Montessori Leaders Symposium

An annual gathering of Montessori change makers.

The Montessori Leaders Symposium, an annual gathering of trailblazers from schools and teacher education programs, takes place over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend each January.

By gathering as an intimate, passionate community of Montessori leaders, attendees engage in meaningful dialogues that advance our practices—and the Montessori Movement.

January 18 – 20, 2019
Dreams Delight Resorts & Spas
Playa Bonita, Panama

The 2019 event included roundtable discussions, breakout sessions, and a plenary session with education visionary, activist, and featured speaker, Sam Chaltain—who also joined us for a special dinner on Saturday evening.

Taking part in the Montessori Leaders Symposium earned participants 14 hours of continuing professional development.

The setting was the Dreams Delight Playa Bonita Panama, an all-inclusive resort boasting the closest beach to Panama City, along with rainforest walkways, swimming pools, and stunning views—an ideal location for inspiring the generative conversations, exploration, and discovery that unfolded during our time together.

Featured Speaker: Sam Chaltain

Reimagining Our Vital Work

In his book, Thank you for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations, Thomas Friedman proposes we are living through one of the most significant times of change in human history. He writes: “Three forces on the planet—technology, globalization, and climate change—are all accelerating at once. As a result, so many aspects of our societies, workplaces and geopolitics are being reshaped and need to be reimagined.” In the face of such seismic shifts, what is the role of schools in general—and Montessori schools in particular? Should our understanding of the structure and purpose of Montessori education shift in order to keep pace with such a rapidly changing world? What are we shifting away from, and towards? We joined in conversation to explore the possible paths—and help one another reimagine the vital work ahead.

About Sam

Sam ChaltainSam Chaltain is a founding partner at 180 Studio, a global design collaborative that designs places, sets strategies, and tells stories that advance people's understanding of the future of learning—and what it takes to get there.

A prolific writer about public education and organization strategies, Sam’s work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington PostEducation TodayUSA Today, and the Huffington Post, among other publications. He is also a former speechwriter for each of President Obama’s U.S. Secretaries of Education.

Sam's work translates to the screen as well as the page. He is co-producer of the PBS documentary film, 180 Days: Hartsville, about one Southern town’s efforts to address public school reform; and the 10-part online film series, A Year at Mission Hill, about a year in the life of a Boston public pilot school.

Sam has a master’s degree in American Studies from the College of William & Mary, and an MBA from George Washington University, where he specialized in non-profit management and organizational theory. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he graduated with a double major in Afro-American Studies and History.

Schedule At-a-Glance

2019 Program Schedule

Daytime Arriving early? Excursion options are available through Global Travel Partners.
5:30 PM – 7:30 PM Welcome Dinner
7:30 AM – 8:30 AM Breakfast on your own (included with your reservation)
8:30 AM – 10:00 AM             Breakout sessions with Mary Schneider & Jennifer Nolan
10:30 AM – 12:00 PM              “Candid Conversations” roundtables
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM Networking lunch
6:00 PM – 8:00 PM Dinner with featured speaker, Sam Chaltain
7:30 AM – 8:30 AM Breakfast on your own (included with your reservation)
8:30 AM – 12:00 PM Plenary session with featured speaker, Sam Chaltain
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Networking lunch


Montessori Leaders Symposium Breakout Sessions

Read about the inspiring discussions and idea-sharing we had at the event.

Leading with Montessori Tenets

As your local Montessori community grows it can be difficult to stay focused on Dr. Montessori’s core tenets. The day-to-day work of leadership, governance, instruction, and administration has a way of taking center stage. In this workshop, attendees learned how to use Montessori fundamentals as a “North Star,” informing  their decision-making and response to hot topics, such as school safety and inclusion. They also learned how Montessori tenets are a starting point for generative conversations that aid in the transformation of the teacher, engaging parents, and serving the child. The foundation for this workshop was “The Fundamental Tenets of Montessori Education,” a defined set of essential elements published by the AMS Teacher Education Action Commission (TEAC). These tenets sparked reflection and analysis of both teacher education and classroom practices. Attendees came away with a clear understanding of the tenets, and how to leverage them for success—whether you were a school leader or a teacher educator.

About the Presenter

Mary Schneider is a Montessori leader with over 35 years of experience. She recently retired as from Woodinville Montessori, in Washington state, where she was the founding head of school, after overseeing its growth from 4 to 400 students, ages 18 months – 18 years. She taught in the classroom for 20 years before moving to full time administrative work. Mary is also a teacher educator and the executive director of the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest. Mary served as a member of the AMS Teacher Education Action Commission, chair of the AMS Teacher Educators Section, and on the boards of both AMS and the Northwest Association of Independent Schools. Mary is AMS-credentialed in Elementary I and holds an Early Childhood credential from Seattle University Montessori Teacher Education Program.

We Are Torch Bearers! Living a Life that Belongs to the Community

“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations.” —George Bernard Shaw

The ultimate outcome of a mature Montessori community is to change the world for the better. But how do we get there? In this session we explored our work as Montessori leaders in nurturing this calling not only in ourselves, but in each member of our community—from children, to parents, to faculty and staff, to instructors, to our greater human family. We centered on a towering truth: As Montessori educators, we know that the world is our stakeholder, and it needs our talent and industry. Together with fellow leaders, attendees reflected on healthy school culture, balancing academic and human development expectations, the shifting employment ethos, and the ways they can help kindle and protect the "splendid torch" of each member of their school and/or teacher education program community. Participants walked away inspired to tackle the immense and essential task of their daily work.

About the Presenter

Jennifer Nolan is the head of school at Seton Montessori in Clarendon Hills, IL. She is an experienced Montessori educator, teacher educator, and educational leader specializing in organizational communication, staff development, parent education, practical life curricula, and leadership. She explores these topics with adult learners as a faculty lecturer and administrator program coordinator for the Seton Montessori Institute. Jennifer is a frequent presenter at Montessori conferences around the world. Jennifer holds AMS Administrator and Early Childhood credentials.

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