AMS Conference Recap

Thoughts from our Teachers

Teacher Reflections: AMS Conference

Over our Spring Break our Head of School, Kate Riley, and many of our teachers went to the American Montessori Society's annual conference in Dallas, Texas. This is always an incredible time of enrichment, inspiration, and equipping for Montessori educators and we are so glad that we are able to continually offer this opportunity to our teaching staff. We asked our teachers who were able to attend to share their favorite moments from the conference with us.

Kate Riley - Head of School

I want to start by saying how thankful I am that we as a school are able to attend the AMS conference each year. We are so fortunate to take these precious funds and travel to cities around the country to hear from and be with such amazing Montessorians. I challenge each of you as a parent to read the work of Temple Grandin and Andrew Solomon. We were so lucky to see each of these amazing human beings speak as the two keynote speakers of the conference. What a treasure that I will never forget.

The work of these very different individuals is mirrored so beautifully in our Montessori environments. It is so inspiring to be part of a movement that is truly picking up steam in the 21st century, although its inception was over 100 years ago! Parents and educators alike, we are all on the cutting edge of education and truly part of something amazing in the Montessori movement. What a gift we have to offer our children.

There are so many moments from the conference that inspired me as a parent, as a teacher and as a head of school, but I will close with a quote from keynote speaker Andrew Solomon: "Our difference is what unites us!" I could not say it better for our educational pedagogy, our school and our HTM community. Thank you for being part of a special place where we truly see our differences as our strength.

Heather Dennis - Toddler Community Lead Teacher

I had a wonderful time at our conference this year! Most of the workshops I attended were geared to Infants and Toddlers. One workshop was called "Toddlerhood: The First Adolescence." I found the similarity between a toddler and adolescent to be fascinating. The presenter for this workshop, Susan Tracey McDaniel, listed the similarities between these two planes of development: In both, children have a bad reputation, are adjusting to new changing body, experience rapid growth, are curious explorers, are self-centered, are active learners, are rebellious, asserting independence, acting grown up, and have a need to belong. Anyone who has been around me will know I tend to say “nip this (behavior) now, so when the stakes are higher you are not negotiating boundaries with your teen.” This concept was reinforced over and over during this workshop.

Another workshop that I found to be very exciting was "Connecting Brain Research to Montessori Practice in Infant & Toddler Environments." So much of what Dr. Montessori said 100 years ago is currently being researched and validated. When we start to understand how the brains of infants and toddlers function and grow, it directly impacts how we design their environment and the ways in which we as adults interact with them.

I walked away with many names to look up and studies to read. But one study that that was highlighted focused on infants being able to see another person’s perspective. This study by Alison Gopnik, PH.D questioned if children could identify another persons preference. After modeling a preference of broccoli over goldfish the researcher would ask the child, “please give me the one I like.” The infant at 16 months would offer the researcher goldfish (the preferred choice by the child). When the child is brought back again at 18 month and the activity was repeated the children would offer the researcher broccoli. This speaks volumes to how observant and aware these youngest children are!

The take-away message of the entire conference to me was that each child is an individual who deserves to be held in the highest regard. With a nurturing and supportive environment, every child is capable of changing the world! We just have to stop and listen to them!

KaToya Jackson - Primary A Lead Teacher

My favorite workshop from the conference was called "Being Fully Present," and the speaker talked about being fully present while in the class with the children. Being present in the lesson, being present while they share special stories with you, and most importantly being present during your observations of the child's emotional and academic progress. The instructor spoke about taking every moment to enjoy the child and your class; knowing that not every good moment will last and that every bad moment will pass.

I loved this conference because it brought me back to when I first started teaching--the innocence of it all. Coming back to school after Spring break felt like a new beginning for me and kids. We have shared in so many great moments together. I love hearing their stories and taking a moment to step back and observe all that they have accomplished since the beginning of the year. I love to experience the pure joy on their faces when we are in a lesson together and they discover something new. It's an indescribable feeling. I love every moment with these kids, and I am committed to being fully present for them.

Molly Selby - Primary A Co-Teacher

One of my favorite sessions at the AMS conference was about connection and transformation. The instructors talked about the importance of connecting with oneself, with the materials, and with the child, and about the transformation that takes place when this connection is established and maintained. The instructors reminded us that the Montessori classroom is an “immersion experience in humanity.” They reminded us that we are modeling to the child what it means to be human.

The idea of being a good example is, of course, not a foreign one. But, this idea of modeling what it means to be human took “being a good example” to a whole new level of importance. As Montessorians, we know that our task is not merely to educate the child academically, but to educate the whole child, and act as a guide as each child discovers who they are as individuals. The instructors in this session did a wonderful job reminding us of this task and gave us practical suggestions to better serve the child, the classroom, and ourselves.

Cara Erbe - Primary B Lead Teacher

This years conference was full of wonderful sessions that discussed many aspects of the Montessori method: research, mathematics, language, music, art, etc. I left feeling invigorated and with a sense of excitement to get back into the classroom with the children.

I was fascinated with each of the sessions I attended, however I was the most excited to hear the keynote speaker, Temple Grandin. She gave an inspiring lecture about growing up with autism and how, with the help of those closest to her, she was able to discover her talents and use them to become a doctor of animal science, an engineer, a professor at Colorado State University, an autism activist and a best-selling author. She believes that every child can be highly successful when their interests are fostered and they are taught the skills to turn their passions into careers. Her ideas resonate with me as a teacher and a parent, and reiterate the importance of exposing our children to as many different experiences as we can. You never know what their talents may be!

Priscilla Arjes - Primary B Co-Teacher

It's always a privilege to hear so many experienced Montessorians share their teaching techniques and experiences. I was able to come away from this years conference feeling refreshed and with many new ideas to implement in my own work as a Montessori teacher.

It was so great to be able to choose from a variety of sessions, each covering a different topic. By the end of one session I left singing some new songs to share in group. Another session challenged me to be less connected to my phone/social media in efforts to be more present and aware of people and the things happening around me.

The session I most enjoyed gave me 10 tips to improve my classroom practices. In this session the instructor spoke much about the importance of the role of the "prepared adult" within a Montessori environment. While much of the information covered were things I had heard before, I felt inspired after going through each tip with our speaker. She reminded me that one of the best parts of our jobs as Montessorians is that we get to "enchant and charm" the children every day! In other words; we get to create the most ideal environment with beautiful materials and intriguing lessons so that the children WANT to come to school every day. When the teacher exhibits such love and respect for the children, the materials and the lessons, the children in return will display that same love and respect towards their teacher and their classroom environment! I left this session feeling very proud and very thankful. I am so proud to be a part of Holy Trinity Montessori where we can put these tools to use every day. I am so thankful to each and every family that allows us to "charm and enchant" your children each day, because without your children our work would be nothing!

Jaime Moran - Support Teacher

First, I want to thank Kate for making our continued education a priority. We would not have been able to go without her efforts to make it happen. I know all the teachers came back refreshed and newly motivated with ideas for teaching and guiding in the classroom.

The sessions I enjoyed were actually for the Lower Elementary environment. I was able, in my first session, to learn in-depth about The First Great Lesson: The History of the Universe. Not only did I learn how to present key facts, but I also got to participate in an open discussion on how the lesson can translate into many different works on the shelf. It's very clear to me now how privileged we are at Holy Trinity Montessori to be shown both the scientific and the Catachesis model for creation. It teaches the children, yet again, how to see and accept different points of view.

I also attended a math presentation about algebra and geometry. It was remarkable how we can see physical representations of multiplication, square roots, and cubing by using materials such as the stamp game and decanomial cube. There should be no fear of Montessori failing to produce memorization. The work has so much repetition and the repetition occurs very naturally as the work is completed. Since it includes the child's understanding, it will encourage life-long memorization. I wish I had seen this in my traditional education, as it would have made every math class easier and more ENJOYABLE! It was truly fascinating.