News from The Montessori Network - Spring 2019

Posted March 19, 2019


Update from Thomas Hale, President of the Board of Directors

Building partnerships to improve the lives and health of young people in Englewood is a focus of our work at the Montessori School of Englewood. We’re thrilled to engage in meaningful conversation with the Trotter Project about the absence of access to healthy food in our community and to ideate about ways to address this problem. We’re thankful to be in our second year of a partnership with Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark of the Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago. Dr. Maker-Clark brings her medical students to our school to work side by side with our students prepping and cooking healthy food, through her Food is Power course, while teaching us about the important role nutrition plays in our overall health and well-being. Partnerships like this allow us to teach our students in new and creative ways, broaden their awareness of the world around them, while staying true to our Montessori philosophy. And I’m extremely grateful for the partnership of our Board of Directors, who continue to lead us in pursuit of our mission to create a learning community where members trust one another to use our heads, hearts, and hands to commit to a life of growth and fulfillment.​ We value these relationships and are open to exploring new ones; reach out if you’d like to join us in this pursuit.



Thomas Hale

Students learn about urban farming with chefs from the Trotter Project.

Exciting Updates

Partnership with The Trotter Project

We’re thrilled to announce that the Montessori School of Englewood has recently joined forces with the Trotter Project! While known best for his culinary prowess, Chicago’s own Charlie Trotter was also a teacher and mentor to dozens of up-and-coming chefs. The Trotter Project carries on the late chef’s legacy by cultivating the next generation of cooks and hospitality professionals. It primarily works with local culinary schools including Kendall College, the Washburne Culinary Institute and others. Naturally, we’re incredibly excited to join forces with an organization held in such high esteem. 

With the help of the Trotter-trained chefs helming the Trotter Project, the Montessori School of Englewood plans to expand our on-site garden into a sustainable, urban farm. The farm will provide produce for our students right on campus, and also serve the greater Englewood community. Students will get a hands-on gardening education from some of Chicago’s most revered culinary mentors — a skill they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. 

In February, a group of MSE teachers and students met with representatives from the foundation to kick-start the partnership. The Trotter chefs and students broke into different groups to meet in-person and discuss basic principles of food sustainability. Working with the Trotter Project complements MSE’s other food-driven partnerships, including the local non-profit Pilot Light and the University of Chicago’s Food As Medicine program. The Trotter Project has been instrumental in launching a new gardening program at the school, in conjunction with Master Gardeners from the University of Illinois in Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry.

Presenting at The Montessori Event in Washington, D.C.

MSE has been invited to present at the Montessori Event, the national Montessori conference in Washington, D.C. The 2019 symposium, which takes place March 21–24, brings hundreds of Montessori educators (and enthusiasts) to D.C. to swap strategies and shape the future of education. This year’s lineup features Montessori professionals speaking on a number of topics, including anti-racist education practices, public policy updates, and ways to navigate mixed-age math curriculums. 

Rita Nolan, Deborah Kelley, Shelby Hines and Dr. Nyela Wells will be leading a workshop entitled, “How Pedagogy of Place Can Support Anti-Bias Education.” In it, our leadership will share our strategies for fighting structural racial bias in the classroom, as well as strategies for weaving conversations about power and privilege into the Montessori Method. The Montessori School of Englewood is unique among Montessori schools, given our location in a 99% African-American neighborhood — that means our educative approaches are unique, too. We’re thrilled to share our first-hand experiences with the greater Montessori community and look forward to learning from other educators’ experiences, too. 

Learning about different kinds of lines is tough work.

New STEM Programing

We’ve recently received a grant to bring STEM education to the Montessori School of Englewood. This particular STEM program partners naturally with Montessori education: it prioritizes small classes and hands-on learning to spark curiosity in students. For one hour per week, students from first through eighth grades get to build robotics, experiment with 3D printing, play with drones, learn to code and more. It’s our hope that introducing students to STEM subjects from an early age will instill a lifelong curiosity and a passion for innovative technologies. The program is set to stay at MSE through the end of the 2018–2019 school year, and we hope to continue the partnership in the coming years.

A student works on spelling in his 6-9 classroom.

Q&A with Dr. Nyela Wells, EdD

Director of Equity and Cultural Diversity

African American Studies and Civics Instructor

Q. Does the position of Director of Equity and Cultural Diversity exist at other schools where you’ve worked?

A. Anyone that I ever tell that I’m at an elementary school where I’m the Director of Equity and Diversity, they’re like — what?!

Q. What does the position entail?

A. Equity and diversity is very broad. This year is my first year in the position, so we started with focusing on the curriculum, making sure it focuses on the student population, which is 95% African-American. We’re making sure that the teachers incorporate the students’ history into the curriculum. That means making sure the teacher have the information and resources they need and, if need be, professional development — sitting in their classroom, giving them feedback, looking at their lesson plans, making sure that incorporation and integration is there.

Q. What makes Montessori education so unique to you?

A. Sometimes, at other schools, African-American kids can be labeled as having behavioral problems, because they want to experiment and move around. Montessori gives them the opportunity to do that; it’s all about the hands-on experience. Students get the opportunity to actually practice and do things — and not just sit there listening to a lecture — to feel things, see how things work with their hands. I think Montessori education is good for all children but particularly good for African-American children. 

A job very well done on this classroom exercise.

Meet the Board of Directors of the Montessori Network

Karen Gatsis Anderson • Peter Cunningham • Thomas Hale 
Marvin Hoffman • Karla Hudson • Keisha Johnson • Hubert Morgan • Joseph Motto
Gabrielle Sansonetti •Mike Sculnick • James Sulzer • Peter Talmers

Name: Karen Anderson
Occupation: Adjunct Professor of Law, University of Illinois, College of Law

Q. How long have you been connected to MSE?

A. I’ve been involved for almost 10 years, and I am one of the founding members of the board of directors. The school officially opened in 2012.


Q. Why did you first get involved with MSE?
A. I have three adult daughters who are alumna of Near North Montessori, and I loved the Montessori method. I found that, for my children, it was a superb educational experience. I think it has benefitted them well into their adulthood. Because of that, I was very excited at the prospect of bringing this wonderful style of learning to children who fit the profile of Maria Montessori’s original vision.
Q. Why do you support MSE?
A. Supporting the school is such a worthwhile endeavor. It is a tremendous experience to go and watch our children benefit from and get involved with their own education. I am always enthralled with what’s going on at MSE.
Q. What is the biggest gift you’ve received from being part of the MSE?
A. When I go to a school event or walk through the halls, I feel embraced by the community. Even though I am not at the school every day, I am greeted by the wonderful staff and welcomed into the building. We have an incredibly gifted and dedicated staff that has been with MSE for years; they make the school work.
Q. What is one thing you’d want people to know about the school?
A. I would like people to know the reality: we are a public charter school. While we get some public funding, the only way to fully support these students is to provide for them beyond the classroom. We cannot do that without additional funding.
Beyond that, I love being there. If anyone wants to come visit, give me a call! I guarantee you’ll be impressed.

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. But there’s still a ways to go to realize our dream of a flourishing Montessori K–12 school serving Englewood. 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. Here are a few ways to join us:

Volunteer with us. MSE is always looking for helping hands! Bring your group to come paint a classroom, beautify our outdoor spaces, or stock the MSE library. Be in touch to schedule your visit.

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

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. 

Join us for our Fourth Annual Fundraiser. We’re throwing our annual fete on April 25 at Big Delicious Planet. Support MSE with a night full of dinner, drinks and great conversation. Click here to purchase your tickets.

Support the MSE
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!

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