Hello! I’m Renée Ibáñez, a 2019-2020 academic year graduate. I was part of the very first cohort hit by COVID-19 who had to finish and graduate via Zoom. (All this, under the masterful guidance of Gretchen Hall and the then trainers in training Laurie Campifornio and Kay Urquhart). This lockdown only added to the amazing learning experience I had at MTCNE in Hartford. I learned to adapt to an unprecedented way of learning Montessori while studying and virtually interacting with trainers and peers. This extraordinary experience made me even more grateful for my dedicated teachers who went far and beyond to ingrain the Montessori philosophy in each of us, regardless of the circumstances.
My Montessori odyssey started in 2007 as an assistant. I was amazed by the beautiful materials and their logic, design, and engineering. I was fascinated by the teachers’ respect for the child and the joy and independence I witnessed flourish in the children. I just felt the need to enter this extraordinary world and decided to do my training. I soon got certified as an Early Childhood Montessori guide by the MACTE training center I had available back in Florida. After a few years, I knew there was much more out there for me to learn, un-learn, and re-learn, so as good things come to those who wait and after more than a decade of itching for it, I was fortunate enough to come to Hartford and finally make this wish become a reality. And boy, were those sleepless nights and hundreds of drawings worth it!
I believe education truly holds the key to success and childhood experiences are carried through adulthood, making a difference in an individual’s life. Being born and raised in Mexico City, I have witnessed grave socioeconomic disparities, learning how education can also become a key element in breaking crime and poverty cycles. Throughout my journey as a guide, I have come to the realization that the vast majority of Montessori schools worldwide are not within the reach of every child, and contrary to Dr. Montessori’s vision, it has become a method for the elite and mostly, privileged children. Doing my part in following Dr. Montessori’s legacy, I resolved to contribute with the transformation of low-socioeconomic communities by providing underserved children with opportunities to thrive in this ever-changing world. Hence, I actively volunteer with non-profit organizations –Educate from the Heart for Colombia and Behavior Links for Guatemala. These organizations grant impoverished child care centers access to the Montessori Method, materials, and classes to caregivers. After all, it really takes a village.
Continuing with this concern for fairness, I have become part of Wildflower Schools, a transformational movement whose main goal is to support teachers and children with opening beautiful, equity-based micro-schools. As a result, I co-founded Dahlia Montessori School in Monmouth, New Jersey. It is a Spanish immersion Primary program where I am applying every piece of knowledge I acquired at Butterworh Hall. Dahlia has not yet found its forever home, but we have been running a seedling since last fall and soon will open our doors to all who want to enjoy a diverse, high-quality, bilingual Montessori education by the Jersey Shore.