John Pettit talks with Theresa Powers: MSSA History, Finches, and Transitions to and from UE

Program Director Theresa Powers recently sat down for a conversation with UE Teacher Mr. Pettit about his experience at MSSA. The conversation has been edited for print and is the first in a series of interviews with MSSA faculty.

Where are you originally from?

I was born in Bossier City, Louisiana. My father was in the military, so we moved every couple of years, and I lived in California, Massachusetts, and Germany. I went to Roosevelt High School in San Antonio and UTSA.

Can you tell me about your path to Montessori?

I started out as a substitute in a music class at a Montessori school here in San Antonio. I was very interested in the classroom materials on the shelf and wondered what they were for. I fell in love with the materials and the Montessori philosophy. I felt this was the way I would like to have learned, and I wanted to help children reach their potential, so I became a Montessori Primary teacher.

Do you have a favorite Montessori material or area?

Math. Math concretely demonstrates all the operations for fractions and decimals. I really enjoy math; it’s like a puzzle you are trying to solve.

I know that you come up to school over breaks to help take care of classrooms pets. Do you have a favorite classroom animal over the years?

It would be the finches. I have had finches as classroom pets several times over my thirty-year career. Finches are small birds – smaller than parakeets. About five years ago, we started with three finches and ended up with twenty-five.

In the twenty years you have been at MSSA, what’s changed and what’s stayed the same?

Some changes: we have doubled in size in terms of classroom space. I’ve worked under three heads of school. Over the years, we have expanded to have Spanish, Art, and Library Specialists and classes. This year we have a new Technology rotation in Upper Elementary. There have been major upgrades to the playground over the years thanks to generous parent donations through the Gala. What’s stayed the same: community and family feel among faculty and staff, supportive parents working in partnership with teachers, and children who love learning.

What are your hopes for students coming into Upper Elementary?

My hope for students coming into Upper Elementary is that they realize that Upper Elementary is an extension of Lower Elementary and that they continue to feel comfortable and supported, and continue to love learning.

What are your hopes for students leaving Upper Elementary and heading to our Middle School?

My hope is that they have mastered all the skills necessary to be self-starters who are confident about their academic performance, as well as ready to take an active role in their learning as they work with the Middle School teachers.

What else?

After thirty years working in a Montessori environment, I still believe every child has something to gain from the Montessori experience.

John Pettit is an Upper Elementary Teacher and our UE Level Lead. John has Montessori certification in Upper Elementary, Lower Elementary, and Primary. He has been leading the faculty this year in aligning curriculum throughout the levels. John is an early riser, and as such, he is the first person on campus each day. Contrary to speculation, John does own long pants.

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