VMS in the News
VMS Teacher published in Montessori Life
– Fall 2015 Issue
The Joy of Our Journey
By Suzanne Bayer
When I became a Montessori Primary directress over 25 years ago, I was so excited to work with young children and certain that I would have moments of tremendous satisfaction as I guided these children to the wonders of knowledge. When I read “This is education, understood as a help to life; an education from birth, which feeds a peaceful revolution and unites all in a common aim, attracting them as a single centre” in The Absorbent Mind, I knew that I had truly chosen a unique path in education. What I didn’t know at that time was that I was the one who would grow, change, and be filled with awe, wonder and absolute joy. This journey becomes a way of life—and we get to start fresh at the beginning of every school year. And just like the children, we get to learn from our mistakes.
Before stepping foot in the classroom, new Montessori teachers complete an intense period of preparation. They learn the practical matters of setting up a classroom, create numerous albums from which they will never be parted, and study Montessori’s inspirational teachings.
I was no different. Once I set up my first classroom many years ago, I was ready to teach. But I felt uncertain about a few things. The idea of meeting, partnering with, and remembering the names of all of the parents was a bit unsettling. I had no idea about the amount of time that I would spend creating new materials (and started to see everything with an eye toward creating new materials). And I wondered about two terms: “false fatigue” and “normalization”, which I had been assured I would recognize. In the end, I did not remember every parent’s name, but I was moved to tears on the day that I realized I did have a “normalized” classroom. It was as if the children did not need me to be present; they were totally involved in their own learning! My journey was underway.
An experienced Montessori teacher has the confidence that, regardless of students entering the classroom each fall, there will be normalization. She (or he) knows that the classroom set up should have a particular flow in order for calm movement of students. She takes note to remember the names of families, and makes notations on the progress of each student. She easily and successfully encourages the children to try new material. She is able to make connections with each of her students, no matter their skill level. Years of shared learning with other teachers inspires her to take on new projects—maybe yoga, or cooking, or environmental work. Emily Fisher, a Middle School teacher at Valley Montessori School in Livermore, CA, has developed a sewing and recycling curriculum that draws on her passion for sewing. The students create clothing, fit for a fashion show, from recycled items.
The experienced teacher finds great satisfaction in working with students and continues her journey by mentoring other teachers, parents, or individuals entering Montessori studies. Toddler teacher Vicki Sartori, also from Valley Montessori School, regularly teaches a “Mommy and Me” class for parents of infants. Vicki finds it as satisfying as her work in the Toddler classroom, and the community’s response is enthusiastic. These adult students and parents will become friends and partners in Montessori education.
Our Montessori journey is affected first by our early studies and initial experiences. As we become more confident, we enrich our classrooms, presentations, and studies. Experienced teachers exude grace and courtesy, sure that Montessori is the right choice for them. And the mentor teacher invites others to join the journey. The joy, awe, and wonder of the Montessori journey is still vibrant for me 25 years in, just as it is for the leagues of Montessori teachers, whether they have much experience under their belts, or are joyfully beginning their first year of teaching. To us all—enjoy the journey!
SUZANNE BAYER is chair of the Teachers Section of the AMS Board, and Middle School program coordinator and teacher at Valley Montessori School in Livermore, CA. She is AMS-credentialed (Early Childhood).
VMS Announces New Head of School, Ann Clark
– July 1, 2015
With the retirement of Roz Hamar on July 1st, Ann Clark was appointed by the Valley Montessori School Board of Trustees in Livermore to become the school’s fourth Head of School.
The state-of-the-art VMS campus is perched on a hill overlooking the Tri-Valley and is host to more than 400 students ranging from toddlers to 8th grade. VMS was founded in 1976 by Beth Marshall and subsequently grew under the direction of Mary Ellen Kordas. Currently, with a staff of 70 teachers and administrators, it is the largest not-for-profit, and only triple accredited, Montessori school in California—American Montessori Society (AMS), California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) and the Western Association of Schools & Colleges (WASC).
For the past 30 years, Ms. Clark has served Valley Montessori School and its students in a wide range of capacities, including: primary and toddler teacher, Director of Early Childhood Education, Parent Relations, Student Services, as a member of the governing Board of Trustees, and since 2010, as Associate Head of School.
Through her vision and leadership, Ann led the accreditation effort with AMS, CAIS and WASC, thereby enabling Valley Montessori School to become the first school in California to earn a triple accreditation. She established the campus Edible Schoolyard, the Harvest Festival, the Environmental Sustainability Program, and the Journey & Discovery seminars.
Ms. Clark was raised in Livermore and graduated from Livermore High School. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development from Chico State University, and her Master of Education degree from the College of Notre Dame. She is credentialed in Montessori Primary Education and Montessori School Administration, has served as a lecturer in Montessori education and administration at the College of New Rochelle, New York, and continues to teach at St. Mary’s College in Moraga. In addition, she has served on the national accreditation team for the American Montessori Society (AMS).
“I love coming to work each day,” she says. “I’m greeted first by the stunning beauty of our campus, and thereafter by the inspiration of kind and respectful teachers, and the infectious, intellectual curiosity of our self-confident and eager students.”
Ms. Clark is proud to continue the tradition of VMS in fostering independence, self-discipline and unmatched creativity in its students. “Ours is an authentic Montessori education,” she says. “We have so much to be proud of.”
And it is with pride that she points to the time-tested effectiveness of a Montessori education, which has produced such distinguished alumni as Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, Eric Cornell, PhD, Nobel prize winner, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, co-founders of Google, author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, former first lady Jacqueline Kennedy, actors Helen Hunt and George Clooney, Prince William and Harry, and Golden State Warriors star, Stephen Curry.
“It is such an honor to be a part of inspiring this kind of success in our students,” Ms. Clark says. “The future for these children burns intensely bright. And in the short time we have to kindle a life-long love of learning, I make it a point to pause each day, to share their love, to listen and laugh. They are such a gift to us all.”
VMS Teachers and Student Published in Montessori Life Magazine – September 2014
VMS Elementary teacher Jody Cambra and Upper Elementary student Mia Aquilina were featured on the cover of the Fall 2014 edition of Montessori Life Magazine (above). Suzanne Bayer, Middle School program coordinator, teacher and chair of the Teachers Section of the AMS Board also has an article published in this edition. Click here to read her article about Montessori in action here in the VMS Middle School, titled “All the World’s a Stage!”
“It’s not about the final production itself…but about the confidence of the students to create, solve problems, and do meaningful work.” Suzanne Bayer
Valley Montessori School Receives Three Way Accreditation – August 2014
We are proud to announce that Valley Montessori School has received official confirmation from the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS), the American Montessori Society (AMS), and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) that we received an accreditation term of seven years (the maximum) from all of them. This makes us the first and only California school to receive a three way accreditation from these respected agencies!
Our edible schoolyard was mentioned in the “AMS Connection” section of Montessori Life on page 13.
Valley Montessori School Brings Inspiration to Livermore through TEDxLivermore – June 2013
On June 8, 2013, we were very proud to be lead organizers for TEDx Livermore at Las Positas College. Thanks to the support of many sponsors, including our lead donors Fremont Bank, Safeway, Courtyard Marriott Livermore and Workday, we brought this world-class conference to Livermore. With a theme of Creating our Future: Innovate and Educate, we showcased Valley Montessori School as a thought leader in the region, and provided a wonderful professional development opportunity for a large number of our teachers and administrators. It is important for members of any institution that values life-long learning, to get outside “the box” and see what cutting edge educators and innovators are thinking and creating! To learn more about this incredible event visit www.TEDxLivermore.com.
Valley Montessori School has been formally accepted as a provisional member by the California Association of Independent Schools (CAIS) – February 2012
This was a wonderful step for VMS because it signifies that we are institutionally strong and “accreditation worthy” in the world of independent schools beyond AMS & WASC. It has provided us access to a wealth of resources and support that have strengthened our school. If you want a more detailed sense of CAIS, we invite you to check out their website at www.caisca.org.
Montessori conference features re-creation of ‘Glass Classroom,’ with children on display as they learn
by Theresa Harrington, Contra Costa Times – March 14, 2012
Innovative people who were educated in Montessori schools could comprise a list of Who’s Who in today’s society, such as cellist Yo-Yo Ma and country-pop singer Taylor Swift.
Dubbed the “Montessori Mafia” by The Wall Street Journal last year, the list of former students also includes Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, the late chef Julia Child, rapper Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Will Wright, a video game pioneer.
“The Montessori method,” created by Dr. Maria Montessori more than a century ago, fosters creativity and encourages students to decide for themselves what they want to pursue, with guidance from teachers, educators say.
“A child is inspired to learn in an environment that promotes the ability to focus and concentrate,” said Ann Clark, associate head of the Valley Montessori School in Livermore. “There is not a cap for learning.”…
Ann Clark Discusses Montessori and the Upcoming AMS Conference on CBS 5 Bay Sunday
CBS 5 Bay Sunday television show invited Ann Clark, Associate Head of Valley Montessori School and Alyssa Moore AMS Board member and co-chair for the upcoming AMS conference to join their local news talk show to discuss the upcoming Montessori demonstration classroom and national Montessori conference that took place March 15-18, 2012 in San Francisco.
Giving Thanks by Getting Involved – VMS hosts Basket Brigade
Livermore Patch Article – November 2011