My school visits in Year 1 of my work as ISACS President were focused on meeting new heads and ISACS trustees in their schools. I visited ISACS trustee Elisabeth Raasch at Lake Country School – Montessori Learning Environments in Minneapolis in the late fall and had an opportunity to return for a Minnesota Association of Independent Schools (MAIS) meeting this spring. My first visit included a school tour with Elisabeth, one of seven AMI Montessori guides at the primary level serving children from 30 months to six years of age, and time with Head of School Paulette Zoe.
Lake Country serves over 300 students ages three to fourteen. Its mission states:
Lake Country School is a Montessori learning environment that fosters independence, critical thinking, and creativity within each child. We are a community that promotes diversity and inclusion, as well as respect and responsibility to self, to others, and to the earth.
The school’s clearly articulated core values include: Montessori pedagogy, love of work, peaceful community, and stewardship.
All students, and especially Middle School, also enjoy time at the Lake Country Land School, a rural campus an hour east of Minneapolis in Dunn County, Wisconsin.
What one aspect of Lake Country School would Elisabeth most like to highlight for her ISACS colleagues? Elisabeth points to the recent redesign of outdoor space on the Minneapolis campus, creating natural learning environments in an urban setting.
Another Greater Chicagoland visit this school year was Countryside Montessori in Northbrook. Founded by the Kulle family in 1967, the school made the transition to non-profit status and, in 1993, to full ISACS accreditation. The school serves 172 students from sixteen months to fourteen years with a program focused on respect, responsibility, and resourcefulness.
What aspect of Countryside would Head of School Wendy Calise most like to highlight for her ISACS colleagues?
Wendy points to Countryside’s new middle school building, with spaces designed to promote collaboration and constructivist learning.
The final stop on my fall Michigan tour was Daycroft Montessori School in Ann Arbor where I visited Head of School Seth Kopald. A Michigan native and Montessori-trained school leader, Seth began his tenure in July 2014.
Over lunch at the Grand Traverse Pie Company, I learned about Seth’s path to Daycroft. Then we headed back to school for a tour and a peek at classes in session. As we arrived at school, Seth invited me to join him in a walk through a grove of trees at the entrance to the campus, a routine he practices each morning to set his intentions for the day.
Daycroft serves 170 students in preschool through grade six configured in mixed-age classes on two campuses. The school’s mission is to provide a personalized learning environment that appreciates individual differences, nurtures the whole child, and enables students to develop at their own pace and achieve to their full potential.
What one aspect of Daycroft would Seth most like to highlight for his ISACS colleagues? Says Seth: “With two teachers per classroom, we provide individualized education while supporting the whole child: academically by creating tailored work plans, socially by providing a culture of support and kindness, and creatively by providing an assortment of fine art specials.”
Late August brought a visit to Alcuin Montessori School in Oak Park, IL, to meet with Executive Director Gina Gleason and two Alcuin Board members about an upcoming governance workshop. While there for this meeting, I had the opportunity for a tour with Gina while classes were in session.
Alcuin Montessori School (pronounced “AL-kwin”) serves approximately 150 students in preschool through grade eight along with a one-day-per-week parent and infant program. Founded in 1961, Alcuin is one of the oldest Montessori schools in the U.S. It is an American Montessori Society (AMS) member school.
What about Alcuin Montessori School would Gina like to highlight for ISACS colleagues? Gina reported that, since she began her tenure as head of school four years ago, Alcuin has had a very successful annual giving program, with 100% participation from parents, faculty, and staff. She would be happy to discuss the Alcuin giving program with other independent school leaders.