Evelyn Bernard '20 Inspires Young Students as Montessori School Teacher
Recent graduate Evelyn Bernard shares her experience teaching at a Montessori school, which introduces students to an ethical worldview at a young age.
Tell us about the kind of work that you do.
I am a lead Children's House teacher at a private nonprofit Montessori school in Haverhill, MA. Children's House is for children ages 3-6, so I teach both preschool and kindergarten in the same classroom. The school that I work at is a small startup still in its early years, so I am also gaining a lot of experience in fundraising, marketing, social media, and school administration. I participate in board meetings and am involved in a lot of the future planning for the school.
Montessori education is centered around peace education, cosmic and global education. Peace education is one of the cornerstones of Montessori philosophy, and it means teaching children how to be a peaceful member of a community (both the global community and classroom community). This includes conflict resolution skills and teaching about differences (in regards to culture, race, sexuality, etc.). Cosmic education starts from the big picture (the universe) and gradually focuses in on the specific parts (planets, continents, countries, specific life forms, the parts of the body, etc.) The goal is for children to understand how all living beings are connected. Global education teaches children to understand their role as part of a global community. This includes teaching about many different people and cultures, and helping children to see that they have a part in shaping our world and future. Montessori schools also teach grace and courtesy, and acceptance of differences. I am so grateful to be in a field that allows me to teach children to care for their environment and treat all living beings with respect.
How did you become interested in working in this area?
I attended a public Montessori school myself for fifth through eighth grade. The middle school years can be really difficult for students, but I adored school and loved all of my teachers and classmates. Montessori education is so special because it meets every student where they are, academically, socially, and emotionally. Everyone was encouraged to follow their own academic interests and go at their own pace, and the teachers did such an amazing job of creating a judgment-free and supportive school environment. I've known ever since middle school that I wanted to be a Montessori teacher, and now I actually teach in the same building where I went to school!
How did Simmons prepare you to become a leader in your field?
I am so grateful for all of the ways that my years at Simmons helped me to grow and challenge myself, but by far the biggest influence on my life was my time serving with Jumpstart [a national organization that provides language, literacy, and social-emotional programming for preschool children from under-resourced communities].
I participated in Jumpstart all four years, and was a team leader for three of those years. I learned so much about classroom management and early childhood curriculum, but I also gained so much valuable experience in leading a team and coaching my peers. I was definitely pushed out of my comfort zone a lot as a team leader, but these experiences and skills have served me so much in my career since graduating.
Were there any particular Simmons faculty members who inspired you?
At Simmons, I was an English major with a concentration in Creative Writing. Literature and writing are my biggest passions outside of teaching, and the English department at Simmons is a wonderful, tight-knit community. I am so grateful for all of the professors in the English department. My college experience wouldn't have been the same without them!
Do you have any advice for current students wanting to pursue a similar path?
If you want to pursue teaching, get as much real-life teaching experience as possible prior to entering the field, whether it be as a substitute, assistant teacher, camp counselor, or through an AmeriCorps program like Jumpstart. Education classes can be helpful, but you really won't know what you're getting into or what your teaching style will be until you're putting it into practice with real students!
During your first year of teaching, you will probably feel like you have no idea what you're doing, but as time goes on you will find your groove and begin to feel confident. Ask the more experienced teachers in your school for advice as often as possible. I have been so lucky to work with some very experienced and gifted Montessori teachers at my school, and they have taught me more than they'll ever know!
Finally, just know that this career can be so difficult and draining at times, but it's always so worth it when you realize how much your students trust you and how much they grow over the course of the year.