On June 26 and 27, 2015, 75 Montessori teachers, administrators, researchers, and advocates from across the country convened on the tranquil campus of Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah. This diverse group of dedicated individuals gathered for Montessori for Social Justice’s second annual Public Montessori Unconference, which was hosted by Westminster’s Institute of Montessori Innovation. Based on participant input and expertise, 16 workshops were conducted on topics ranging from culturally responsive teaching to how to start your own school, as well as a day-long NCMPS workshop on Montessori and Assessment.
I feel extremely grateful that I was able to make the journey from my home in Raleigh, North Carolina to be part of this event. I am an African-American, AMS-certified primary teacher with a background in traditional, private Montessori schools. I came to the Unconference because my heart’s desire is to bring Montessori education to underserved communities, and my dream since adolescence has been to open a school in the inner city. I hoped to be inspired and educated by this unique gathering of like-minded Montessorians, and I was not disappointed.
This weekend in Salt Lake City proved to be transformational for me as I listened to and observed this incredible group of passionate, pioneering educators and advocates who freely and eagerly shared their success stories and struggles, their questions and concerns. In one workshop, I watched as the director of a soon-to-be-opened inner-city public charter school received valuable advice from colleagues. In another session, I witnessed special education teachers generously sharing some of their hard-earned insights and tools. In other settings, I was challenged by dialogue between African-American, Latino-American, Native American, and White Montessorians on social justice issues.
I also discovered that every school represented, whether public or non-profit, has its own fascinating developmental path, and every conference participant has a unique story. I was amazed and inspired by the stories I heard of courageous Montessori teachers starting schools in the basements of homes and churches, or of groups of discontented parents and teachers successfully creating charter schools in their communities. Here in this gathering my ambition was not a pipe dream but an attainable goal, not unusual but necessary. I realized that I had just become a privileged member of a growing movement to make Montessori education accessible to all.Share This: