Up, Up and Away!

The wonderfully creative parents of our Fair Committee have adopted “Up, Up and Away” as the theme for our Fair this year. Since it is the 21st Annual Fair there had been talk of calling it “The Fair Comes of Age”, but some mature person realized “Up, Up and Away” would be more appropriate. As this remarkable year draws to an end I realize it is exactly the right theme.

One year ago we were in the midst of the incredible amount of work of closing down two perfectly good campuses and moving into what we had referred to for the past 27 years as “the school of the future”. We all knew it would be tough. But we didn’t realize how sad it would be to leave Park Ave – our home of 21 years, and our beautiful Jeremy Ranch Campus. At our staff party we were happy, sad and exhausted.  Even though Jesse Shetler generously gave us the perfect party on the rooftop of the No Name Saloon, by 8:45 pm there were only four of us left and we were fading fast. Michelle kept exclaiming, “C’mon! We can make it to 9:00!!” We did our best. Even the youngsters were in their jammies by 9:30.

Teachers cherish their summers so it was surprising, but not really, that they kept turning up daily at school throughout the summer perfecting their classroom layouts. On the day of the Grand Opening we were at last done with the move and ready for a new school year. It’s been a thrill to walk into this beautiful building every day and see all the smiling faces. After 5 years of recession our classes are finally full again. After 26 years of dreaming of what the perfect school would be like we are now living the dream.

Almost everyone who walks in the front door says something about the peaceful atmosphere in the school. It’s because of the people who gather here. The children are brilliant, respectful and uncommonly caring. Their parents are the warmest, most supportive, generous and thoughtful people on the planet. Our teachers are intelligent, talented, beautiful, nurturing and so much fun to be with every day. They are pros at creating learning environments and seeing that each child works to her own potential. They each know how to do everyone else’s job, raise each other’s children and care for everyone around them as if we are all actually related. And we are, in a way. Montessorians share a love of children, education and life.  A Montessori teacher’s path includes something unique to the profession, “The Spiritual Transformation of the Teacher”.

Among many items to master before stepping into a classroom are philosophy, child development, the art of materials presentations and curriculum planning. Once the training is done, the environment is meticulously ordered to provide everything a child will need at each level of development. Somewhere in the midst of all this the teacher begins to notice a change in herself. In organizing the classroom she has organized herself. In understanding the needs of the child she has begun an understanding of her own needs. In breaking down each action for the child to see clearly, she has broken down her own ideas, motivations and goals. Once this process has begun it is lifelong. Maria Montessori summed this up nicely;

“The training of the teacher is something far more than the learning of ideas. It includes the training of character; it is a preparation of the spirit.”

It’s such a pleasure to watch this development happen in both children and adults as we follow this path together. Montessorians are mindful, kind and respectful. They not only believe in education for peace, but they make it happen every day. And that commonality is immediately apparent when meeting other Montessorians from around the world.

As our first year on Old Ranch Road comes to an end we look back over this pioneering year and the birth, death, success, failure, comedy and tragedy that has come our way. There’s been much too much tragedy this year, certainly. But through it all there has been unwavering support from all sides. The sanctuary of the school has been like a balm to the wounds.

True to the spirit of transformation a few of our faculty are fledging the nest in order to pursue their own growth and make their dreams come true. They knew establishing a brand new school would be tough but they did it anyway. They saw how expensive it is to run a school with twice as many teachers as were needed and they are exactly the kind of people who step back to let others go before them. They recognized their goals and reached out boldly to grab them. They have each taught us something that will remain.

Spiritual transformation continues in every mindful step.  As the excitement for summer builds, so does the giddiness for what the new school year will bring. Several times a day I hear, “What I’d like to do next year is…”  Teachers are working on master’s degrees, planning gardens, training for marathons, taking classes and developing new curricula.  This is a driven faculty and the possibilities are endless. To our faculty, parents, students and community – thank you for your support this year. We look forward to what lies ahead as we move up, up and away in this peaceful place here on Old Ranch Road.

Duna Strachan, BS AMS
Executive Director
Soaring Wings International Montessori School
Park City, Utah USA

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