The State of Villa di Maria Montessori School


Our stellar Head of School, Mrs. Laura Ceretti-Michelman, delivered the official State of Villa di Maria Address Thursday eve with a follow-up recap at Friday morning’s parent coffee.

In a nutshell:


  • Our school is healthy and thriving!
  • Tours have increased significantly compared to this time last year.
  • Retention is high across the board from Primary to Lower Elementary and from Lower Elementary to Upper Elementary.
  • Contributing factors to this trend include our beautifully updated, user-friendly website (courtesy of Teresa Muehlemann, owner of Stan Gellman Graphic Design), a new targeted marketing strategy with the assistance of our advertising consultant and, of course, the sharing of Montessori experiences from our current VdM families to family and friends- nothing compares to word of mouth!


  • Annual reports will be distributed to all currently enrolled families within the next two weeks.  
  • All things positive to report on all fronts!
  • Our VdM annual campaign was a great success- we will be gunning for 100% participation next year!

Campus Revitalization:

  • Phase 1 will begin this August after the close of Camp Pegnita; Phase 1 includes a new Elementary building, a pool house (equipped with locker rooms, restrooms and a Camp Pegnita office) and a new pavilion 
  • We’re on target for all start dates, and these first new buildings will be completed by the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
  • Stay tuned for more exciting fundraising opportunities to assist with the construction and completion of ALL of our new buildings over the next few years!


  • Our Elementary program has experienced such growth that Villa di Maria will have TWO, yes TWO, Lower Elementary classrooms this fall!  Mrs. Anna Schwind and Mrs. Megan Eilers will be our directresses with Mrs. Melinda Smith and Mrs. Sophie Andre as assistants.  
  • Our Upper Elementary classroom will relocate for one year while construction is underway to a beautiful location nearby.  A wonderful adventure this will be!
  • And, we must share that all of our Elementary classrooms are FULL for this coming school year!  That deserves a round of applause and one enthusiastic cheer!

Parent Association:

  • Many thanks to Kristel Mabie and Melinda Smith for an enormously successful year with all events planned and orchestrated by our Parent Association!  Many props to both of these lovely ladies!
  • The 2016-2017 Chairs, Tammy Presley and Kathy Favazza, will take the reigns and continue to serve as liaisons between the parents and school, build community through events and activities and support the VdM mission.

A Cronan Montessori Moment


From JoAnne Cronan (mom of James in Primary III):

A few days ago while driving in the car, James recalled a winter-break visit to the Science Center. It basically went like this:

“Mom, remember the day we went to the Science Center and saw that BRAIN? And I drew the brain?” James had drawn a pretty close replica of the brain he saw while there and even color coded the different areas. It was not at all what the planned activity was for that day, but the volunteer just went with it, and they talked about the areas of the brain as James was drawing them.

“Remember that guy (the volunteer demonstrating with the brain)? He saw my shirt and asked if I went to a Montessori school. I DO go to Montessori school. He said he had gone to a Montessori school, too.”

I do remember that day at the Science Center and the care shown to James by this former Montessorian (now in his late 40’s or early 50’s). I’m pretty sure that James now thinks that he is destined to work at the Science Center. It was a sweet Montessori moment, and I’m glad it made an impression on James, too.

The Morning Magic Three


Villa di Maria Staff Members,
If the stars align and the universe leans in your favor, what THREE things can kick your morning off on the right foot each and every time?  
Do tell.

Reghan McAuley (Primary I Directress)- 
1.  Hot shower
2.  Coffee
3.  Hugs from my girls!

Jess Jente (Primary 1 Assistant)-
1.  Must have coffee (preferably iced coffee) already made in my fridge
2.  Must have breakfast- toast with almond butter, blueberry jam and banana (if you’re truly curious)
3.  I have to leave my house by 7:43 or else I feel late and rushed.

Robyn Milos (Primary II Directress)-

1.  Thirty minutes of quiet before anyone gets up
2.  A cup of coffee
3.  Great music for the drive to school

1.  Fresh water in the vase of flowers
2.  Great oil blend in the diffuser  
3.  Sharpened pencils everywhere!

Christina Kerr (Primary II Assistant)-
1.  Special green smoothie  
2.  Special coffee
3.  Quiet time
*Christina, We think you need to divulge what makes your smoothies and coffee “special.”  You have piqued our interest!

Heather Steinman (Primary III Directress)-
I will say my days start off in a better place if I have had…

1.  More than a couple of consecutive hours of sleep
2.  Breakfast
3.  Hydration
I have spent this year in survival mode (new baby!), but maybe I’ll have early morning yoga and meditation on my list someday.

Maria Burr (Primary III Assistant)-
1.  Breakfast:  egg over medium with a little salt and lots of pepper (yum!), extra crispy bacon and orange juice with extra pulp
2.  Children in car by 7:15 AM, ready to go, buckled up, smiling, holding lunch boxes  
3.  Nice, leisurely drive with NO traffic, arriving extra early to school

Anna Schwind (Lower Elementary Directress)- 
1.  Tea  
2.  Kisses and hugs
3.  Exercise
(And, a breakfast with protein!)

Sophie Andre (Lower Elementary Assistant)- 
1.  Peaceful, happy wake up of my daughter
2.  Breakfast
3.  Enough sleep

Melissa Urspruch (Lower Elementary Assistant)- 
1.  An early bed time  
2.  Time to exercise
3.  Lots of natural sunshine when the alarm goes off

Rebecca Callander (Upper Elementary)-

1.  A rocking anthem to jump around a bit
2.  Hugs from Winston and belly rubs for the cats
3.  Some 15-20 minutes of a good read:  insightful, humorous, academic- you name it!
And… A clean kitchen
And, And… No traffic on Geyer Road

Melissa Anderson (Upper Elementary Assistant)- 
1.  Coffee
2.  Like…four hours of quiet time 😉
3.  Sunshine

Karolina Hanus (Floater and Late Stay Lead)-
1.  My cats wake me up by licking my hair and kneading me (they have a biological alarm clock).
2.  I spend appropriate amount of time in the bathroom, showering and primping.
3.  I eat breakfast, which is almost always delicious, with my best husband.

Nicole Cook (Business Manager)- 
1.  Wake up at 4:45 AM to avoid feeling rushed
2.  Lunches prepared and clothes laid out the night before, ready to roll in the morning
3.  Leave the house at 6:30 AM to be at work by 7:00 AM.  (It’s a mind thing).

Hilary Lord (Director of Operations)-
1.  At least 30 minutes all to myself
2.  Eat scrambled eggs with green veggies (broccoli is my favorite)
3.  Able to be outside for at least an hour- pulling weeds, gardening, taking a walk, or eating my breakfast outside

Laura Ceretti-Michelman (Head of School)-
1.  Workout
2.  Green tea
3.  My family working to get out the door on time with house left neat and tidy
*Assumes that fundamental grooming is a necessity for all (e.g. brushing teeth)



Sophie’s Montessori Moments


Our beloved Lower Elementary Assistant, Sophie Andre, shared two of her Montessori Moments from personal experiences at home with her daughter, Lynne, who will be joining one of our Villa di Maria Primary classrooms this fall!

Also important to note is that Sophie is French, so her blog posts are written en francais and then translated into English immediately following each.

Special Montessori nuggets with a pre-primary child you won’t want to miss!



Writing in the Montessori classroom.

Where does it begin?  

How does it progress?  

Our favorite Dr. Maria Montessori described writing as a complex task involving both physical and mental capabilities:  lightness of touch, the ability to adapt the hand to an amount of space given, coordination of movement, isolation of sound, visualization and recognition of symbols.  In addition, she emphasized that children must develop self confidence AND the desire to write- the desire to combine sounds with symbols to form words.

What Dr. Montessori termed an “EXPLOSION” into writing fascinated her.  Through her observations and close work with children, she found that children are so well prepared in the Montessori environment that when they do experience the natural urge to write, they are more successful.  This writing process occurs through guided discovery where the directress indirectly prepares the child to write, so “the child comes away with the impression that he/she has discovered writing.”

This INDIRECT PREPARATION in the Children’s House starts with:

  • Children telling their own stories and conversing
  • Children talking about their experiences
  • Children being read to
  • Children listening to music
  • Children engaged in Practical Life activities that require concentration and sequencing and lead to confidence in the children as they successfully complete purposeful work
  • Children being exposed to an abundance of vocabulary in every corner of the environment.  
  • Children develop finger strength, lightness of touch and control through lessons including: cylinder blocks (knobs), touch boards, touch tablets, sandpaper globe and pouring.

Then the DIRECT PREPARATION begins with lessons:

  • Sandpaper letters- Not only tactile, but kinesthetic, visual and auditory as well.  The child learns each sound and the shape that each “sound” makes by tracing lightly and repeating to mastery.  Hand-eye coordination develops in the process.
  • Movable alphabet- This lesson essentially allows for word formation without frustration.  The child uses the sound-symbol relationships to build words with small sandpaper letters and then strings them together into phrases and sentences.  They vowels are blue; the consonants are pink.  They’re connecting letters phonetically to make words before having to write them correctly using pencil and paper.  Another step in building success and the desire to write!
  • Metal insets- These geometric shapes are used concurrently to trace and develop lightness of touch and create different types of lines for letter formation on paper.  
  • Cursive writing on paper- Here’s where the EXPLOSION begins!  Stories!  Thoughts!  Observations!  Poems!  Jokes!  Lists!  They all come spilling out of the child’s mind through the hand onto the paper.  

And, then.  The EXPLOSION into reading…  to be saved for another day!

For now, examples of Storytime in the Villa di Maria Children’s Houses:

Practicing sounds and letter formation
Practicing sounds and letter formation
More tactile work with individual letters, focusing on each sound
More tactile work with individual letters, focusing on each sound
The GLORIOUS MOVABLE ALPHABET!  Color-coded vowels and consonants.  That Maria Montessori... big brains.
The GLORIOUS MOVABLE ALPHABET!  Color-coded vowels and consonants.  That Maria Montessori… big brains.
Practicing cursive
Practicing cursive
Transitioning into storywriting
Transitioning into storywriting
The stories and illustrations start flowing and flowing and flowing!
The stories and illustrations start flowing and flowing and flowing!
We've got one heck of an animal lover here!
We’ve got one heck of an animal lover here!
The stories lengthen.  The personalities expressed!
The stories lengthen.  The personalities expressed!

Several more writing progression examples from our Children’s Houses!  To be savored!