Remembering, Honoring and Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist minister and civil rights activist who was assassinated on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. He was 39 years old.

The family of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., walk in the funeral procession in Atlanta, April 9, 1968. From left: daughter Yolanda, 12; King’s brother A.D. King; daughter Bernice, 5; widow Coretta Scott King; Rev. Ralph Abernathy; sons Dexter, 7, and Martin Luther King III, 10 (AP Photo)

Dr. King spent his lifetime exposing the unfair and cruel treatment of African Americans throughout the United States. He fought for racial and economic equality and inspired countless others to do the same in the Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. locks arms with his aides as he leads a march of several thousands to the court house in Montgomery, Ala., March 17, 1965. From left: Rev. Ralph Abernathy, James Foreman, King, Jesse Douglas, Sr., and John Lewis (partially out of frame). (AP Photo)
The following leaders are visible on the front row, wearing leis: John Lewis, Ralph Abernathy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ralph Bunche. Brown Chapel AME Church and the George Washington Carver Homes are behind them. Sylvan Street was later renamed Martin Luther King Street. (Alabama Media Group)
1958 photo of Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Charles Moore/Smithsonian)

Today we take the time to honor the life, the work and the legacy of Dr. King. There are several online opportunities to do just that.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr is welcomed with a kiss by his wife Coretta Scott King after leaving court in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1956 (AP Photo)

Thank you, Dr. King. Rest in peace.

We are VdM: The Ferber Family

The very best part of Villa di Maria is our people. Our community of families, faculty and staff is something to be proud of. In this series, We are VdM, we’ll highlight the talents, humor, energies and wisdom of some of our amazing people. Today we’ll meet the Jody, Alan, Theo and Elliott Ferber. Theo is a new Villa di Maria student this year; he is in his second year in the Checkerboard Lower Elementary classroom.

Villa di Maria: Tell us a bit about you and your family. Where are you from and what brought you to St. Louis?

The Ferbers: Alan was born and raised in the Bay Area of California, and went to UCLA. Jody lived in MO, IN, OH, and NC as a child—and notably, in Kirkwood from age 7-11! Jody went to the Cleveland Institute of Music, UC Berkeley, and Manhattan School of Music for undergrad & grad degrees. We met while playing a chamber music rehearsal at the Musicians’ Union in Manhattan in 2004, and lived in the NYC area until summer 2020. After we had our second son Elliott in the fall of 2018, we knew we were ready to live in a smaller city, and began to weigh options.

We chose St. Louis because Jody’s parents live in Labadie, just west of the city, and we were attracted to the high level of cultural offerings here in a midsize city. A strange coincidence: as a child, Jody moved to St. Louis in the summer before 2nd grade, and now 34 years later, our oldest son Theo moved to St. Louis the summer before his 2nd year!

VdM: How did you find Villa di Maria?

The Ferbers: Early in the summer, when we decided to move to St. Louis, we did lots of research on different school options and drove by many different schools.  Theo (a 2nd year in Checkerboard) was with us when we first drove by VdM. As soon as he saw the playground made of cedar structures, he exclaimed, “I want to go to school here!!” We set up a meeting with Laura, and were impressed by the large outdoor campus with woods and garden, and inspiring indoor facility. The clear priorities of hands-on, tactile, and experiential learning, as well as appropriate outdoor recreational time, were important to us.

Laura’s anecdotes about various VdM students and their interests/pursuits helped us know that VdM would be a great fit for Theo. In NY, Theo went to a traditional public school for K and 1st grade. We could tell half-way through 1st grade that we needed to find a learning environment where his enthusiasm and creativity for hands-on learning would be embraced and supported as part of his school day. We started to explore Montessori schools last winter in NY, and when we decided to move to St. Louis, we were really glad see options here, as well. We feel so lucky to have found VdM, and after only a few months, we see Theo’s enthusiasm for learning reignited! Our whole family is enjoying the process of learning all about Montessori, and both Mom and Dad are jealous and want to be Montessori students!

VdM: Tell us about your backgrounds, what do you and your spouse do career-wise?

The Ferbers: We are both professional musicians. Alan is a trombonist, composer, and arranger, working in jazz and commercial music, and is adjunct jazz faculty at NYU Steinhardt School. He writes music for his own Big Band and Jazz Nonet, as well as arrangements and original commissions for other artists and ensembles. Many recent projects have been for vocalists with big band. He co-teaches the BMI Workshop, a weekly coaching for professional musicians to improve their big band composing.

Jody is a cellist, composer, and vocalist. Although she is classically trained, she plays a lot of different styles of music and often plays with jazz artists. Alan and Jody record regularly for albums, films, and commercials, and have both released a number of albums as composer/bandleader. You can hear Alan’s music at and Jody’s music at Jody also teaches private cello lessons and leads the Jitterbugs: Jazz for Kids online classes. Since 2017, Alan and Jody have performed chamber jazz as the Ferber Duo, and had a recent livestream concert at the World Chess Hall of Fame here in St. Louis. (Alan’s identical twin brother Mark joined us for that concert on drums—so this time, Ferber Trio!)

VdM: Do you have any hobbies? How do you and your family enjoy spending your spare time?

The Ferbers: We love to hike, camp, bike, kayak, and make nature art together (we always have a “collections” box of cool looking natural materials we’ve found). We love to travel, so when one parent has a concert in a great location, we try to bring the family along, when possible. Also, Theo plays the drums, so we often play “Family Band.” (Elliott, age 2, is our dancer!). Theo went through a huge Beatles phase in 1st grade, so we learned “Come Together,” “Ticket to Ride,” and “Hey Jude” as Family Band. As anyone in Checkerboard knows, Theo loves baseball, so we often go to our local Fox Park and play at the baseball diamond. Theo is a natural gardener and is constantly starting plants from seed—so although Mom and Dad don’t have green thumbs, Theo is encouraging us to learn and stretch. This year Theo planted dozens of seeds in pots during the 2nd week of COVID lockdown and we had our first garden with actually edible proceeds this summer: kale, chard, tomatoes, basil, cilantro, beans, and carrots. Yum!

VdM: What are you most looking forward to this school year?

The Ferbers: We are so excited for Theo to learn in the Montessori style, and for him to have the opportunity to make lot of new friends. We are also enjoying spending time with the grandparents, with whom we’ve been in a “bubble” since June. It’s been really special for the boys to see them often, something we never could do before when we lived so far apart! Although it’s a challenging time to get to know a new city, we’re really enjoying take-out from SO many yummy St. Louis restaurants, and have tried to catch live outdoor music when possible!

VdM: A question for Theo – What is one of your favorite things to do at school, so far?

Theo: Grammer Box III, because of the colored water, and you get to use the science stuff to make the colored water.  It is SO FUN!

Thank you Jody, Alan, Theo and Elliott! Welcome to Villa di Maria—we are thrilled to have you in the VdM community.

Photos courtesy of the Ferber family.

We are VdM: Jonathan, Abadi and Mikie

The very best part of Villa di Maria is our people. Our community of families, faculty and staff is something to be proud of. In this series, We are VdM, we’ll highlight the talents, humor, energies and wisdom of some of our amazing people. Today we’ll meet Jonathan Putra and his parents Abadi Kurniawan and Mikie Rachman. Jonathan and his family are new to Villa di Maria this year; Jonathan is in his first year in the Racks & Tubes Lower Elementary classroom.

Villa di Maria: Where are you from and what brought you to St. Louis?

Mikie: We were born and grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia. I moved to St. Louis right after high school in 2004 to pursue an undergraduate degree in nursing and my husband (Abadi) moved to St. Louis in 2007 to continue with his Master’s degree in computer science. Even though we grew up in the same city and our house is only 30 minutes away, our first meeting is actually taken place here in St. Louis—10,000 miles away from home. Needless to say, St. Louis is our second home away from home. We decided to start our family in 2013, and Jonathan was born a year later right after the World Cup semi-final match between Argentina and Germany team.

VdM: How did you find Montessori and Villa di Maria?

Mikie: We heard about Montessori school when Jonathan was in Pre-K, but neither of us knows much about the school philosophy back then. However, when Jonathan was in kindergarten, we learned more about Montessori philosophy from multiple work colleagues who send their children to Montessori school and we really like its teaching philosophy. After doing some research around the St. Louis area, we chose Villa di Maria because we were impressed by everything we saw during the tour. When Jonathan had his chance to experience the school for one full day, he came home really excited and told us that he can’t wait to go to this school.

VdM: Tell us about your backgrounds, what do you and your spouse do career-wise? 

Mikie: My husband work as a software engineer at 1904labs, building software for Fortune 500 companies in St. Louis. Outside of his full time work, he’s working on building his own startup with some of his friends. I am currently working as nursing research coordinator at WashU, collaborating with BJC healthcare to expand informatics research activities on their academic medical center. In addition to this full time role, I am also teaching a couple clinical classes for Goldfarb School of Nursing as part of my community service to help prepare future nurses in our region.

VdM: Do you have any hobbies? How do you and your family enjoy spending your spare time?

Mikie: My husband and Jonathan both love to play video games. Their favorite game is Minecraft. They spent a lot of time building, exploring, and going on an adventure in Minecraft world, and then tell the tale with me afterward. We enjoy experiencing new culinary from different countries, whether by going to restaurants (not so much during pandemic), or by trying out new recipes at home.

VdM: What are you most looking forward to this school year?

Mikie: Before the Pandemic, we were already excited to have Jonathan experience all different activities at VdM such as going out and cooking activities. Now, we are just happy that Jonathan has the opportunity to go to school in-person and make new friends in his first year at VdM. It was a tough decision to send him to school in person, but all the extra effort by Villa di Maria staff and teachers to make sure all the students can stay safe gave us the confidence and peace of mind.

VdM: A question for Jonathan – What is one of your favorite things to do at school so far? 

Mikie: Jonathan loves spending time outside, exploring the woods while he is at school. Additionally, he also loves learning about Science especially when he has a chance to conduct science experiments. He always excited to share some interesting scientific facts with us while at home.

photo credit: Sophie Andre

Welcome to Villa di Maria, Jonathan, Abadi and Mikie. We are so happy to have your family here!

Uncredited photos courtesy of Mikie Rachman and Abadi Kurniawan.

Upper Elementary Book Club – Fantasy and the Hero’s Journey

For the month of November, the Upper Elementary Book Club voted on which genre to explore. And the winner is: fantasy and the hero’s journey! Each of the novels below offer nontraditional takes on traditional fantasy or fairy tale elements. Upper Elementary readers will follow characters through adventure and danger as they face their fears, overcome seemingly impossible obstacles and find their true heroic selves.


In the mythical town of Zombay, a young orphan named Rownie is determined to find his missing brother. Like all the town’s orphans, Rownie lives in the house of an evil witch named Graba, who uses him as a servant. As he is out on one of Graba’s errands, Rownie meets a troupe of goblins who travel and put on plays, an activity which is strictly forbidden in Zombay. When Rownie learns the goblins can help him find his brother, he escapes Graba’s house and joins their troupe. What follows is an adventure that is sometimes very dark, sometimes funny and always exciting. Goblin Secrets combines elements of fairy tale magic and steampunk fantasy to create an incredible world filled with unforgettable characters.

Breadcrumbs is a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” set in modern-day Minnesota and told from the perspective of 11-year-old Hazel. Hazel’s life is not easy. She is adopted and the only dark-skinned person in her family. She doesn’t have many friends and is misunderstood by her teachers. And her father left. The one thing Hazel had was Jack, her best friend. But one day, out of nowhere, Jack stopped talking to Hazel. Everyone tells Hazel that boys and girls just grow apart, that it’s just a part of growing up, but Hazel knows better. She knows that Jack is cursed and she sets out into the terrifying, snowy woods to find him. Breadcrumbs blends a classic fairy tale with mythology, pop-culture and literary references, and real-life problems into a rich and emotionally powerful story.

On her twelfth birthday, Farah and her two best friends must go on a quest to find her little brother Ahmed, who is lost inside an ancient and magical game. Inside the game, the friends find themselves in Paheli, a land full of beautiful Islamic architecture and a bustling market that remind Farah of Bangladesh and India—places that are part of her family’s history. The friends must face the game’s challenges and defeat the Architect to rescue Ahmed and escape. With the help of a lizard and the pilot of a hot air balloon, the friends face all sorts of magical, mythical creatures, as well as the Architect’s spies. The Gauntlet weaves Islamic culture and history together with fantasy and adventure to tell a story of family, friendship and loyalty. This book is also the first book of a series, so readers can follow even more of Farah’s adventures!

Lola Budge is not like other wombats. She is inquisitive, curious, chatty and bored. All she wants to do is explore. So when all the other wombats are asleep, Lola sneaks out of her burrow to explore Tassie Island, to find out what else is out there in the world. She meets a platypus with a secret message, but doesn’t understand it. She heads back to her burrow and finds the other wombats, including her family, being carted away in a cage by the Tasmanian devils. Lola’s mother sees her from the cage and shouts out to her to find her uncle. Lola sets off to find him, alone and afraid. Along the way, she meets Melvin and Blue, a rat and a baby penguin, who join her adventure and help her find her true courage and strength. Braver is pure anthropomorphic fantasy, filled with fun, quirky characters and lively adventure.