The very best part of Villa di Maria is our people. Our community of families, faculty and staff is something to be proud of and something to hold onto during our school’s pandemic closure. In this series, We are VdM, we’ll highlight the energies, talents, humor and wisdom of some of our amazing people—and we’ll stay connected! Today, we’ll meet Melinda, Brian, Nathan and Jacob Smith. Melinda is currently the assistant in our Racks & Tubes Lower Elementary classroom and has been our resident photographer for years. She is also the woman behind our fantastic (and beautiful) yearbooks.
The Smiths first came to VdM in 2013, when Nathan started in the P2 Children’s House. Nathan is now a fourth-year in Upper Elementary and Jacob is a first-year in the Checkerboard Lower Elementary classroom.
Villa di Maria: Tell us a bit about your family.
Melinda: We are a family of four, well five, if you count our newest addition, Teddy. He seems to take up all our family time of late. I’ll start with him—Teddy, our Australian Labradoodle, joined us right before spring break and he keeps life fun, stressful, and up all night all at once. He also keeps us exercised and out of our PJs. Jacob, my next youngest, just celebrated his 7th birthday and he, like Teddy, has an adventurous and playful spirit. Nathan, double digits, 10, is a history lover and a strategist. All that’s left is Brian and me. I guess the best way to describe us is that I love to take things apart and he likes to put them back together (Brian obviously being the more responsible adult).
VdM: How did you find Montessori and what brought you to VdM?
Melinda: Oh, my favorite story! I was pregnant with Jacob at the time and Nathan had just turned three. We decided it was time to find a place for Nathan and not knowing where to start, I asked one of my closest friends, Melissa Urspurch (co-head of ATI) where to look. She only had one suggestion, Villa di Maria. Villa happened to be having a Silent Journey coming up and she told us to attend. Once we went through the Silent Journey, as is a common story at Villa, we fell in love. I remember thinking, if only I had pin maps growing up, maybe I would know where all the countries were! Then life and pregnancy took over until I got a call from Melissa saying we missed the deadline to enroll Nathan… oops! Melissa then went ahead, filled out our application, paid our enrollment fee and Nathan would be attending Villa in the fall with Mrs. Milos!
VdM: What did you do, career-wise, before coming to VdM? And what does Brian do?
Melinda: Before Villa, I was a photographer. I worked at a few portrait studios but while getting ready for Jacob, we decided it was time to start my own very small photography business. Once again, my good friend Melissa put things in motion and let Laura know I was a photographer. So my path to Montessori began, volunteering as a photographer for Villa’s website and media. That continued and also evolved into volunteering in the parent association, cooking with the Upper Elementary, and then finally as an employee. My first two years I was an assistant to Anna Schwind, my forever cheerleader. In order to better assist the children, I started asking her for lessons every week. She guided me as she guided them and like the children, I loved school and learning. Now, four years in, I listen to Ms. Sarah’s lessons and her lovely singing voice and love watching the children solve and engage in the material. It all still brings me much joy.
Brian works two jobs at the moment. The first is my tech support—he helps me with all my current computer woes. But in reality, Brian works as a software engineer and architect at World Wide Technology. He is a consultant, helping customers build new mobile apps, websites, and other technology. Brian’s office is a dynamic environment where software developers work in pairs and small groups and he has told me how similar the elementary environment at Villa is to his own office.
VdM: What is something your family is doing to make the most of this extended break?
Melinda: I mean, we have a puppy, that’s enough right!? There are also several house projects but… with the weather turning nicer, our time will be spent outside with our new kiddie pool and puppy.
VdM: A question for Nathan and Jacob: If you could teach Teddy any trick in the world, what would it be?
Melinda: Nathan has hopes of teaching Teddy how to catch a frisbee, Jacob simply wants Teddy to learn not to bite. Research question, when do puppies lose all those sharp puppy teeth?
Thank you, Melinda, Brian, Nathan, Jacob and Teddy! Villa di Maria would not be the same without you.
Photos courtesy of the Smith family.