Program Director Theresa Powers recently sat down for a conversation with Primary Teacher Angie Jones about her experience at MSSA. The conversation has been edited for print.
Where are you from, and how long have you been a teacher at MSSA?
I grew up in Reston, Virginia. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from George Mason University. This is my tenth year at MSSA. Before MSSA, I worked at a small school in Boerne called Tarrybank Montessori. I was the director, and I taught Primary children.
What brought you to Montessori originally?
I was taking an education class at my university, and a visiting professor discussing styles of education brought up the Montessori method. I was excited because my next-door neighbor growing up went to a Montessori school, and the visiting professor shared about a Montessori school that needed staff in their After School Program. I applied and got the job. I was initially thinking I would become a teacher in a public-school setting, but I ended up at The Boyd School which is a Montessori School in Reston, Virginia. I was a classroom assistant there and then had my own Primary classroom there for many years.
There are so many materials that Primary children work with. What are some of the most interesting ones to you?
What drew me to Montessori was the way Montessori teaches reading. When I was in university, the focus was on whole language, which essentially focuses on the meaning of words presented in text. Montessori uses phonics to begin, teaching children letter-sound correspondences prior to emphasizing meaning, but it expands to include meaning and never let’s go of the phonics. It is interesting to me how Montessori uses the hand-brain connection to learn sounds by tracing sandpaper letters and combines phonics with a multi-sensory approach to cement understanding. I love the moveable alphabet and the excitement that comes from the “ah-ha” moments when students apply what they have learned with letter sounds to make words.
I love how at our school all the Primary rooms open to gardens. Can you talk about how why the classrooms were designed that way?
We want children to be able to spend time in nature and get their hands dirty in the garden. And we want there to be a flow so that children can go in and out of the class based on what they want to do in the moment. The same is true for the library, which is available to the extended day students.
What are some of the benefits of having a child in a Montessori Primary program?
Children are free to move around, and developmentally at this age, children need to move. They gain independence and they learn to love learning as they get to choose their own work based on lessons given to them. As they get older, Montessori teaches them how to plan their day.
What are some of your personal interests?
I love to read, and my home life is very important. I practice the Swedish concept of ‘hygge” which means I try to create as cozy of an environment as possible. I love my dogs; there’s Dino, a Vizsla lab mix, Bella, a Pit pointer mix, and Malcolm, a Black-haired shepherd lab mix. They are all mutts and rescue dogs.
When I started working at MSSA, the camaraderie and friendliness of the staff made it easy to fit right in. I love my students and I love my classroom environment. We are like a little family.
Angie Jones is the Primary Level Lead. She earned her Montessori Primary Certification at Montgomery Montessori in Rockville, Maryland. She particularly enjoys the colder months in Texas, although she will drink hot coffee any time of year.