MSE Newsletter October 2018

Posted October 10, 2018


Reflections from Thomas Hale, President of the Board of Directors
Children are our future and how we nurture and support all children is the true indication of the character of our society. Almost 8 years ago, a small group of educators and supporters of the Montessori philosophy and pedagogy sought to explore the possibility of taking the ideas and teachings of Maria Montessori to her origins, underserved children. The Montessori philosophy is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child. After much work, more than one misstep and potholes barely avoided, we started our school with three classrooms in an old church school house in West Englewood. We now have 340 students, beginning at three years old, and this year we will proudly, and with excitement, graduate our first eighth grade class. We have a faculty and staff of smart, talented, and committed individuals whose main focus is always on providing a safe environment for our students to thrive. And we have just recently received full accreditation from MACTE, the Montessori Accreditation Organization, for our Teacher Training Program – an incredible accomplishment by our Executive Director, Rita Nolan, and her staff.

We continue our commitment to addressing the profound unmet needs of the children and families of Englewood – access to healthy food and appropriate healthcare, arts and music enrichment, and a sanctuary from violence. Even though we are a Charter Chicago Public School, public support has significantly decreased over the past four years and does not provide what is needed to serve our students. Our success to date is due to the support we have received from our generous donors. On behalf of all of us at the Montessori School of Englewood, thank you. I encourage you to visit the school and witness with your own eyes the power of Montessori. And please join us, we’re grateful for your contributions of time, talent, and resources.

Thomas Hale

Thank you to our Board of Directors
Karen Gatsis Anderson • Peter Cunningham • Thomas Hale • Marvin Hoffman • Karla Hudson • Keisha Johnson 

Hubert Morgan • Joseph Motto • Gabrielle Sansonetti • Mike Schulnick • James Sulzer • Peter Talmers

A proud student shows off artwork she made during Freedom Schools this summer. 

Montessori Teacher Training Center

We’re thrilled to announce our brand-new status as a Montessori Teacher Training Center! Just one of a few in low-income urban environments, we aim to cultivate capable, compassionate and committed Montessori educators from (and for) Chicago’s South Side. 

While Montessori education is typically associated with affluent student bodies, we know a child-centric approach to learning can speak to students of all races, income levels, creeds, ethnicities, and abilities. The training center fully embraces MSE’s fierce commitment to diversity, and our mission to make the Montessori education truly universal. Teachers trained here will retain skills necessary to teach students struggling with a lack of support systems at home, psychological issues including PTSD, inconsistent food supplies, and other systemic problems present in the MSE student body—all while sticking to the century-old Montessori pedagogy. It’s our hope that this teaching center helps dismantle the systemic constructs that keep underserved children from reaching their full potential.

Freedom School Chicago

This summer, Montessori School of Englewood hosted a Freedom Schools Chicago program for the first time. Based on the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Schools of the Civil Rights Movement and funded by the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), the contemporary take on the program is designed to empower students of color of all ages. Undergraduates from historically black colleges and universities spent their summer teaching 30 MSE students a curriculum of books centered on principles of liberation, justice and civic engagement.

The program seeks to harness students’ critical thinking, reading comprehension and analysis skills, but also drives home the connection between education and freedom. Students discussed the history of the Civil Rights Movement, the value of grassroots organizing, and ways to implement lasting change in their own community. Given students’ enthusiastic response to the program, we’re excited to host CDF Freedom Schools at MSE for summers to come. 

Students break down the work of Civil Rights Movement activist Claudette Colvin. 

TREP Project

The 2018-19 school year also marks the inaugural partnership between MSE and the TREP (Trauma Responsive Educational Practices) Project. The project provides professional development for teachers working in environments of “high levels of toxic stress”—areas with violent crimes, poverty, and/or housing instability. With whole-staff training session with TREP Project, our teachers will develop their understanding of how trauma manifests itself in the classroom, and the tools necessary to proactively intervene. In additional to staff training, the TREP Project will help MSE develop a Behavioral Health Services Team, provide teacher coaching and observation, and facilitate collaboration between other TREP partner schools in the Chicago area. 

A middle school student digs into the text one morning during Freedom Schools. 

Change Agent Program
We’re proud to announce that two of our teachers, Stephanie Rywak and Leah Jowers, have received Chicago Change Agent Fellowships through Teach Plus Chicago! For the 2018-19 school year, Stephanie and Leah will address specific teacher practice issues that affect student academic outcomes at MSE. The two Change Agents receive leadership training and monthly coaching from Teach Plus Chicago, allowing them to better work with MSE faculty on improving teaching strategies. Congratulations to Leah and Stephanie!


“Obviously, our location makes us unique...we make Montessori available to underserved communities...We’re here to provide what we believe is the best way to educate children, and we’re doing that in a community that would otherwise not be able to afford a Montessori education.”

Maria Barksdale, 7th and 8th grade teacher

Get Involved

How can I get involved?

We’ve come a long way in just six years. Since our 2012 opening, we have been lucky to work with energetic and entrepreneurial thinkers committed to the Montessori philosophy. We want more smart, passionate folks to join the MSE community. Folks committed to improving the lives of the bright and curious youth of Chicago’s South Side. We want you on our team. 

Schedule a project.

MSE is always looking for helping hands! Bring your group to come paint a classroom, beautify our outdoor spaces, or stock the MSE library. 
Join a committee.

We welcome participation from passionate, dedicated individuals. Please reach out if you are interested in joining our development, facilities, or health and wellness committees.

Make a gift to MSE.

Every dollar you give to the Montessori School of Englewood goes directly towards educating the whole child. Each year, we need to raise at least $450,000 to provide minimum services for our students. Your support, at any level, is necessary to ensure the children of MSE have the resources and support systems to thrive. 

Maria Barksdale and the ladies of her 7th grade class out on a field trip last spring.

How to donate
Donations of any amount are greatly appreciated. Our mission is to create a learning opportunity where members trust one another to use our heads, hearts and hands to commit to a life of growth and fulfillment. You can make this a reality. 

Please consider a gift today to make Montessori education possible for students growing up in Englewood. To donate, visit our website or contact Maggie Mikuzis at for more information.

We’re grateful for the support of our donors - you are essential to providing a lifetime of growth and fulfillment for our students. Thank you. 

© 2020 The Montessori School of Englewood

MSE Follows CPS' Non-Discrimination Statement: