International Montessori
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Words from Graduates

Here are a few words from Joen Bettmann's graduates from Cleveland, Ohio and Atlanta, Georgia. Frequent comments from graduates reflect the personal attention and playful yet intimate atmosphere in her training courses.

Video: Alefiya talks about what Montessori has meant in her life (2:06)
Special section: Men who have chosen Primary training

"My training helped form my adult life. I gained a new perspective on my self and the world in which we live. Joen's patient, stimulating, caring instruction and example have been a huge influence on my ways in the world. I felt very prepared for working with children in the classroom, but also empowered as an individual. That year of training was invaluable to me, certainly as a teacher and now as a parent, but further, as a person."
—Jennifer Shields, a graduate of the first OMTI academic-year course, taught for many years in the Washington, DC area. She is now an AMI Primary Trainer.

"I have no doubt that Joen Bettmann’s influence has affected the lives of many children, both directly and indirectly. Her kindness, compassion and love of humanity are gifts to all under her tutelage. As a student of Joen’s I felt lucky to be able to share these gifts. Her commitment to the Montessori principles and pedagogy were passed on to her students with great joy, humour, wit and wisdom."
—Catherine Moore was a Montessori directress for many years at The Maria Montessori School, Toronto.

"Looking back in retrospect, nothing can ‘prepare’ you for your first year teaching in a Montessori classroom. Each person must grow and develop, just like the children, into the person and teacher they ultimately become. The training left me with an in-depth understanding of Montessori theory and philosophy, and the importance of respect and trust in the natural ability of all children. The base of my understanding of child development is always the driving force for me to improve myself, and therefore improve my ability to help children. Thanks Joen."
—Joe DiCarlo went to a Montessori school as a child. After OMTI training and a number of years as a Primary teacher, Joe took the AMI elementary training, and is now an administrator in the Milwaukee Public Montessori Schools. He is married to another OMTI graduate!

"I missed my family a whole lot but my classmates were always there and they always supported me. I remember watching movies with them, going for coffee at that great coffee place near the training center and just meeting them and becoming really good friends! I'm so happy that I'm still in touch with some of them through air and e-mail.
    "It was a rich experience because I was able to meet and learn about people from different parts of the States and even the world. I had classmates who were also from the Philippines, and from Brazil and Korea as well. We were able to share so many things about our countries and our culture but mostly we were able to share ourselves.
    "Joining the training then made me realize that I could do so many things that I've never thought I could do before. Things like being independent and interdependent. I also realized that I could draw [due to the assigned] illustrations for my albums."

—Anna Tupas is from the Philippines, where she realized her dream of owning her own Montessori school.

"When I first took Montessori training with Joen, I had no idea what a lifelong pursuit and devotion it would become. At the time, my own children were 5 and 2, and my training helped me to appreciate the unfolding of their development in a unique and insightful way. As they grew, so did my own work in Montessori, and I eventually took the AMI elementary training, worked in a 9-12 class, started a middle school program, and am now involved in a Montessori Farm School for adolescents. The training I began with Joen inspired me, challenged me, and gave me hope that real reform in education is possible. This is beautiful, powerful work. Thoughtful, devoted, remarkable people are drawn to it. And it supports the growth of children in a way that no other pedagogy I have seen comes close to."
—Laurie Ewert-Krocker, a Montessori parent, works with 12- to 15-year-olds. She and her colleagues have been asked to speak nationally, while working regionally with adolescents, as they participate in the Erdkinder/Montessori farm school in Ohio.

“As a Montessori child, I can’t help but remember the joy that came from learning. It was fun. Learning was always fun; it was exciting and I could never wait for that next lesson that I was going to be given or that next experience that I was going to have. I read encyclopedias when I was little because I wanted to know everything that was in there and I think that joy for learning, it stays with you. I feel like Montessori actually creates in a child that desire to learn more, constantly, and it never really goes away. To be able to return as an adult and allow other children to have that same experience, I feel every child should have that experience. But I know that at least as a guide I can provide that to whatever children are given to me.”
—Kamilah Scales, former Montessori child, currently teaches in a Primary environment in Atlanta.

“I saw a totally different philosophy from my education classes in college, and I wanted to be a part of that. And now that I’ve taken the training, I love it even more and think that it’s a way to change the world, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
    "The children in the Montessori classroom were happy, they were healthy, they loved learning. They weren’t hindered from making their own progress and unfortunately, in traditional schools, there were just a lot of rules and a lot of children sitting at desks all day who would get in trouble for moving and for speaking, and they didn’t have the spark and the love of learning that I saw in the Montessori children.
    "And what brought me to this course was the Master’s degree. I had planned to go to Baltimore but when I saw on their website that it came here, that’s what brought me here.”

—Christine Thompson transitioned from traditional education to Montessori education. She now works in an Atlanta-area Montessori school.

“I’ve found the friendships that I’ve made here and the experience of working with such a diverse group of people to be incredibly enriching on a personal level because every person that is drawn to this course has an inner passion. Also the administrators on the course and Joen the trainer and Connie our course assistant live with the deeply felt passion that can sometimes get lost in our culture. And so, we’ve been lucky to be surrounded by 27 people filled with that fire and I think that it’s spread between us and now as we graduate and move on, and start the sharing of this work with others, we’ll take it with us.”
—Natalie London, from Austin, Texas, is a former Montessori child. After training, Natalie returned to Texas to teach in a Montessori school.

“I chose Montessori because I worked as an assistant in a Montessori class and I was always struck by the poise and integrity of all of the Montessori guides that I was able to work with. And I came to this course hoping not only that I would learn the practical side of things and how to teach and work with children, or guide children, but also to bring about a change in myself and hopefully embody that integrity and that poise that I saw in my co-workers. It’s also very different being a male in this course but I would encourage any man who has the strength to do it, to do it.”
—Peter Ferrari first found Montessori as a child. He returned to the same All-Day environment where he formerly served as an assistant.

“I chose to study Montessori as a second career choice. I had already received my undergrad in geography and had a pretty good career path with that with map-making but I knew that my place was really with children in some capacity. But I’d always struggled with conventional education. I first heard about Montessori in India about 10 years ago. When I finally decided that was the path for me, it didn’t take long to discover that AMI was really the best route to go on as far as just what’s involved with album writing, and material making, and just really in-depth learning about this whole process.”
—Laurie Orso is currently teaching in California in a Montessori school.

“I used to be an engineer and I worked at NASA. And I was really feeling unfulfilled by my job and one day I met somebody who introduced me to the concept of Montessori and I was totally amazed. And the very next day I called Joen, and I said, ‘tell me more about this and how can I sign up?’ So, after talking to Joen I saw that I really wanted to come to the International Montessori Training Institute because she has a combination of quiet wisdom, or gentle wisdom, along with a real passion for what she’s doing. So I wanted to have that embodied in my training and also be able to embody that myself. So that’s why I chose to come to Atlanta versus any of the other training centers in the United States.”
—Jennifer Cerny teaches Primary children in South Carolina.

Men Who Have Chosen Primary Training

"As a young man just out of school I never would have imagined my career path leading me to a classroom full of young children. Now, ten years into this work, I am amazed at how satisfying my career has become. I strongly encourage more men to pursue work in early childhood education. The parents I work with are pleased to have their children under my care and guidance, particularly for children who do not otherwise have nurturing, meaningful relationships with adult men. I believe it is important for children to see more men in non-traditional roles. I find my work with young children and their families incredibly enriching and rewarding. It's hard work and I am challenged daily, but I also smile and laugh more than I ever have in any other job. And really, where else do you get to sing and dance every day?"
—Doug Vanneste

"What can I say to capture the truth of all I have gained in my life from being an early childhood / children’s house teacher. I look at the 30 + years that I spent in the classroom and realize that I am smiling. At almost 70 years of age, I still cannot go for a walk with out singing our circle songs or pass a low wall with out walking on the balance beam. Hugging and holding hands are still my preferred way of being with friends. I believe that my life, my children’s lives and now my children’s children’s lives are so much richer because I followed my heart and became an Early Childhood / Montessori teacher back in 1971."
—Tim Souers

"As a man who was a Children’s House Director for 22 years, I found the opportunity to show the children what it means to be a 'gentle man.'” 
—Frank Gess

"My first Montessori training experience started in Denver with the Assistants to Infancy course in Denver. In one of the many lectures delivered at the very beginning, the trainer quoted Maria Montessori and stated that a Montessori Guide needs to be poised, beautiful and lightly scented. I opposed very promptly. Yes, indeed, many would think that this is a profession of the 'female species' Later, I received my training with Joen in Cleveland and I was accompanied with the only other 'male' member, which was a little bit more than the Denver course where I was all alone as the 'male' there.
    "The biases against men being in the child development profession are not solely found in the Montessori community but in all early child development, in particular education to children under the age of six. Interestingly, most of the biases come from the male dominated society.
    "Personally, after so many years of working in the Montessori field with children under the age of six, I found that it is important to have all genders and sexual preferences in this profession because it would enhance the integration of the cultures and bring social cohesion to the world. The best way to get rid of the bias is to get to know it first. Once you are in the Montessori profession, you might understand better that it is not 'a kind of education' per se but a 'movement for peace' and thus no more fears when facing confrontational and biased attitudes." 
—Jack Yu

"I took Primary training at Montessori Institute of Atlanta in 2010-2011. Before I started the training program, I have worked in early childhood education for 22 years and owned two kindergartens in Taiwan.
   "I would love to share my experience to work with children of age 3-6. In our Montessori school, we followed the philosophy of Maria Montessori and natural laws of children’s development. I had seen lots of examples that children grew from new comers to be familiarized learners. They had stable progress in confidence, independence, concentration, order and problem solving every semester.
    "To be a male Montessori teacher, I was lucky to grow together with my three children in Montessori education. I have transcended the traditional idea that men were not suitable to be a teacher. We all know that it was the biases and misconceptions in our society for many years, and caused the men would be afraid to work in early childhood.
    "Honestly, I like to let you know it was a very meaningful work to be the only male teacher in kindergarten. Most of the time I was identified as the role model of children’s father and resolve the difficulties. Male teachers would be more logical thinking and rational thinking, and they can help the maintenance of the equipment. After implementation of Montessori education for a long period of time, I want a better understanding of what part I ignored or didn’t do the right.
    "This is the most important goal why I took Montessori primary training."
—Yung-Hsin Wang

"When I first started my career as an assistant [in a public school], the principal of that school basically told me that she thought that men had no business in the primary classroom.  Needless to say, I did not return to that school and started working for the Montessori School at Holy Rosary [after taking AMI primary training with Joen].  The principal, teachers, assistants, and parents were generally very supportive of a male primary teacher.  In a school with many of the mothers being the primary care giver, it seemed very positive to have a male teacher as well as a female assistant in the classroom.  After working in Primary for 9 years, I was asked  if I would consider the position of Middle School teacher for science and math.  Even though I still loved teaching in primary, I thought it would be a great way to learn more about  Montessori and  it also would give me a new challenge.  For the past year, I was the Middle School coordinator as will as the math, science, art, and micro-economy teacher.  It was an enormous challenge and I really missed the Montessori materials (and albums) that are available for the primary (and elementary) level.  I learned a lot about adolescents and middle school curriculum but I also discovered that my real calling is with the primary level.  Next year I will be working as a primary teacher again in Cleveland.  I am really looking forward to it."
—Johan Vandervee