Message from Anne-Marie Fenn, Former School Head, Faculty Member and Parent
I was in awe of what was in front of me at that classroom observation.
I kept looking for the teacher – where was she? Well, she was on the floor doing “something with wooden cards” on a little rug with a child. It seemed that every little person knew what was going on or was involved in something interesting. I recall thinking, “How does this all work? Where are ‘the controls’? Am I the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on?”
When I met afterwards with the Head of The Montessori School of Northwestern Connecticut, Jean Van Dyck, I asked her if she realized what was going on in that room. I recall telling her that it was like looking into a bee hive. There was a lovely constant hum; the children were engaged in a variety of activities, seemingly without adult direction, and doing so with a look of enjoyment, determination and concentration. She smiled, agreed and assured me that she was well aware of what was going on in there. I was hooked and driven to learn more. We enrolled Eileen; she was joined the following year by her sister, Kathleen, and the car pool was rolling. At that time, Colin and Kara were still just twinkling star dust!
I attended every parent education offering and began to read Dr. Montessori’s books. I was quite intrigued and- in awe- with the depth of vision and understanding that Dr. Montessori had for human development and methods of learning. The adults would maintain quiet yet confident composure guiding the classroom. This was not the kind of educational setting or reasoning that I had experienced.
I decided that I needed to obtain Montessori credentials and did so in 1990. Montessori training was a cathartic and humbling experience. The process created perceptual changes and presented challenges that tested my heretofore conventional educational practice and thinking. It was life changing.
I truly enjoyed my initial introduction and mentorship as a Montessori Directress as well as the subsequent six years of directing the school’s satellite Children’s House classroom in Watertown. I joined the main campus when the lease for the satellite classroom expired and continued to serve children and support families.
There are so many subtleties and nuances in this practice and I was able to witness many tender, delightful moments of discovery as well as provide guidance to children with everyday encounters. I hold in my heart and mind treasured and delightful memories and special times I experienced as a Children’s House Directress with children, parents, grandparents, faculty members, Board members, and the extraordinary connection LMS had throughout the Montessori community.
When I was asked to assume school leadership in the fall of 2000, I recall reviewing a document Mary Loyer contributed for the archives of the Oliver Wolcott Library in Litchfield, CT. I returned to it many times over my years of school leadership; it offers a peek at the intention, the determination and courage as well as the resiliency Mary had in her efforts to establish and maintain an independent Montessori school.
In that manuscript, Mary shared her reaction to her first viewing of a Montessori prepared environment. She experienced what I believe could be called the “Montessori lightning bolt.” Of course she wanted this educational approach for her own children; she also wanted Montessori education to be available for more and more families – for ALL children. Those energies continue to be LMS’ story at its 40th anniversary.
In that spirit, I graciously salute each and every head of school that has preceded me. I very quickly realized it was not an easy task to lead a small independent Montessori school but what an honor and privilege it was for me to do so and to become the School’s longest serving administrator.
During the past ten years of my school leadership, I was very grateful and fortunate to have the support of dedicated Board members; without their trust and backing LMS would have never been able to realize the development and expansion of programing that now serves the developmental needs for the Toddler and Early Adolescents.
What does one do after a long life at LMS? Well, I was intrigued with Montessori’s vision and conceptual ideas for land based adolescent education (the Erdkinder) that serves the 12 – 15 year old ever since I first heard the concept presented in detail in 1990 at a NAMTA conference held at the Wisdom House in Litchfield.
Inspired with the inception of a land based Montessori Adolescent program for LMS’s families at Caren Ross’ Millstream Farm and wanting to know more, I stepped away from my head of school desk in June 2011, packed my bags and books and drove off to Cleveland, Ohio for the AMI/NAMTA Adolescent training. I engaged in study and work with an international gathering of teachers at the Hersey Farm School and at the Montessori High School on the campus of Case Western Reserve University. LMS is quite fortunate to be in the forefront of an international movement to provide and practice Montessori’s land based Adolescent education.
Additional study in beekeeping, earning the Master Gardener certification and completing the Great Books training have kept me quite engaged; all are seemingly extensions of Montessori’s botany, entomology, horticultural and literature studies. Of course, I took advantage of the opportunity to share Montessori’s education for life approach with a broader audience and I never hesitate to do so! I continue to facilitate parent and teacher support workshops as a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and Teacher Facilitator; this particular program complements Montessori education while providing very practical, respectful support skills and behavior options.
I recently responded to a request to co-chair Connecticut’s efforts in the national project for Montessori advocacy. Connecticut is one of the six pilot states selected for this significant initiative, a result of the collaborative efforts between American Montessori Society (AMS) and Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). The efforts will create one voice for the promotion and practice of Montessori education, bring high quality Montessori education to more children as well as place the practice in the forefront of the educational reform debate. Exciting times for all those who appreciate and support Montessori education!
I wonder if Mary Loyer realized what she put into play when she started a Montessori school. No matter how many school name changes have occurred over the years, the echoes of Mary’s original intentions reverberate with this special milestone anniversary. I wish my successor, Paul Horovitz, the best as he continues to carry the torch that Mary ignited over 40 years ago.
Congratulations and best wishes to you all as you continue your journey…into the 21st century!
Above, Ann-Marie (R) is pictured with Angeline Lillard,PhD (L), author of 'The Science Behind the Genius', and a photo of her first year teaching at the Watertown satellite classroom. She is pictured on the left and her daughter, Kara, is the third child to her left.