Highlights in the Hilltop Weekly Newsletter from our Head of School
(click the red title for the full story)
Middle School Curriculum – January 31, 2020 This year the Middle School has been transforming their curriculum to have a focus on Climate Change, the challenging and critical topic of our times. There are many youth leaders across the globe and we are working to teach and learn information with an eye to action, while also supporting our students in developing all the competencies that have always been a part of our “skills based” program.
A recent project that focused on Climate Action was the students’ “Society Films”. This project is presented in the curriculum every two years of the cycle. Each student chooses a person in our local community, researches them, contacts them (an adult they don’t know!), interviews them, and plans a photo shoot (to capture the themes and information developed from the interview). With the final data in hand, they learn how to edit on “Final Cut Pro”, choose music, and put together a photo-montage that conveys this person and their role in our community. This year, the people selected all fit the theme of addressing Climate Change in some way. The films were screened at a wonderfully successful event earlier in January to a community audience that included many of the subjects themselves. A collection of these films can now also be viewed on our website.
The project also involves creating a final montage in the form of a one dimensional collage. All 21 collages are on display at Amy’s Bakery during the month of February. Please stop in to Amy’s to see the collages and support this lovely local business, owned by a supportive Hilltop alum parent.
A current parent was moved to write to the teachers after the film showing. Her note is included here:
My heart is full with deep appreciation after last night’s viewing at 118 Elliot. I am so impressed by how you all rose up to change the curriculum and develop projects for the Middle School students to address the reality of climate change. You took the thing that is causing the students and most of us so much anxiety about the future and are addressing it head on! As a psychologist, I have learned that the best way to manage anxiety is to move TOWARD it. And here you are – .providing the knowledge to understand what is truly going on scientifically, and then sending them out to find ideas about how people already are addressing this issue – through government, local business and art. AND you taught them the tools and skills to spread the word through filmmaking. Providing our students with this hands on knowledge base, skill, and inspiration is a true gift. This project was a demonstration of true teaching, for our students and the surrounding community. Plus, you made it fun! I am so grateful for the work that you are doing and so happy that my daughters get to be part of it.
- Thursday, November 7th 5:30-7:00 pm for a session on working with children ages 0-6.
- Tuesday, November 19th 7-8:30 pm for a session geared towards elementary and middle school aged children.
Summer Faculty Training – August 30, 2019 The summer is a time for teachers to rest and rejuvenate. It is also often a time for thoughtful professional development, feeling less rushed than during the school year. Many of our teachers and staff were involved in different trainings and Professional Development over the summer. Below are a few highlights of information learned that will be brought back to school.
Making Bathrooms Safer Spaces – May 31, 2019 As you may have read about or heard, the Equity & Anti- Bias Workgroup is underway! They have had several meetings with parents, staff, and Middle School students participating in the discussions. I was thrilled to hear that the Taskforce’s first recommendation is something we’ve wanted to address for some time, and that their proposal is an easy one to roll out for next school year: although the Arts Barn is the newest building, it is the only building with gendered bathroom design and signage.
2019 Parent Survey Results – April 26, 2019 A huge thank you to all of you who took the time to respond to our survey! In order to be responsive to the needs of our families and consider future plans, we sent the annual surveys via email a few weeks ago. We were thrilled with the response rate and responses from our families. We received feedback from almost half of the families (46) and there was a nice distribution across programs.
Curriculum Morning and Anti-Bias Resources –February 15, 2019 We greatly appreciate the strong turnout of parents for the curriculum morning on Saturday…We were thrilled with all the support and interest from parents. While much of the discussion focused on race, we are also doing work in the areas of anti-bias regarding economic status, class, gender expression, sexual orientation, religion, learning differences, ableism, etc. Many parents were interested in how they could further their own learning in the area of anti-bias generally and “white privilege” specifically. We have several initiatives ongoing and just starting that are open to parents.
Futhering Our Anti-Bias Work– December 7, 2018 In fulfillment of the priorities set out in the Strategic Plan, we as a school are furthering our work in the areas of diversity and equity. We are applying an “anti-bias” lens to our curriculum and practices as we work to support all members of our current and future community. We have been doing this work as a staff and will soon be more directly involving parents in more of these conversations.
Hilltop’s AMS Accreditation Self-Study Approved!– November 20, 2018 It was very gratifying to hear back from the AMS Accreditation Department that our 200 pages self-study was approved with flying colors! They gave specific comments on many aspects of our program and of how we presented our material, concluding with:
Executive Function at School and Home – October 19, 2018 This year Hilltop will be offering a special presentation on November 15 at 6:30pm: “Executive Function at School and Home: What is it and Why does it matter?” with speaker Debbie Tracht, a Learning Specialist with expertise in Literacy, ADHD and the emerging field of Mind, Brain and Education.
American Montessori Society Accreditation Self-Study Report – September 21, 2018 We submitted our American Montessori Society Accreditation Self-Study report this morning!!!
Fair Isn’t Always Equal – September 7, 2018 One piece of our anti-bias work comes up regularly and has been a focus in some programs at the start of school: we all have differences, and we work to own, acknowledge, and embrace those differences.
Our Anti-Bias Work – August 27, 2018 One of the Professional Development areas that we had identified for all staff to work more on is related to Anti-Bias work as part of our diversity/equity goals.
Bead Ceremony – June 15, 2018 The Bead Ceremony recognizes each group of children who are rising from one program to the next.
A Reflection on “Practice” – April 6, 2018. Within the process of re-evaluation of our Mission Statement the word “practice” was enthusiastically embraced as a satisfying way to describe the way we engage in Responsible Independence.
The “Spicy Announcement” Big Reveal! – March 30, 2018 The Board, Roselle Garro (Development Director), and I shared the news of an amazing gift to the school that has helped to secure further financial stability to support the families, faculty, and facilities that make up our school currently and into the future.
Emergency Preparedness – March 2, 2018. The event in Florida on Feb 14th reminds us, yet again, of how precious our children are, and how important their safety is. Since moving up to this campus on the hill, we have continued to improve our emergency planning and our drills.
Montessori Curriculum Morning – February 9, 2018. Hilltop has had a strong and meaningful mission statement for the past 15 years. We all have loved that it has “responsible independence” at its core and that most students, parents, and certainly teachers, have it guide our daily activities.
Montessori Cultural Curriculum – January 26, 2018. In a Montessori world the “Cultural Curriculum” includes science and much more, in a beautifully integrated way.
Hilltop’s Early Childhood Program Receives 5 Stars, Again! – January 19, 2018. We are thrilled to announce that Hilltop Montessori School has been recognized once again by the State of Vermont’s Step Ahead Recognition System (STARS).
New & Improved Mission Statement – January 12, 2018
“Hilltop Montessori School’s mission is for students to practice responsible independence in a caring community of curious critical learners and thoughtful citizens.”
Winter Sports – December 1, 2017
“Practical Life” is a classic part of the Montessori curriculum. Students like doing real work that accomplishes something in real life and teaches practical skills. In every program we have lessons and activities in Practical Life – and in Southern Vermont, “Winter Sports” is a part of our Practical Life curriculum.
Emergency Drills – November 10, 2017
We are required to practice emergency drills. We do these for the whole school and explain it in an age appropriate way to each level. You may hear your children talk about these events, and we wanted to share a bit about what we do.
In Service Days – November 4, 2017
One day a year, we use our In-Service Day to visit other schools to get ideas for and gain perspective on our teaching and community.
Peace Presentation for Grandparents & Special Friends Day – October 6, 2017
The national political rhetoric, climate, and actions of the past year have been disturbing to me. I could have been thrown into a deep depression, finding it hard to get out of bed each day, were it not for what we are doing here at Hilltop Montessori School.
Supporting Middle School Micro-Economies – September 29, 2017
Throughout the year the middle school takes on the daunting task of raising around ten thousand dollars for our odysseys! This year we are raising money for our River of Spirit Odyssey to Boston, a comparative world religion and science of water study, connecting with many different faith communities and cultures.
Peace Day – September 22, 2017
Peace Buddies are an important and wonderful part of the Hilltop community. Each year, on or near International Peace Day, students are paired with another in a different program. This results in disparate height friends walking through the halls together, singing at All School Gathering, and developing lovely relationships across programs and ages.
Free Play – September 15, 2017
If you travel to Hilltop Montessori School around noon on a weekday, you might be surprised to hear chatter and laughter coming from the forest adjacent to the parking lot…
Montessori Tenets: “Work” – September 8, 2017
It is only week two and the classrooms are already settling in and getting “normalized”.
Hilltop Graduates on the Board of the Putney School! – April 7, 2017
We are proud to share that two of our 2015 graduates, Emmanuel Keppel and Greta Wolfe, have recently been elected to the Board of Trustees of The Putney School, a position of great responsibility and honor.
School State Re-Approval Granted – March 24, 2017
On March 21st, the Vermont State Education Board voted to renew our school’s general independent school approval!
Proud to have a Learning Specialist at Hilltop – February 17, 2017
We are thrilled that having a learning specialist has enabled us to expand the continuum of learners that we serve at Hilltop.
Building Confidence – February 10, 2017
How can we, as parents and caregivers, support our children as they grow into self-sufficient, resilient people?
State Funding Helps Hilltop Increase Equity and Accessibility – January 27, 2017
There is much discussion, both nationally and in Vermont, about how to best support our education system. As conscientious educators who want to “make the world a better place” many of us at Hilltop think about these issues regularly.
Alumni Night – October 28, 2016
Alumni Night, as we call it, has become a wonderful tradition at Hilltop. Hearing our graduates speak on topics related to how Hilltop prepared them for high school is a testament to the exceptional education they received here.
Teaching Consent at All Ages – October 28, 2016
For the youngest children, we teach them about each other’s personal space, and how to ask permission for a hug, and their right to say “No, Thank you.” For the Elementary ages, this progresses to ensuring that everyone is comfortable with an activity or discussion, and addressing potential appropriate and inappropriate behavior in the larger context of “consent”.
Emergency Preparedness – October 21, 2016
We have several types of emergency drills as part of our school safety and emergency preparedness program. You may hear your children talk about these events, and we wanted to share a bit about what we do.
Professional Development for Children’s House Teachers – January 22, 2016
Three of our teachers dedicated last Saturday to professional development and attended the Montessori Schools of Massachusetts annual conference. This year’s keynote speaker at the conference was Dr. Steve Hughes.
Montessori Principles Revisited – January 15, 2016
Yet again there have been articles noting wonderful new trends in education that are what Montessori has been doing for 100 years, and Hilltop Montessori School for more than 40 years!
Professional Development for Staff – January 8, 2016
We held an All Staff Meeting which included an activity offered by Dan Filler, Director of Elementary. As some of you may know, in addition to his teaching, administration, and art contributions to Hilltop, Dan also uses his Montessori teaching expertise for the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaborative, a teacher training program based in Lexington, Massachusetts. He shared one of their activities with our staff.
Notes from the Board – December 11, 2015
Many members of the Hilltop community believe expanding our level of diversity at the school is an important goal in our developing strategic plan. We put a request for interested participants in the weekly newsletter back in October and formed the Equity Task Force.
Supporting Children Who Hear Scary News – November 20, 2015
As we hear both local and international news of tragedy, we need to process the information, and help our children process the information in age appropriate ways.
The Strategic Planning Process Continues! – October 16, 2015
As some of you may recall, last Spring we began the process of developing a new Strategic Plan for the school. The last 5-year Strategic Plan was done in 2010 (Strategic Plan 2010) and we have achieved, or made progress towards achieving, all of the goals laid out at that time.
Notes from the Board – September 11, 2015
It’s been a real privilege for me to serve on the Hilltop Board of Trustees the last six years. Hilltop has transformed itself in so many exciting ways during this time, from the creation of our beautiful new campus to the formation of a marvelously effective administrative team.
Montessori Tenets: 3 Year Cycle – September 4, 2015
There is a reason we go from Olders back to Youngers in each cycle transition. Children grow in confidence spending three years in a program, feeling at home and in control. Then, they take that confidence to a new arena and use it to grow at the next level.
Professional Development – August 28, 2015
The teachers and staff of Hilltop Montessori School are spectacular! It has been wonderful for us all to be back together this week again preparing the school for your children, and engaging in Professional Development. In other years, we have had an expert from the outside come in to educate and inspire us in a new way. This year, we decided to capitalize on all the knowledge, skills, experience, and inspiration that we have right here amongst our staff.
Not So New To Us! – May 22, 2015
So often things that are reported as new “discoveries” or trends in education are things that Maria Montessori observed 100 years ago and incorporated into the time-tested, scientifically proven approach we use at Hilltop.
Notes from the Board – May 1, 2015
We are at a terrific moment in Hilltop’s story. Through much hard work over the past several years, Hilltop has achieved stability throughout the school, and we are thus in the enviable position of being able to proactively plan for the school’s future.
Classism in the Classroom – April 16. 2015
On Wednesday, Kerstin (Lower Elementary Teacher), Rebecca (Children’s House – Willow Room Assistant) and I attended a training at the Vermont Learning Collaborative on “Classism in the Classroom”. At Hilltop, we work consciously to address diversity and inclusion in many ways.
Montessori Tenets – April 10, 2015
One of the most important components of an authentic Montessori program is a long uninterrupted work cycle. The reason for this is to embrace and increase a child’s ability to concentrate.
A Note on Reading – April 3, 2015
To read, children must be able to hear distinct sounds, turn symbols (letters) into sounds, sounds into words, and words into meaning. Reading success is built upon a foundation of specific skills. These skills are: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Each of these skills must be taught to guide children toward literacy.
Montessori Tenets: Smaller vs. Bigger Class Size – March 20, 2015
Attending the American Montessori Society conference last week was inspiring. It was a wonderful reminder of the benefits of the true Montessori programs we offer. One feature, imperative to implementation of the Montessori philosophy, is class size.
An Invitation to All – December 16, 2014
We realize and appreciate that you are trusting us to educate your child and to help her or him grow in a way that, for many of you, is very different from your schooling. We know that without grades and test scores, you are having to use other measures to know that your child is growing and thriving in this environment.
Starting the Day – November 21, 2014
The mornings in our classrooms have a lovely natural rhythm. For the Toddler and Children’s House programs to start off on the playground gives those energetic students an opportunity to play with friends and get exercise first thing in the morning, before coming inside and settling down to choosing their work.
Let’s Grow Kids – November 14, 2014
Time and time again, Dr. Maria Montessori’s ideas from 100 years ago are validated by modern science. Hilltop has been participating in the statewide campaign, Let’s Grow Kids, a public education campaign to raise the awareness of the importance of the early years in development.
Hilltop Investments Moved to Socially Responsible Funds – November 7, 2014
The Hilltop board is pleased to announce that we have recently moved our investments into a socially responsible portfolio that will be managed by the local firm Prentiss Smith and Company.
Annual Fund – October 17, 2014
I was recently reminded, by a parent, about how long Hilltop has dreamed of having a Learning Specialist on staff to assist teachers and students. Wendy’s involvement with the children working hard to learn to read has indeed been a dream come true.
The Importance of Blending the Three Years Within a Program – September 12, 2014
One of the critical components of an authentic Montessori program is mixed age groups, usually three years in the same classroom. Hilltop has always had three years together for Children’s House, Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary.
Summer Notes – August 6, 2014
Well, I thought things might slow down in the summer, but they haven’t . . . It has remained extremely busy and productive up here on top of the hill!
New Mailing Address for Hilltop – July 22, 2014
The Middle School house was built in 1905. It was known as the Stafford Family Farm. We have chosen “Stafford Farm Hill” as the new name for the driveway/road leading to the school.
Notes from the Board – May 2, 2014
The Board is excited to announce two new members.
Arts Integration – April 15, 2014
Time and again, important components of the Montessori approach, developed one hundred years ago, are proven to be beneficial in a modern context. One of these is the benefits of integrating arts into other components of the curriculum.
Montessori Tenets: Nothing New – April 11, 2014
Time and again, Montessori is shown to be spot on. Often a Montessori tenet will be touted as a “new” method, yet we know Dr. Montessori developed these 100 years ago.
Montessori Tenets: Prepared Environment – December 6, 2013
There are so many things to highlight and appreciate about how Hilltop Montessori School is a true Montessori school. One that came to mind this week is how wonderfully “prepared” the HMS environment is.