Voice of Hershey Blog

Thoughts, Insights, and Experiences from the Hearts of Hershey
Montessori Summer Work at Home Ideas for Children

Montessori Summer Work at Home Ideas for Children

Another amazing and memorable school year ends. Through much change and uncertainty, we witnessed great adaptation and resilience in our students. Oh how we celebrate their successes and look forward to their return in the fall.

Many of you have asked how you can help encourage your child’s continued growth and independence while at home this summer.

Below is a hearty list of activity ideas for you to work from.

Fine motor

  • Manipulating tongs, clothespins, clips, spoons, scoops, containers
  • Stringing beads, putting beads on a wooden skewer or pipe cleaner
  • Sorting shells, rocks, dried beans, silverware
  • Modeling with playdough or clay (lots of different textured “clay” recipes online)
  • Tearing strips, tearing paper shapes and gluing
  • Cutting with scissors (plain paper strips, short lines, long lines, curved lines, zigzag lines, shapes, spirals)
  • Lacing boards, peg boards
  • Poking along lines with a push pin
  • Placing stickers
  • Sewing along a line (offer more complex sewing as skills develop)
  • Drawing with crayons, chalk, markers, pencils
  • Manipulating fastenings on clothing (snaps, buttons, buckles, zippers, safety pins, tying bows)
  • Assembling puzzles, Legos, other building toys
  • Peeling & cutting vegetables & fruits, tearing lettuce, cracking eggs, stirring ingredients, grating cheese

Large motor

  • Balancing—walking on a line, walking across logs, walking on uneven surfaces, standing on stumps/boulders, etc.
  • Jumping—hopscotch, jump rope, jump over puddles, hop on 1 leg, etc.
  • Crawling—slither, army crawl, bear crawl, crab crawl, etc.
  • Climbing—hills, trees, rocks
  • Maneuvering over/under/around obstacles
  • Kicking, throwing, catching balls
  • Riding tricycles/bicycles/scooters
  • Dancing, somersaults, yoga poses
  • Playing Twister
  • Carrying, pushing, pulling heavy items (wood, rocks, pails of dirt/sand, wagon, wheelbarrow, etc.)
  • Raking, shoveling, digging, hoeing

Practical life

  • Dusting—baseboards, furniture, leaves of houseplants, knick knacks, books/bookshelves, window sills (possible tools—small cloth, cotton ball, Q-tip, new household paintbrush, pastry brush)
  • Swiffering, mopping with child-sized tools
  • Sweeping floor, garage, deck, sidewalk
  • Vacuuming couch cushions, vacuuming car seats and floor, lint brushing upholstery
  • Watering indoor and outdoor plants
  • Feeding, watering, brushing pets
  • Sorting, folding, putting away laundry
  • Sponging and drying dining table, chairs, shower doors, sliding glass doors, kitchen cabinets
  • Scrubbing fruits/vegetables, outdoor furniture, toys, car mats, sinks, bathtub
  • Washing dishes (1 basin with soapy water & 1 basin with clean water)
  • Washing toys, bike
  • Washing face with a washcloth
  • Hanging up clothing
  • Making the bed, removing the sheets & pillow cases for the laundry
  • Setting the table for meals
  • Pouring water into glasses for meals
  • Planting and misting seeds
  • Picking up sticks in the yard
  • Trimming grass with clippers


  • Smell and taste different spices and herbs—grate cinnamon sticks, grind spices with a mortar & pestle, chop herbs
  • Taste food with eyes closed and guess its identity
  • Feel different textures around the house and outside (carpet, tile, furniture, sidewalk, bark, glass, clothing, blankets, towels, pets, etc.)
  • Make a “mystery bag” of common items & try to identify the items by feeling them without looking
  • Organize items from lightest to heaviest, smallest to largest, shortest to longest, smoothest to roughest, darkest to lightest, softest to hardest, etc.
  • Make sound jars/bottles that contain different items (sand, rice, beans, cornmeal, sugar, etc.)
  • Identify sounds in nature, identify sounds in the home
  • Listen for certain instruments in a piece of music
  • Play a note on an instrument and try to match your voice to the tone
  • Strum stretched rubber bands of different lengths and listen to the tones change
  • Sing a song starting on a low note and then sing it starting on a high note
  • Show child a tray with a few items, remove one item, then have child guess what was removed
  • Make shapes with stencils, sticks, clay, etc. and name them
  • Find different shapes around the house and outside


  • Read books/poems together
  • Sing songs
  • Name opposites (empty/full, light/dark, etc.)
  • Name different type of something (spoons—teaspoon, tablespoon, wooden spoon, serving spoon, measuring spoon; cloths—washcloth, dish cloth, tablecloth, microfiber cloth; clips—paper clip, binder clip, hair clip, chip clip)
  • Identify tools in your toolbox, kitchen utensils, plants in your home/yard, birds, insects, ingredients in a recipe, parts of the vacuum cleaner (hose, wand, crevice tool, switch, etc.), types of pasta, types of clouds in the sky, etc.
  • Talk about events, destinations, family members, family history, celebrations, feelings, hobbies, plans for the day, etc.


  • Play memory games with cards
  • Learn new songs
  • Memorize nursery rhymes and poems
  • Give child 1 command at a time (clap), 2 commands at a time (stomp & wiggle), 3 commands…..
  • Send child to retrieve items: 1 item at a time, 2 items at a time…., “bring 2 spoons and 5 forks”, etc.
  • Read 1 page of a book and then ask questions about what was just read (listening comprehension)
  • Have child recall the sequence of a common routine (morning routine, a recipe, taking a bath, etc.)


  • Draw with chalk, crayons, markers, colored pencils, sidewalk chalk, magna doodle
  • Paint with thick and thin paintbrushes, paint with water on the driveway
  • Trace simple shapes than an adult draws (circle, square, triangle, zigzag line, X, etc.)
  • Re-create simple shapes that are drawn by someone else
  • Draw and color in shapes
  • Trace cursive letters that an adult writes
  • Write letters in dirt/sand/cornmeal on a tray, write letters with fingerpaint
  • Write letters with chalk and later with pencil
  • Write short words in cursive
  • Write lists of things (grocery list, favorite toys, animals, words that start with a particular sound, etc.)
  • Write messages (notes to family members, what book they’d like you to read, what game they’d like to play, etc.)
  • Write stories

Phonemic awareness (hearing sounds in words)

  • Clap rhythms together
  • Identify sounds in nature
  • Listen for instruments in a piece of music
  • Clap syllables in words
  • Read rhyming poems or nursery rhymes
  • Say words that rhyme and then ask for words that rhyme
  • Think of words that start with a particular sound
  • Find items that start with a particular sound (spoon, scissors, sponge, etc.)
  • Listen for and identify all the sounds in a short word (bag=b-a-g)
  • Recite tongue twisters, create tongue twisters


  • Write labels for phonetic objects around the house and have child read and label them (cup, hat, sink, rug, bed, etc.)
  • Write phonetic commands for child to perform (jump on a log, drink milk, kiss mom and dad, sit still, flip a mat, sing a song, etc)
  • Introduce 1 phonogram at a time (sh, oo, ay, er, qu, ow, etc.) and write words with that phonogram for the child to read
  • Read simple books/poems
  • Take turns reading sentences
  • Ask questions about what they read (reading comprehension–this skill develops as reading improves)


  • Match, classify, order/sequence, talk about time (how long does it take?), talk about temperature
  • Count together (how many shoes do you have?  Let’s count all the spoons)
  • Have child make quantities with stones, beads, blocks, cars, etc.
  • Write and identify numbers for child (only introduce 3 numbers at a time)
  • Write and have child identify numbers
  • Play board games with dice, play card games
  • Play games with “more/less,” “longer/shorter,” “larger/smaller,” “thicker/thinner”
  • Put quantities together to introduce addition
  • Take quantities away to introduce subtraction
  • Count by 2s, 3s, 4s…


  • Explore items that are magnetic vs. not magnetic
  • Explore items that sink vs. float
  • Explore what materials are soluble vs. non-soluble (sugar, dirt, rocks, etc.)
  • Record the dates on a calendar that different plants sprout or flower in your yard
  • Place the base of a bunch of celery, lettuce, onion in a shallow bowl of water & watch it grow each day
  • Mix up materials in a jar of water & watch layers form as they settle (dirt, sand, pebbles, grass, mulch)
  • Mix colored water to create new colors
  • Place dirty pennies in vinegar with a sprinkle of salt to make them look like new
  • Put fruit and vegetable scraps in a ziplock bag and watch it decompose
  • Place a cut stem from a tree in water and watch it leaf out and form roots
  • Watch the orientation and length of shadows change throughout the day
  • Lift rocks and logs to see what lives underneath
  • See how many different insects you can find in your yard
  • Record the weather each day
  • Lay on a blanket and watch the clouds
  • Lay on a blanket and observe the stars at night


  • Dig up real clay and make shapes
  • Make dandelion crowns
  • Make sand castles
  • Paint with water on the driveway
  • Draw with sidewalk chalk
  • Hammer flowers and leaves between 2 pieces of paper
  • Create designs by laying out leaves, flowers, and/or stones
  • Paint pine cones
Staff Spotlight: Johan van der Wee

Staff Spotlight: Johan van der Wee


Our Staff Spotlight series is intended to bring recognition to Hershey’s amazing guides and administrators while connecting us with them in a personal way.

This month, we honor

Johan van der Wee


Johan van der Wee is a Children’s House guide at our Concord campus where he has been for six years. Johan and his wife, Katie Bodnovich, are the proud parents of their beloved dog, Betsy, who came from Rescue Village.

Johan earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture from the International Agricultural College in the Netherlands, and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Dayton. Wanting to further explore a career in education, he enrolled in the Ohio Montessori Training Institute and earned his AMI Primary diploma. 

Here is our interview with Johan:


Where are you from and where do you now live?

I was born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands and am now living in Mayfield Village. 


What did you do before coming to Hershey?

I did outdoor gardening programs and nature hikes with children and families for Five Rivers MetroParks in Dayton, OH and for the Cleveland Botanical Garden.


What brought you to Hershey?

I was an assistant in one of the lower elementary classrooms in 2001. I loved the Hershey community and was very excited when there was a position for a Children’s House guide many years later.


What drew you to Montessori?

Children learn to make independent choices and are able to excel in areas of strength while working on skills that need more practice. The multiple age group creates an atmosphere for development of leadership and cooperation.


What is your favorite part of your work at Hershey?

Helping children to connect with activities they enjoy doing. It is always a joy to see a child beginning to write their own thoughts. 


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

My education in, and love of, the outdoors combined with my experience working on farms and in outdoor education brings great passion and knowledge to my students. We spend our recess time exploring in the woods rather than on the playground. We see animals and creatures from deer and hawks to toads and salamanders. The connection I’m able to facilitate between my students and nature brings a calm and greater connection in the classroom.


What is your favorite Hershey memory?

Cheering on our parents and children at the “beginning of summer” parade at the end of last school [pandemic] year.


Where is your favorite place to go?

North Chagrin Metro Park and River.


What is your favorite thing to do?

I like running, fishing, biking, gardening, and oil painting.


What is a little-known fact about you?

During my 15 months as a Conscientious Objector from the Dutch army, I worked for an environmental education organization writing brochures and making educational materials for farmers.


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

Spirited children have taught me the most as they encourage me to learn more about myself and how I’m doing things. They cause me to draw deeper from my Montessori training to build and apply myself and to reach the highest challenges. I’m a better guide to all the children because they inspire me to continually grow and be better equipped to handle all learning styles. 


What is your favorite book?

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse and Who Moved My Cheese by Spencer and Christian Johnson.


What is your favorite quote?

 “And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” Max Ehrmann.


What is your favorite movie?



How would your friends and family describe you?

My friends and family will describe me as a kind, patient, and tenacious person who likes to bring happiness and joy to others.


How would you describe yourself?

Always looking for ways to improve a situation.


What is your happiest moment?

Hiking in the Pyrenees by myself.


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

Be flexible. Have an open mind in everything you’re doing. Montessori is very prescribed and you follow the method, but I still keep my eyes open to other views out there that may contribute even greater benefit when combined with the Montessori approach.


Is there anything else you would like to share with others?

My years spent in outdoor education and visiting other schools is what led me to Montessori. When I visited Holy Rosary — now Cleveland Montessori — I was invited to do lessons about gardening and nature. Children were happy and self-directed. I knew that if I ever wanted to teach in a classroom setting, this is the kind in which I would want to teach. After 9/11, I evaluated my life and decided it was time to choose a new career path. I realized how important it is to have a world open to peace and that children are our future. Montessori is an education for peace. Life is short, but it is the longest thing that I will know. I want to make a difference while I can. It’s my contribution to the world. The events of 9/11 gave me courage to do something different, to create something different. I reprioritized what was important to me. I gave my two-week notice right after 9/11, and Debbie Guren connected me to Hershey. Sometimes life brings unexpected turns that lead to the most fulfilling, beautiful places.

You’re an inspiration to us all, Johan. Thank you for taking time to share with us. We appreciate you and value all that you bring to our community!




Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Harrington

Alumni Spotlight: Ryan Harrington

Featuring Ryan Harrington

Ryan Harrington, Hershey Montessori School Alumnus

Ryan Harrington, Hershey Alumnus

This month’s Alumni Spotlight features Ryan Harrington. Ryan has lived in many states across the U.S. during his life, including California, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. He currently lives in Urbana, Illinois and is attending college at the University of IL at Urbana Champaign where he is pursuing his Master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering. While working on his studies, Ryan is also a Graduate Research Assistant at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Before moving to Illinois, Ryan completed his undergraduate degree in civil engineering at California Polytechnic State University.

Ryan came to Hershey Montessori School in 2001. He said his parents enrolled him at Hershey when the local kindergarten program wanted to hold him back until he had the proper communication and motor skills. 

“My parents thought it was unacceptable that the school would hold their autistic child back for these deficiencies when their child could draw roadmaps for every freeway in the greater Cleveland area,” said Ryan. “My parents brought me to Hershey Montessori School because the program allowed students to learn topics by proficiency and rarely by age.”

Ryan stayed at Hershey for ten years, from 2001 through 2011, when his family moved to Chicago.

Below is our interview with Ryan.


How would your friends describe you and how does that compare with how you would describe yourself?

My friends would describe me as someone who could introduce you to any academic topic. I would describe myself as a down-to-earth realist.

What are your favorite places to go and favorite activities to do?

My favorite place to go is Bay View, MI, where I love to sail! I also enjoy hiking. The last mountain I was able to hike was San Gorgonio, which has an elevation of 11,503 feet! I also enjoy solving Rubik’s Cubes.

What has been your happiest moment to date?

My happiest moment was being re-elected as the president of my high school Science Olympiad team. It was a big deal not just because we achieved our highest placement at the state competition that year, but also because I had never known an autistic person who held a significant leadership position.

What is your favorite book and favorite movie? 

My favorite book is the Grapes of Wrath and my favorite movie is The Godfather.

What is your favorite memory from Hershey?

While I was taking a water quality class at the [Huntsburg Campus] farm, I asked my teacher about whether the treatment pond was filling up with debris over time. In response, she gave me access to a canoe, several feet of string, and a submersible weight to graph the profile of the pond. After comparing the data to that collected ten years ago, we found that the pond hardly changed. The “just go for it” attitude that I gained from that project is something I still carry with me.

What did you like most about Hershey?

I most enjoyed the lesson structure that Hershey Montessori School employed. Hershey helped me to learn by helping me to remember things. I learned by preparing and presenting my work to the whole class.

Who made the biggest impact on you and what was the impact that was made?

The person who made the biggest impact on my life was the principal [program director] at Hershey during my time there. She helped me to keep the fact that I was moving away confidential because I worried that students would treat me differently. Not only was she willing to convince the staff to keep that secret for an entire school year, but she was also willing to help me navigate a successful path onto my next school. The success of that agreement has allowed me to be a secret keeper for topics my friends and family do not want to discuss openly amongst others.

Tell us your favorite quote and your most important life lesson you’d like to share with others.

My favorite quotes is “The best and worst thing you can say to a student is ‘you can do better,'” and my most important life lesson to share is that everyone should live in a different location at least once in their lifetime.


And that is a life lesson that has definitely served you well, Ryan.

It has been great reconnecting with you. We are glad you are doing well. On behalf of your Hershey family, we wish you great, continued success in life and as you complete your Master’s program!


Changing Minds in These Changing Times

Changing Minds in These Changing Times

By Kylie Golden-Appleton, Sophomore, Hershey Montessori School


This past year has been one of much change, both internally and externally, for me, and throughout the world. A growing consciousness of power systems and how they are perpetuated is emerging.

As I entered the Hershey community this year and met new friends, I found a shared interest and calling in exploring these current and historic issues, specifically regarding racism, as a community. Two of these friends, Lucy McNees and Cecilia Carney, and I were particularly inspired by Colorado College’s antiracism initiative. Borrowing from that model, the three of us have worked as co-conspirators with the guidance of Jacqui Miller, Director of Montessori Programming and Operations for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and friend to Hershey, to offer a space for learning and unlearning the truth about racism and equity.

Our Antiracism Initiative offers weekly seminars, programs for significant events and historical dates, and various resources for sharing. This work prompts all of us for personal reflection.

We set up lunch-time seminars, which have created a space for anyone who chooses, students and staff alike, to hold deeper conversations.

Earlier this year, we planned many opportunities for community engagement in honor of Black History Month. The topics of focus were:

  • Why We Have Black History Month
  • Black History in the U.S.
  • African Folklore and Culture
  • History of Medical Racism

Students and guides have gotten involved in various ways, such as doing individual research of specific events and topics, exploring folklore, discussing medical charts, reflecting on the significance of history and how we can carry this energy forward throughout every month.

In March, to honor Women’s History and acknowledge the intersectionality of race and gender, we continued independent research and discussions.

As a book workshop, we are beginning Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist and will meet weekly to process as a group.

I have learned that there is no right way to do this work or right path to take, and it has been beautiful to watch how each individual community member approaches this complex question of how to truly embody Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging in a meaningful, practical way.

There is much work to do to make this intention — antiracism — a reality, and I hope the momentum from this past month can fuel our growth. 


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!




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.




Staff Spotlight: Aaron Miller

Staff Spotlight: Aaron Miller


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:

Aaron Miller


Aaron is from Mentor-on-the-Lake and now resides in Painesville. He attended John Carroll University and Lake Erie College earning a degree in History. He was a two-sport athlete at JCU playing baseball and basketball. Aaron is in his eighteenth year with the United States Coast Guard now serving as a reserve at Station Cleveland Harbor, Ohio.

Aaron was led to Hershey by other staff members whom he admires. Those staff members trusted Aaron and saw the gifts and talents he possesses as traits that would be a great contribution to the Hershey adolescent community. For the past two years Aaron worked part-time at our Middle School teaching Humanities and Physical Expression. This year, he is a full-time guide and classroom assistant at the Middle School. 

Aaron is a valued member of our Hershey family. We invite you to get to know him.


Tell us about your family:

I’m married to Michelle Miller. Our oldest son, Ethan, is 11 years old.  We have nine-year-old twins, Jonathan (Johnny Boy) and Alec. We have a dog named Chewy, a cat named May-May, a Beta fish named Bubbles, and two Hermit crabs.


What brought you to Hershey?

It was my wife, Michelle, and [staff members] Tania and Judy. Once I started working here, I could see really quickly how the environment was positive, open, and exciting. You don’t see that many places, let alone in a school setting.


Aaron Miller engages student in “Rock, Paper, Scissors” during first day of school activities.

What is your favorite Hershey memory?

Personally – getting hired full time.

With the students – challenging them during projects and watching them grow through them. Competing with the students during Physical Expression is one of my favorites each week. The different hikes, playing sports against each other, or building shelters are great. Those activities have already produced so many good memories.

On the farm – working with the animals and working the gardens. Making friends with Clay [the horse] was a great memory; so was the time he almost ran me down. 🙂


What is your favorite place to go?

Caribbean Islands – mainly St. Thomas and St. Johns. Locally, I’d say our fishing cabin in Potter, Pennsylvania.


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

I like to play sports with my boys, and socialize with family and friends as much as possible.


Little known fact?

I like taking care of plants, growing herbs, and bird watching/identifying.


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

My parents, my coaches, my friends and family …  they are all different but surrounding myself with positive people has always worked best for me.


What is your favorite book?

In the Heart of the Sea by Nathanial Philbrick.


What is your favorite quote?

The success you’ve had in the past doesn’t mean anything tomorrow.


What is your favorite movie?

A Few Good Men, Caddieshack, and Forrest Gump.


How would your friends and family describe you?

Active, spontaneous, sarcastic, a dreamer, a person who does not like the cold, and belongs on the water or at a beach.


How would you describe yourself?

A big thinker, traveler, and never at rest with ideas.


What is your happiest moment?

Holding my oldest son for the first time.


Aaron Miller guides student instruction during outdoor classroom time.


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

Success comes from dedicated work. Even though our country seems in chaos, it’s still one of the best places to live on this beautiful planet Earth. I had an admiral tell me when you live in other countries half your life, you realize how much America is like staying at The Ritz.


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

No matter how bad something seems in the moment, the sun will rise tomorrow, and you get to start all over again.


Thank you for your work and dedication, Aaron. We appreciate all you do and the energy you bring to our community. We are happy to know you – and to now know you even better!


Our Need for Community

Our Need for Community

By Judy Kline-Venaleck, Associate Head of School and Huntsburg Campus Director

Community ... it is a word with great reverence in the Montessori world, and it is one that has surfaced recently as the coronavirus has overtaken our global community.

As we have turned the corner into 2021, we need to continue to seek the silver linings of living through this tumultuous time. We need one another — it is just that simple. Our community shapes who we are and has the amazing ability to either lift us up or break us down.

Dr. Montessori, in her many writings and lectures, speaks eloquently about community. She consistently championed the right of each child to be treated as an individual and fought against the social norms of her time. Living through these days and months of isolation and reflection, many are seeking how to deepen their sense of community.

Paul Born, who has written extensively about deepening community, states that there are four acts of community life: sharing our stories, taking the time to enjoy one another, taking care of one another and working together for a better world. May we all continue to share, enjoy, care and work together for a future filled with peace.

When Planets and People Align

When Planets and People Align

(Photo Credit: Ehsan Sanaei)

By Deanna Meadows-Shrum, Hershey Montessori School Marketing & Communications Director


We are in a season in which social distance is not only recommended, but for many, a requirement. We have spent most of the last year physically distanced from our students, our colleagues, our friends, and even from much of our family. However, this is 2020, and it seems that anything is possible – the sky is the limit, so to speak – and it is exactly in the sky where, through the month of December, we will see two rebel planets appearing to defy their own social distance norm. Yes, although Saturn and Jupiter began appearing closer to each other this past summer, beginning mid-December, the proximity of these two rebel planets will greatly narrow and cause a spectacle you don’t want to miss.

On December 21st, these two giant planets will appear just a tenth of a degree apart, which NASA describes as “about the thickness of a dime held at arm’s length”! NASA goes on to explain that the two planets and their moons will be visible in the same field of view through binoculars or a small telescope.

Saturn and Jupiter are actually separated by more than 400 million miles, but in the night sky, they will appear closer than what has been seen in centuries. They will appear to touch and form one large, bright and brilliant star in the sky. This alignment is known to astronomers as a “great conjunction”.

Astronomers tell us that the last time Jupiter and Saturn were this close to each other was in July 1623. A conjunction also took place in 2000, but it was hard to recognize. A closer alignment between these two planets hasn’t been seen since March 4, 1226.

Interestingly, some are saying a holiday connection is also at work. Some astronomers have postulated that in Christianity, the Star of Bethlehem, said to have guided three wise men to the birth of Jesus Christ, was a conjunction like the one set to appear later this month — although no one can say which planets may have been involved.

In true 2020 fashion, isn’t it curious that we will see this historically close alignment of two planets, creating the appearance of the most brilliantly illuminated star seen in centuries? And, it is all happening on December 21st, which is the winter solstice, also known as the darkest day of the year!

Maybe this cosmic event is merely a celestial coincidence, but after all the world has experienced this year, it serves as a great reminder that light does overcome darkness and hope dispels discouragement. And like these two planets, our Hershey community aligns its light of hope for humanity and a better future to illuminate encouragement and inspiration to others.

I am ever so grateful for the light that shines through our Hershey staff, students, and families. May we all continue to shine brightly throughout this holiday season and beyond!


Note to fellow stargazers: the best viewing is said to take place in the southwestern sky 45 minutes after sunset on December 21st.




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.