From Hershey Alumna to Hershey Guide – Spotlight on Saren Peetz
This month’s Spotlight is unique. We had the honor to interview Saren Peetz. Saren is a Hershey Montessori School alumna-turned-staff member. She is a Hershey Montessori Early Elementary Guide and Co-Chair of Hershey’s ISACS (Independent Schools Association of the Central States) Steering Committee. Saren attended Hudson Montessori School since she was three years of age and came to Hershey to study as a 9th grade student (Hershey did not yet have a high school in those years). She volunteered multiple times a week on the farm through high school and during her summers in college. Then, she came back two years ago as a guide. “I just couldn’t stay away!” says Saren.
Saren grew up in Hudson, Ohio, and she is currently waiting to close on her first house in Novelty. Before returning to Hershey as a guide, Saren moved to Bar Harbor, Maine, to attend College of the Atlantic for four years. After that, she moved to Maryland to attend Montessori training outside of Baltimore. Her first teaching position involved the starting of the first elementary classroom at a tiny rural Montessori school in Virginia, about an hour outside of Washington, D.C.
Saren loves watching the children she works with grow into their potential. When they first arrive in the elementary, it is as if she can look over their heads and see who they can become. To watch as little flickers of that future person become a more constant light is what she loves the most. She and her partner, Ian, have two bunnies, a blind kitty, a California king snake, and about 360,000 honeybees in six colonies! She also frequently visits her childhood horse and dog at her family’s home nearby.
Enjoy our full interview with Saren below:
What brought you to Hershey?
The community. The feeling that you not only know everyone in the school but care deeply for them. Also, the commitment to authentic Montessori pedagogy and continuous learning on behalf of the adults. There is no other place like it!
What drew you to Montessori?
I have been “in Montessori” for most of my life, but I think what keeps me so excited about it is the potential it has to be both life changing and world changing. Dr. Montessori lived in a time of much turmoil and saw the child, and the education of the child, as the solution. If the child can be both knowledgeable and at peace with themselves, then they have the power to change the world around them in those ways as well. We are once again living in a time of so many challenges, and this education affirms and supports children’s power to make a difference, now and in the future.
Favorite Hershey memory?
Another tough one! My favorite memory from a long time ago would be early mornings in the Farmhouse as an adolescent, talking with friends, reading the newspaper, and listening to guitar music before morning meeting. More recently, my favorite memory would be reading my children poetry and realizing how deep they are already able to think at eight years old.
Describe the work you do and how it is performed in your classroom:
Aside from giving key lessons, my two favorite ways of engaging with the children in my community are to do handwork with them and tell stories, particularly about history or biology. This year, a family donated a fleece of raw sheep’s wool and the children and I have been working on skirting, washing, carding, and spinning it in preparation for using it in their crochet, knitting, and weaving work. I have LOVED moving through this process with them! I also try to tell at least three stories to the class each week, and their most recent favorites have been about modern-day Native American heroes, the life cycle of honeybees, and how illuminated books were made during the Middle Ages. It always makes my day when a story really sparks their imaginations and motivates them to do some great follow up work.
What did you take away from Hershey as a student? How has that experience shaped what you are doing now as a Hershey guide?
I was an “official” Hershey student for just one year, when I was in 9th grade. However, I have to say that one year perhaps made more of an impact on my life than any other in my education. At the Huntsburg campus, I felt what it meant to have a community, a home base, while also learning so much about the world beyond the farm as many of my friends were from different backgrounds and cultures. The experience inspired me to be curious about the world – to want to travel, live away from Ohio for a time, and get to know different ways of life. I did a lot of that in college as I went to school in Maine, travelled around Europe, and later lived in an Appalachian community outside of Washington, D.C. I feel all these experiences are now what feed my lessons with the children. I always think, what interesting personal story can I bring to this concept? And looking back, I feel that is much of what my guides at the Middle School did for me – engaged me on a personal level and challenged me to apply my knowledge whenever possible.
Where is your favorite place to go?
The Maine coast, the mountains of North Carolina, or British Columbia, Canada.
Can you tell us your favorite thing to do?
Get kisses from my horse.
What is a little known fact about you?
If I wasn’t a guide, I would have been an architect!
Who has made the biggest impact in your life and what does that impact look like?
Definitely my middle school guide, Pat Ludick. She taught me how to push myself and that I was capable of more than I thought. I use so many of her strategies in my own classroom.
It’s impossible to choose a favorite!
“…what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver
How would your friends and family describe you?
Workaholic for sure! Mothering and sensitive with a good sense of humor.
How would you describe yourself?
Probably same as my friends!
Graduating from college, and then again graduating from Montessori training.
Biggest life lesson you would like to share with others?
All hard things get easier.
Thank you, Saren. The Hershey community is grateful for you and your service to our school and students. Your positive energy and wisdom bring joy to our campus!