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Kate's Story

The importance of early childhood education within a Community of Learners based on mutual respect and lifelong learning was brought home to us as this teacher in Durham Public Schools, a former Learning Center student, shares a moving memory of the far-reaching impact of her early childhood experience:

"I went to The Learning Center for preschool and kindergarten in the mid-1980s, in a beautiful brick and wood building with an arched entryway and an auditorium. Our cubbies were just inside the door and beyond them were rows and rows of low brown shelves where we could choose lessons in math or art or shoe-tying. We took turns at the sink in the back of the room trying to hold water in our hands, and I watched the hour hand on the clock, sure I could see it move if I waited long enough. There was the right amount of everything, not too little and not too much.

Miss Karen and the other Montessori teachers balanced independent and community time beautifully, giving our little bodies gentle and predictable schedules to move through the days on softly creaking wooden floors. I remember a deep sense of belonging to a place and to a group of people, and when conflict broke out - I remember one issue with a math puzzle - adults were there to help, not punish. Somewhere in my parents' house there are photos of us (now all pushing 40!) in little red shirts, circled up to one classroom activity or another.

Today I teach 9th grade history…, and as of last November have a child of my own. When I think about what I want for my students and my daughter, much goes back to what I had in the Learning Center - thoughtful routines, a focus on social and emotional learning, judgement-free paths to follow based on interest and ability, and clearly stated community norms and values. In a perfect world, I'll incorporate that into my teaching and my girl will go to George Watts Montessori Magnet in four years. I'll get to see another little Montessori school ecosystem running - just from an adult height this time!”

In a recent conversation between this Learning Center alum and Karen Brinke, former Learning Center preschool and kindergarten teacher, Kate shared that she considers her early childhood years at The Learning Center and her undergraduate years as the best learning experiences of her life for two reasons: they were both "incredible times of learning and growth", and times in which special relationships were built with teachers in the earliest years and eventually in the world of professors in her undergraduate years.

"This [childhood] is the time of great powers and deep mysteries: the human being develops like a seed hidden in the earth that germinates and grows to become a spike of wheat."

Maria Montessori, The Secret of Childhood

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