We inspire and guide children to love learning, to love one another, and to love the world around them.
Teacher Tuesday: Get to Know Lower Elementary Teacher Timmy Schwartz
MSNV is fortunate to have a phenomenal team of teachers. On this Teacher Tuesday, we want to introduce you to one of our dedicated educators, Lower Elementary teacher Timmy Schwartz.
What made you consider a career in education and specifically Montessori? I kind of always knew that I was going to end up working with children in some fashion, but never as a traditional teacher. Traditional education is just too rigid and disconnected. I have always believed in the sacred nature of children, the majesty and mystery and brilliance they possess. I always thought maybe I'd be an outdoor educator or a poetry teacher or something. But, I had no idea how or where. And I definitely didn't know what Montessori was, or that it even existed. My introduction happened by total serendipity, as well. In Spring 2001 (I was 22 years old-just out of college), A mom and her child visited the Tibetan shop in Takoma Park where I worked. We made an instant connection and I visited her Montessori school. I was instantly hooked. I was only 22 years old and I had found my calling. I begged for a job, and the boss made one up for me. I was the little boy's shadow teacher in the morning, an office assistant in the afternoon, and an ExDay teacher until closing. I loved every second of it. My second year I became the bus driver, PE teacher, poetry teacher, woodworking teacher, frisbee coach, kayaking assistant, handyman, office assistant, and long-term substitute. I guess I'd put in my dues, because following that year I finally got to go for my Montessori training, and in the fall I joined the Lower Elementary classroom. From day one to now, almost 19 years later, I've never even thought of another career (except maybe a long haul truck driver from time to time-ahh think of the solitude). I just think that no other approach to education does what Montessori can do to allow children to develop naturally, create a partnership between parents and educators, and foster community and social justice the way Montessori can.
Why did you decide to come to MSNV? I've been at MSNV since 2014. My great friend, Thea Bartha, who I taught with in McLean, had started working at MSNV 4 or 5 years earlier. She had always told me it would be the perfect place for me. After visiting I was sold. It has everything an authentic Montessori school should have. There are classrooms and buildings made for Montessori learning, with natural outdoor spaces. There are 3-Year classrooms through at least 6th grade. There is a robust enrollment of primary and elementary families who understand and are committed to Montessori long-term. And there is a highly trained and experienced staff full of creative thinkers, endlessly energetic personalities, and passionate educators. I made it my mission to get a job at the school. The bonus that my daughter, Bea, could attend MSNV for her elementary years was more than icing on the cake. To think that I both get to work at MSNV, and have my child attend the school!
What is your favorite lesson to teach and why? I have lots of favorite lessons. I like the ones where I get to act silly. At the beginning of each year we tell the Five Great Lessons, the Stories of the Universe, Life, Humans, Language, and Math. These impressionistic lessons set the stage for the Montessori Elementary "Cosmic Curriculum." During each lesson the teachers dress up or conduct science experiments or just act plain funny. It's a hoot, it sparks an interest in the child, and everybody feels inspired.
What is one thing parents should know if they have a child entering MSNV's Elementary program? Being an elementary student at MSNV is about so much more than academics. It's right at this stage, around 6 years of age, that the child goes through an incredible "metamorphosis" as Montessori put it. The child, who up to this point has been absorbing the world in relation to himself, suddenly realizes how big and vast everything is, and asks so many questions. He wants to understand how he belongs in the grand scheme of things. The Montessori elementary classroom is a prepared environment that allows the child to begin to find those answers for himself. Of course, this journey demands academic curiosity and growth, but it also requires self-control, self-discipline, and self-belief. That's why our program works so hard to help the child develop practical life, social, and communication skills, while also nurturing that sense of belonging in the Global Village. We're all in this together, and no one understands that quite like an elementary student.
What is your favorite MSNV tradition? My favorite tradition is our annual trip to Echo Hill Outdoor School. For three days and two nights in early Spring, we get to take all the elementary students to scenic Worton, Maryland, on the banks of the Chesapeake for classes on wilderness skills, ecology, and stewardship. The staff at Echo Hill are knowledgeable, kind, and adventurous. The trip inspires courage, love of nature, and friendship, and it's a wonderful bonding experience for all. I can't wait to go back next Spring.