Stephanie Yelenosky

My Montessori Journey

– Stephanie Yelenosky

What started for me 12 years ago as a volunteer parent at a Montessori school grew into an administrative position and then into starting a middle school program. All of this has brought me to being joyful, confident, and brave with the knowledge that I can change the world through my passion – an authentic Montessori school. I’ve wanted to change the world since I was a kid, but I thought I could only do it by becoming the proverbial lawyer (which I became) or doctor (my second “choice”). I was wrong.

I know that as a Montessorian I can change the world because I’ve experienced that ability, one student at a time, for over a decade now. Building a middle school program from scratch without an education degree, let alone Montessori training, has seen me travel difficult, winding, and wonderful paths. With receipt of my Secondary I & II (middle school/high school) Montessori credentials, I’m at a new beginning. The question now is whether the world is ready for me: my thoughts, my ideas, my plans.

I’ve learned through Montessori the importance of living a life that’s filled with meaning and love, to be braver and more patient, and to rattle the world as the warrior I’ve always been, through failure, not only in myself, but in others. Montessori has given me the strength to embrace my falls, get up, and begin again. My falls, as difficult and disappointing as they have been, have allowed me to learn who I am. Every fall has been different and every getting up has been new. I’ve learned more about being human — how we think, feel, and behave — from living my life present with people. I’ve learned more about the issues that are important to me like inclusion, diversity, and leadership by living into those principles as a Montessorian that I never in a million years thought was a part of my plan. And I learned this starting in a classroom.

So what was happening in my classroom over the past several years? And to that end, why education? Why specifically Montessori? Because that’s where I’ve witnessed young adults learning to inquire and think critically; to connect-the-dots of their seemingly unconnected experiences; to pause, with a comma, or to separate a moment and make an impact, with a dash — in silence; to build muscle on top of muscle so that tendons and ligaments work together as their levers and inclined planes become more mechanically efficient; to realize how much easier it is to know themselves when they understand that their brain stem is challenging their neocortex and why it is necessary, maybe even life-saving, for that reptilian brain to sometimes take control.

In the classroom, I’ve watched young adults learn to inquire and think critically about forces: allies and ogres, mathematical properties (especially PEMDAS),Newton’s laws of motion, and the four forces of the universe. About structures: mathematical expressions and equations, human and comparative anatomy, simple and complex machines, grammar and punctuation, world geography, hierarchies and governments in society, ethics, and morals. About power: stories that are worth telling and reading, social injustices, relationships, exponential equations, human rights, motion, and energy. About change: probability and statistics, variables, economic shifts, and revolutions. And about balance: equalities and inequalities, inverse and direct variation, poetry vs prose, a novel vs a short story, fossil fuels and natural resources, multiple perspectives, and war and peace. And as they’ve done this, whether they’ve realized it or not, they’ve made meaning of those lessons on the industrial revolution . . . because the next revolution is coming, and they will be its leaders.