Joe first joined our Community of Learners as a preschool student. A bit shy and not very talkative, his teacher quickly realized she had the privilege of working with a student who approached learning in an unusually unique way. Most children in a Montessori environment typically ask for new lessons. Instead, this young learner preferred watching others as they took in the rich and varied lessons unfolding in the environment. The teacher, remaining true to the Montessori principle of allowing the child to lead the way, still remembers with amazement how well this method worked for Joe as he demonstrated proficiency time and time again. His learning style serves as a strong reminder of the importance of allowing students to follow their innate sense of how best to take in new information. Although less interactive than the typical learner, Joe formed several strong relationships with other students who have remained life-long friends even as each has found unique paths into adulthood.
Following high school, Joe attended and graduated from NC State University, majoring in Parks, Recreation and Tourism. His wanderlust then led him to Ambondrona, Madagascar, a town and commune of about 13,000 people where he spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. While living in Ambondrona, a very dry part of Madagascar, different from the rest of the country in weather, terrain, people and language, his jobs included food distribution, improvement of water catchment systems, and sales and marketing of young trees from a nursery located in a nearby town.
When I asked him to describe his time in Madagascar, Joe replied, "I loved the people there. They had very little, but were extremely generous. They were tough and resilient." He also stated, "I read more books in those two years than I have read the rest of my life."
Joe returned to the United States and moved to Queens, New York, where he accepted a job with New York City Parks as an Outreach Coordinator, working with park users and groups to improve their neighborhood parks. He soon transitioned into Parks Operations and has been managing parks in Queens for the past eight years, currently managing Forest Park (538 acres) and Highland Park (141 acres).
Anyone familiar with The Learning Center knows the school is a proponent of both outdoor education and travel, and the many benefits both provide in educating the whole child. It is always a pleasure to see former students live out, in their adult lives, the very principles that remain important to our Charter School's Philosophy of Education. For Joe, the great outdoors and love of travel have become his life's work and passion. He shared that one benefit of living in New York City is the accessibility to travel opportunities, something he says he takes advantage of as often as possible.
What I know for sure about education: True teachers are facilitators who create an environment where the child can lead the way. I am convinced the result is a "learner for life" such as Joe who continues to observe and learn wherever his work and travels take him.