Staff eager to welcome new and returning students to campus
Much of Hershey Montessori School’s staff and faculty spent the summer redesigning their campuses, classrooms, and education platforms. Their goal has been to ensure Hershey’s high-quality programs continue to serve students, staff, and families’ needs, while still maintaining an authentic Montessori approach.
Hershey is slated to reopen both campuses later this month with a redesigned face-to-face learning experience for all students. An enhanced remote learning option is also being offered to adolescent students. The on-campus designs are centered around small cohorts of students and implementing all recommended health practices, while enhancing the experience by availing of as much education in our outdoor environments as possible.
“The aspects we learned from last spring’s unexpected launching of remote learning created the opportunity to greatly enhance our remote learning experience,” said Head of School, Paula Leigh-Doyle. “Significant purchases of new technologies will allow for greater engagement and a more interactive experience for our students.”
The school recently released its Healthy Reopening Family Manual that provides insight to its plans and protocols for each educational level of the school. The manual also outlines health and safety protocols and various measures that have been implemented to ensure the well-being of Hershey students, staff and community. The highly-detailed plan is the result of collective input from faculty, staff, students, and parents through surveys and feedback, as well as the collaboration of Hershey’s Contingency Planning Team. The manual, already on it’s second edition, will evolve as new information and recommendations are brought to light.
Ohio’s governor is set to provide additional school guidelines on August 13th. Hershey will make an announcement to its school community on August 14th regarding any changes or additional information that needs to be communicated based on the outcome of the governor’s press conference.
We recognize the the state of uncertainty that we all have endured since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many families are still seeking school options. Hershey is still accepting applications for fall enrollment. We are prepared, and we are excited to safely welcome new and returning students this fall!
An Interview with Hershey Montessori School Alumni
Hershey Montessori School delights in welcoming back its graduates and former students. We love to hear how they are tackling life and college after high school. We seek to know how their Montessori education helped shape and prepare them for the paths they chose. We love learning more about where they are today, and how their skills are helping them on life’s journey.
At the last alumni gathering, Hershey graduates shared with us what course of study they are pursuing and what university they are attending. We then asked them to speak to how they felt prepared for where they are on their journey. Below is what they shared.
Ilana Rosenheck ’18, Psychology, University of Cincinnati:“I think the farm, or Hershey or Montessori in general, has really prepared us for public speaking. We all did countless presentations and that really developed a confidence in all of us – or most of us. I feel like if we had an issue or a question, we all felt comfortable with going to our professors and talking to them just because we have that close relationship with the staff here. It’s something I feel like traditional schooling won’t teach their students.Hershey taught us about being a functioning adult. I feel like Hershey really prepared us for life.”
Cameron Zona ’18, Theater and Entrepreneurship, Lake Erie College:“Yeah, I have to agree. I was here on campus on Monday and I sat in on a class of Middle School students and they were giving presentations, and I was like ‘these presentations are better prepared and they have better public speaking skills than the students that are in some of my college classes.’ I was very impressed. I definitely think that it is something that when students graduate, they have a firm grasp on.”
Makenna Venaleck ’18, Chemical Engineering, Ohio University:“I don’t do a lot of presentations or public speaking in my area of study, but I will say that I felt very prepared to talk with my professors and have a little bit of an up because even though a lot of people in STEM are very good at math and science, they can’t really communicate what they are studying or how they are feeling or talk to their professors or to a potential employer. I went to the career fair and I felt very prepared because I could set aside ‘What are my skills? What are things that I am good at?’ and I could have a conversation with someone that maybe would employ me or was a professor. I felt very prepared for interpersonal communication.”
Erin Finan ’19, Journalism, Ohio University:“I think Hershey helped me (or Montessori) in a lot of ways, but especially when I went to college and I was trying to find my friend group. The people I connected with like at Hershey really helped me to know the kind of people I wanted to be around and know how to find my tribe. Taking that to college made it a lot easier to find people and know that these were the people that I wanted to spend time with and be around, and that I wanted to form my friend group with. I mean, college has more people so you have to adjust because of that, but you also have to know that there are people like you and for you at college that you’ll be able to connect with in the same way you connect with people here. You might have to look a little bit harder because it’s such a bigger environment, but like I said, Hershey helped me and a lot of us know who we wanted as our friends and the things we value. When we find those [values] in other people, it’s easier to make those connections.”
Elise Spintzyk ’18, Psychology, Ohio State University:“I think Hershey prepared us well because we had a lot of leadership opportunities. I think students who are looking to move forward into a graduate program or even to apply for a job are able to step into a leadership role. While you are in college that is something that is really important and important for your resumé. Already having had a leadership role with experience, I can bring that in as a freshman student when applying for a position on an executive board of a club, something in your department, or looking for a research position if that’s something you’re interested in. Those are things that you wouldn’t already be taking with you from most high schools. I think a lot of students haven’t had the opportunity to do so. When you step into those roles when you’re in college, you are very well prepared for them and you’re able to thrive in that position and keep moving forward.”
Thank you, alumni, for sharing how your Hershey Montessori School experience and skills have helped aid you in your college education and beyond. We are please that you were able to take leadership, communication, interpersonal skills, public speaking, real-life capabilities, and tools to navigate and find your way in the next steps of your education. We wish you all the best. We truly look forward to seeing you all again very soon!
Because we value face-to-face, social interaction and hands-on learning in Montessori education, we must strive to keep these as key elements of the learning process, despite our current social distancing situation. This requires some adjustments, but can still be accomplished. As we consider our move towards working with our students in an online education environment, we should pause to consider how to make this approach as true to the Montessori pedagogy as possible. Even using technology and new methodologies, we know that the truths of Montessori remain valid and will want to design our educational program with them in mind.
For the adolescent, it is critical that we make our online education child-directed and that we continue to make student choices a priority. Our choice of strategies in the online environment can be shaped by philosophy, and just as in other environments, we find teacher-centered learning and student-centered learning occurring. Because students are working more independently, there are many ways to structure the learning to be student-centered, and we want to take advantage of the computer and the students’ home environment to emphasize these possibilities.
Creating social elements is also key to making the online learning experience truly meaningful to adolescents. Don’t merely focus on academic interactions – think closely about how to use video, dialogue, discussion, and activities to build connection and social dynamics with the group. Although we accept that this will be a less authentic community experience than actual face-to-face interaction, we must continue to make that element of adolescent development primary.
As always, there is a tension between the need for student-centered learning and the need for a prepared environment. In a Montessori school, guides know that maximizing student choice often begins with carefully constructed environments and experiences. We must shift this thinking to the online world, creating prepared virtual environments and experiences that continue to support student learning without superseding it.
Ultimately it is the three-stage learning cycle that shows us the way to structuring our online education environment. This approach maximizes student choice while providing the prepared environment structure that students need to do their best work. This three-stage cycle is built on three natural stages to the learning process – key lessons, individual research, and meaningful presentation.
This approach maximizes student choice while providing the prepared environment structure that students need to do their best work.
“To say it is a good school is not enough. If you have a chance, come here and observe. You will feel the difference. It is so peaceful and calm. Even the teachers and adults are calm. You will see real Montessori.” ~Derek Tsai
An Interview with a Teacher in Training
Hershey Montessori School was pleased to host Derek Tsai for five weeks of teacher training recently. We extend a special thank you to Jennifer Finan, Early Elementary Guide, for her exemplary role modeling and her passion to help others live, teach, and share Montessori.
teaBelow is a short interview between Head of School Assistant, Saren Peetz, and Derek Tsai.
Saren: What is the correct spelling and pronunciation of your name?
Derek: Derek Tsai (Tsai sounds like “Thai”).
Saren: Where are you from?
Derek: I am from Taiwan originally, but moved to Austin, Texas about 4 years ago.
Saren: Do you have a school you would like to work at in Austin, or are you starting your own school?
Derek: When we moved from Taiwan, my wife and I started a small school. It is a bilingual school with Mandarin and English.
Saren: Does your school have an elementary program yet, or is it only Children’s House?
Derek: Only Children’s House for now, but we are going to be growing to elementary. The parents of the Children’s House students asked for more levels to be added. I also have a 6 year old daughter, so it is good timing. We want the elementary for her as well.
Saren: What interests you about Montessori education?
Derek: I started working in Montessori as a helper to my wife. My wife is the Children’s House lead teacher. She knows a lot about the Montessori theory. I discovered through that work that I really loved Montessori. When I was helping my wife, I knew the names of the materials, but I did not know the use of them. But then, in my training, I took the Foundation Course and then the Elementary Course. After I learned the theory of both the Children’s House and Elementary I thought, “Wow, that is what I want.”
Saren: What does the landscape of Montessori look like in your home country/state?
Derek: I will start with Taiwan. In Taiwan there is not much land, especially in the cities. There are no backyards, only ten story buildings. It is very challenging for preschools to operate. The preschools usually rent out the first or the second floor of these tall buildings and they will use parks for playgrounds. Austin is more similar to preschools everywhere in the United States. There is more room. Hershey is unique, though, especially its playground. The playground has a huge space to run and build with sticks. It is very natural and very Montessori.
Saren: What brought you to Hershey?
Derek: I took the training course in Zhejiang, and a few of my classmates on the course came to Hershey a few years ago to see the upper school (Middle and Upper School) for the adolescent orientation. They loved Hershey, so I thought if I can do my observation there it would be good. So I contacted the school and contacted Jennifer and set up my practice teaching at Hershey.
Saren: When do you finish your training?
Derek: There are five time blocks for my training. The last training block is in February, and that is the oral and written exams. Then I will come back to my wife’s school to open the elementary classroom in September or maybe earlier.
Saren: What is your biggest take away from Hershey?
Derek: My biggest take away was Jennifer’s attitude and her spirit. She enjoyed her work and all the children are engaged in their work. I hope I can be a guide like that. It is not easy in teaching to get all the children engaged in their work. But she did it! So maybe I can do it, too. Also, the design of the building at Hershey. It is good for children because it is easier for them to go from elementary to another class, or even back to the Children’s House. And also easy access to outside, especially for the Children’s House. They have their own yard and all the windows in their classrooms let them see outside and watch outside. I also loved all the books. There were so many! I loved the library. There are so many things I loved I can’t list them all right now.
Saren: What is one thing you would tell parents about education?
Derek: Many parents are still believing in traditional education and public school more. But when talking about Montessori, the Montessori way is to put the abstract and the physical thing together to make the whole concept very solid. I would also want to really let parents know what the difference is between Montessori and traditional education. I would say the two biggest things for elementary are independence and Cosmic Education.
Saren: What is one thing you would tell other educators about Hershey Montessori School?
Derek: To say it is a good school is not enough. If you have a chance, come here and observe. You will feel the difference. It is so peaceful and calm. Even the teachers and adults are calm. You will see real Montessori. The physical design even looks like home. It makes the whole layout look like a home. If I hear someone is looking for observations or help, I will suggest they go to Hershey Montessori School.
Best wishes to you, Derek. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. We enjoyed having you here at Hershey Montessori School, and are glad that you are taking a piece of us with you as you provide Montessori for more children in your corner of the world.
About the Voice of Hershey Blog
Imagine a beautiful place filled with activities that are designed around your needs, calling to your curiosity and imagination. Picture a community where children are surrounded by people who understand, encourage and challenge their strengths. Envision a child learning each day, immersed in a culture of respect and a course of study based upon personal interest and engagement.
Serving children from birth through age 18, Hershey offers challenging, highly individualized programs that focus on the uniqueness of each child.
Hershey offers an exceptional experience on two campuses, including the truly unique, world class farm school.