Upcoming events, celebrations and news of interest
Parent and Child Open House for Hilltop Montessori School's pre-K and kindergarten program
Wednesday, May 29 from 9 -10:30 am
Learn how HMS nurtures children's natural desire to learn and how our classroom community stimulates curiosity and exploration. Find out about our Montessori curriculum, and how our pre-k and kindergarten program helps develop a child's confidence and pride in themselves both as learners and community members.
Hilltop Montessori School receives grant for recent Middle School odyssey to Alabama
BRATTLEBORO—Hilltop Montessori School recently received a $2,000 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation’s Small and Inspiring grants program for its recent middle school trip to Alabama, which offered students the opportunity to live and breathe the Civil Rights movement after an intense period of study on the topic. Read the full article.
From Vermont with Love - Middle School Students Create Quilt for Alabama Odyssey Trip
The Vermont Commons wrote a wonderful piece about our students' quilt creation, and immersive trip to Alabama, as part of their study of the Civil Rights Movement. Read the article here (page B1).
Welcome Tamara Mount - Incoming Head of School
Hilltop Montessori School is delighted to formally announce the appointment of Tamara Mount as its next Head of School, effective July 1, 2013. Tamara is a life-long Montessorian, and is passionate and knowledgeable about the philosophy, values and practice at the core of our school. Her extensive Montessori experience, combined with her ten years in the management consulting field, give the Hilltop Montessori School Board of Trustees every confidence that she will be an effective and successful leader for our school.
The Search Committee, working with consultant Jim Bonney of Educators' Collaborative, began the process last June and sought significant feedback from our community through parent forums, a survey, and meetings with staff, board and faculty. Our entire school used this process to reflect on Hilltop's unique gifts, challenges and aspirations, and the kind of Head of School who would best serve our current, and future, needs.
Tamara has education and Montessori in her blood. The daughter of a Montessori Head of School herself, she attended Montessori school and has her Montessori Elementary Certification from Princeton Center Teacher Education. Tamara has been an educator in a variety of realms for the past fifteen years. She is currently working at Cherry Blossom Montessori School in Hillsborough, NJ, where she has been both a toddler teacher and Lead teacher in a Lower Elementary classroom over the past seven years.
Tamara and her husband, Brad Holcombe, along with their two sons, are excited to move to the Brattleboro area. After accepting our offer Tamara wrote,
"In our two days at Hilltop, during the selection process, my husband and I felt welcomed and at home. I am impressed with how far the school has come and I am excited to lead the school through its next stages. From the first moments of this process, everything has pointed to this being the perfect fit for Hilltop, for me, and for my family. We feel like we are coming home!"
We look forward to introducing Tamara to the greater Brattleboro community in the coming months.
Brain Diversity and Learning - by Dan Filler (Director, Upper Elementary)
In late November I attended a Learning and the Brain Conference, co-sponsored by Harvard, MIT, Yale, Johns Hopkins, and other leading universities. This conference was largely focused on brain diversity and its impact on reading and mathematics. The Learning and the Brain Foundation sponsors conferences that bring together leading neuroscientists and educators to examine the latest brain research and the possible implications for teaching and learning. The conference was thrilling; I spent three days listening to brilliant people talk about cutting edge research on the brain and learning.
A few important topics were touched on repeatedly over the course of the conference. Many speakers began their presentations by discussing the evolution of the human brain as a way to emphasize just how novel, in evolutionary terms, the acts of reading and writing are. A consistent theme among presenters was just how complex a process learning to read really is, and how much individual brain differences can impact the process for each child. To learn to read, different areas of the brain must form connections and work together. New techniques in brain imaging are allowing neuroscientists to better understand exactly what areas of the brain are involved in reading and how neural connections between these areas develop over time and through experience. Researchers are gaining a greater understanding of how the use of these areas, and connections between them, change as children grow as readers and their brains continue to develop.
Several presenters highlighted new research into the differences in brain function between children who learn to read more easily as compared to children with dyslexia. Children with dyslexia use different parts of their brain to read than children without dyslexia. Researchers hope that new findings about how different parts of the ‘dyslexic brain’ are activated and work together while reading will lead to more effective teaching practices for children with dyslexia.
The importance of phonological awareness in reading success was repeated again and again throughout the weekend as well. Phonological awareness is a child’s ability to discriminate and manipulate different sounds at the word, syllable, and phoneme (smile, thick) level. Reading, most simply put, is connecting sounds to letter symbols. Without strong phonological awareness, attributing sounds to letters within a word is even more challenging. Direct instruction in phonological awareness positively impacts a child’s development of this skill. What can you as a parent do to support your young child’s phonological awareness? According to some of the country’s leading neuroscientists, talk, talk, and talk some more to your children. All this talk supports phonological awareness and develops your child’s vocabulary, another key part of reading success.
Another topic discussed in several presentations is the importance of working memory in reading, mathematical processing, and executive function. Working memory refers to the act of simultaneously storing and processing information for a short period of time. For example, when you are out shopping and doing the mental math required to determine the cost of a new shirt after the additional fifteen percent off, you are using your working memory. You are holding numbers in your head while also mentally doing calculations – you are temporarily storing and manipulating information. A child with weak working memory will often have learning difficulties. Currently, research is being done to determine if and how deficits in working memory can be mitigated rather than simply accommodated. The idea that working memory can be strengthened is still controversial, but one with potentially great impact on teaching and learning. (If you are still reading this article and can connect this paragraph to the ideas presented in the previous paragraph, you have been putting your working memory to use!)
I attended this conference because as a teacher it is vitally important to stay informed of current brain research and its implications for learning. Maria Montessori was trained as a medical doctor. She developed her pedagogical method through close observation of children at work in the classroom environment, making adjustments to that environment, and then observing how children responded to those changes. She was doing brain research. Dr. Montessori’s observations about learning and the brain have been confirmed by current brain research conducted with modern research methods and technology. After the break, I will write more about how so much of what I learned about best practices at the conference reflects what happens in our classrooms here at Hilltop.