!

Hershey staff and administration are finalizing the residential design, facilities use, and remaining COVID-19 contingency plans for the fall.

Much progress is being made to mitigate and reduce infection numbers here in our region and across the United States.

We will be sharing more information as details are finalized.

Returning and/or new families who are interested in registering for this fall may contact the school at 440-636-6290 or email admissions@hershey-montessori.org.

We enthusiastically welcome you back home to Hershey. Our Huntsburg campus eagerly awaits your return!