The New AMS Curriculum Coaching Academy: An Interview with Program Facilitator Mandi Franz

The New AMS Curriculum Coaching Academy: An Interview with Course Facilitator Mandi Franz

Photo courtesy of Cora Kemp.

In recognition of the vital role that curriculum leaders play in ensuring that teachers are equipped to align curriculum with Montessori principles, the American Montessori Society (AMS) is proud to launch the Curriculum Coaching Academy beginning in Spring 2024. The Academy is designed for both current curriculum leaders and classroom teachers interested in seeking to elevate their skills in coaching and curriculum.

This immersive and comprehensive 9-month program is grounded in cosmic education principles and embraces andragogy principles. It showcases best practices through the co-construction of learning with peers and facilitators. The class itself models a spiral curriculum across five key areas that will prepare participants for work as a curriculum coach or coordinator: Montessori philosophy; Montessori curriculum; diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB); mentoring and assessment. Participants will actively participate in live sessions, purposeful assignments, and meaningful discussions, leveraging resources within Canvas. Upon completion, graduates receive an AMS Certificate for Curriculum Coaching.

The Academy begins on May 6, 2024, and applications are being approved on a rolling basis until April 29, 2024, 11:59 PM (ET) or until the cohort is full.

Ahead of the live Q&A information session occurring on April 3 at 7:00 PM (ET)—free to anyone wanting to learn more about the Academy—the Curriculum Coaching Academy facilitator Mandi Franz recently shared details about the key benefits of the program and her own journey to the curriculum coaching career.

Please share more about your own journey to become a curriculum coach. What resources were most helpful for you, and what kinds of professional development opportunities do you wish you had had along the way?

I love guiding Lower Elementary children; they are my people! During my 14 years of teaching Lower Elementary, I learned so much from the children in my class. I became a better Montessori teacher, met the needs of a very diverse student population, and grew as a human. I made mistakes, tried new things, and had success. I worked with colleagues to create scope and sequence documents, align Montessori lessons to state standards, improve my craft, and imagine possibilities.

After about a decade of teaching, as I continued to learn, I started to look beyond my classroom environment. I saw children’s experiences with the transitions from one classroom level to the next. I noticed that parents’ experiences varied greatly, depending on their child’s teacher. I noted differences with classrooms at the same level. I wanted to work with the larger school community, rather than only my own class.

I got a master’s in Montessori Leadership through The Institute for Educational Studies (TIES) program at Endicott College. During that program, I learned more about Montessori philosophy, leading adults, and becoming a Montessori coach. A few months later, I was hired as Ross Montessori School’s first teaching coach. Later, I took the Coaches Training through the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector; I learned more about observation, coaching teachers for their individual development, and the lesson study protocol. Throughout my tenure as Teaching Coach at Ross, I have learned much from the people I work with—teaching staff, families, children, and our head of school.

I look for any opportunity to connect with other curriculum leaders or coaches. There are no other Montessori coaches within driving distance of my home; I have joined communities to feel a connection with other coaches.

We are talking during March, Women’s History Month. Have there been inspirational women in history—people you personally knew or historical figures—that have inspired your Montessori work journey?

Several women have inspired my Montessori work journey. Rosann Larrow, co-founder of the Montessori school I attended as a child, models the tenacity it takes to be a lifelong Montessorian. My mom Betty Prout honors the light in every child. Dr. Martha Urioste fought to make Montessori education available for all children in Denver Public Schools; she exemplified working within the public education system while providing Montessori experiences for children and families. Dr. Sonya Hemmen, head of school at Ross Montessori, inspires me by working with children’s families to meet every child’s needs.

Many other women have inspired me and supported me on my Montessori journey. I know that we all stand on the shoulders of those who’ve come before us as we hold hands to work together for today’s children and young people.

Why is the curriculum coach role so important in a school? Tell me more about the impact it can have on students and helping schools achieve their goals by fully implementing Montessori to meet the educational needs of each child?

A curriculum coach has a wide-scope view of what’s happening in their school. This big-picture view helps the curricular leader envision a child's full experience through all the school levels. While classroom guides have a deep understanding of each child in their class, the curriculum leader knows the child throughout all of their years at the school.

The curriculum coach supports Montessori guides to help create equitable experiences for all children in the school. Each teacher’s skills are elevated to better support the children. The coach also co-creates a collaborative culture among the teaching staff. The coach observes classrooms and throughout the school; they support routines for the whole school including family engagement and professional development.

The AMS Curriculum Coaching Academy is primarily for current Early Childhood or Elementary curriculum coordinators, or for classroom teachers interested in advancing or enhancing their career. How could members of each group use this program to improve classroom practices and propel them to next steps in their career?

Both current coordinators and classroom teachers can benefit from this program. Within any learning group, it is advantageous to have a diverse community of learners. All participants come with unique experiences; therefore, all participants will learn with and from each other.

What excites you most about the program?

I am excited to work with like-minded individuals and also to push my own beliefs, biases, and opinions about curriculum leadership work. I know the program can help create increased connections with individuals across the country in similar roles, support those interested in becoming a curriculum leader, and co-create useful resources for our schools.

Aspiring and current curriculum coaches tend to be extremely busy people. How can completing this program fit into busy personal and professional schedules?

As Montessorians, we believe in lifelong learning. This program is an opportunity for folks to continue learning in their Montessori journey.

Yes, completing this program will take time and energy. However, much of the work will be done according to each participant’s individual schedule. Scheduled, synchronous meetings will be fairly minimal.

Participants will also gain vitality through this program; learning and developing is energizing! We will make connections with other curriculum leaders, create useful resources, and practice necessary skills for school leadership.

I see that there is a free informational session on April 3, 2024, ahead of the April 29th deadline to apply for the program. Who may attend this informational session? Do participants of the Q&A info session have to already know that the program is right for them?

All are welcome to the Q&A session. AMS staff, developers of the program content, and I will all be there to answer questions about the program. If you’re not sure if this program is right for you or someone else, please register and come as this is a great opportunity to learn more!

Live Q&A Information Session

Curriculum Coaching AcademyJoin us on April 3 at 7:00 PM (ET) for Curriculum Coaching Academy: Live Q&A Information Session.

Come learn more about Curriculum Coaching Academy and meet our facilitator Mandi Franz. This is an opportunity for you to ask questions and better understand the program and its offerings.

Register Today

About the Author

Mandi Franz

Mandi Franz has over 22 years of experience teaching in Montessori schools and working with adult learners who are interested in Montessori education. Mandi earned a master's degree in Montessori Leadership from Endicott College and is a highly-sought Montessori expert. She is a teaching coach at Ross Montessori public charter school since 2015 and serves on the Strategic Accountability Committee. Mandi also serves on the Teacher Education Action Commission for AMS. AMS-Credentialed (Elementary I, Administrator).

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The opinions expressed in Montessori Life are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of AMS.

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