With the 2019-2020 school year now underway, we at MLK Montessori School are focused on the education of our wonderful students. However, in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, we were focused on a different group of learners: our staff! Most already have degrees in early childhood education as well as a great deal of experience working with young students. Yet, we believe it is critical for our educators—even our veteran educators!—to have ongoing opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills, to strengthen their practices, and to respond to the changing needs of our students.
Each summer, our staff participates in two weeks of development and training. This year, topics included CPR, first aid, bus safety, child abuse and neglect, civil rights, playground safety, and licensing and accreditation … as well as the following:
· Our STEM Summer Camp –This year, we hosted our first ever STEM-focused Summer Camp. We were very lucky that Angela McKinney, Ph.D., a professor of biology at Nebraska Wesleyan University, developed a tremendous curriculum specifically for our students. During our professional development training, Dr. McKinney traveled to our school to talk with educators about the curriculum and to explore improvements and updates for 2020.
· Trauma-Informed Education: Over the last several years, we have seen an increasing number of challenging student behaviors—many of which can be linked to trauma. Arlene Story, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and certified Trauma Therapist, helped us to identify various forms of trauma as well as common reactions and coping skills. She then introduced us to numerous trauma interventions and discussed ways that teachers can support students who have experienced trauma.
· Advanced Math and Language:Over the last two years, several of our educators have been traveling to the Greater Cincinnati Center for Montessori Education (GCCME) in Covington, Kentucky to earn their Montessori Early Childhood Teaching Credentials. During our professional development, an instructor from GCCME came to MLK to share some more advanced math and language lessons. These will be a huge asset to our educators when working with kindergarten and high-ability preschool students.
· Positive Discipline:Vyju Kadambi, the Founder and Head of School at Southwest Montessori Academy in Fort Wayne, is also certified to educate parents and teachers on Positive Discipline. She showed our staff how to build strong connections with students and discussed the importance of helping students to develop a sense of security. She also shared a wide variety of “encouraging statements” for teachers and “self-regulation” strategies for students.
We are incredibly grateful to these experts for helping us to offer the best possible programming to our students, and we are also incredibly grateful to Foellinger Foundation for helping to fund this training. With all of this tremendous information under our belts, we feel more prepared than ever to support the educational, social, and emotional needs of our MLK students. We are confident it’s going to be a fantastic year!