Leslie McNeil

Thoughts from an Alumnus and Current NM (Parent of 2ND Year Eagle, Lauren McNeil) I am Leslie McNeil, graduate of Nightingale Montessori. My family, originally from Cleveland, was new to the community of Springfield in the late 1980’s. After a brief period at a neighboring Kindergarten my mother, Loretta McNeil, learned about Montessori from her new network of friends. Soon after she enrolled me.

My education started in the Chickadee’s in 1987. I have the fondest memories of learning to Parent, Leslie McNeilread by simply sounding out my words, in the very classroom that your child may report to on a daily basis. The Chickadee courtyard was a place where I was encouraged to explore and be free! The freedom I felt from learning in the Chickadee environment has always carried with me.

I remember loving the idea of choosing my own work, and being told that here it is “ok” to lie All School News down on the floor and explore a new way to learn. This being a polar opposite approach to what I had experienced before made me hesitant at first, but I don’t remember it taking much more than a day to adapt to these glorious new terms. Looking back I can’t imagine a better way of introducing a child to learning and the idea of teaching. From the beginning I was able to draw the conclusion that learning was not always taught by someone else, but through my own eyes and my own interactions with the pieces of work that I chose all by myself.

I went on to become and Eagle and then an Owl. At that time the Owl class went to the eighth grade year. Through the years I was blessed to be offered many opportunities to explore the world around me. Nancy introduced me to my everlasting love for art and we visited many places where art was a treasure. Sheila introduced me to my ability to survive alone with my classmates in the wilderness, without normal every day necessities. Maria introduced me to science and many fun and interesting ideas, Science Fairs and experiments. Through Nancy’s love for history we visited Williamsburg, Philadelphia and Washington DC. The teachers you see today have been seasoned by many generations and many challenges through their students and experiences. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities and the gifts that were given to me as a student, that otherwise would have never crossed my path.

As a reflection upon myself and into society I see where the differences lie. I am most appreciative that I was taught so very early on to be self-sufficient, self-confident, and independent. It has allowed me to see the world from a positive place and has allowed me the ability to adapt to people and environments that are ever changing. Montessori gave me the tools that I need to be a good mother, a good citizen, a good listener, and it instilled in me great leadership skills and a great work ethic that I have been recognized for throughout my entire adult life.

The importance of my accomplishments have never been monetary. I receive a sense of accomplishment through recognizing problems, finding solutions, implementing them and evaluating them. I have learned as an adult many folks are not as fortunate as myself and lack the ability to recognize and accomplish these things with such ease. All of these unique traits stem from the foundation that I stand on, the foundation of Nightingale Montessori.
As an Alumni parent I am always excited to hear Lauren’s stories when she returns home from school at the end of the day. It’s easy and it’s fun to identify with the culture that she experiences on a day to day basis. Through her excitement it’s obvious that Lauren is in a setting where her ideas are heard and her love for the arts is nurtured.

Lauren attended a Public School for Kindergarten and First Grade. Within her first days at Montessori she was able to recognize the differences. She really loves the new style of learning being offered to her. She likes the idea of being in a more comfortable setting, and not in a hard seat for most of the day with only one teacher. She loves that fact that she has many teachers with broad differences that she can lean on for knowledge. She likes that she is empowered to help others and that she never has to shy away from asking others for help in solving a problem. Or vice versa, she never has to shy away from encouraging and helping her classmates find solutions to their problems. I absolutely love knowing that my child thrives in an environment where she can be independent and problem solve.

One of the personal perks for Lauren that she appreciates is being able to get up and use the restroom or get a drink of water without ever waiting for a pause in the teachers lecture or fear of embarrassment from asking in front of all of the other classmates.
Lauren’s second year I noticed that she truly values her independence as a student at Montessori. She notices that children are at different levels of learning, but makes no questions about it. She understands this to be the ‘norm’. Her understanding of this concept has given me great confidence that Lauren will be successful as a child AND as an adult. The ability she and her classmates have to accept diversity will make them all great citizens and employees. Great leaders understand that not everyone learns the same, but that everyone yearns to learn.

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