Stephanie Jimenez is the new Head of School at Guidepost Montessori at Williamsburg.
Tell us about yourself.
I have been an educator for over 10 years, with experience teaching infants through middle school. I was born and raised in New York, and my life changed forever when I moved to Turkey in 2012 to teach English to elementary school students. I have never been so stretched both personally and professionally in my life, and I am so thankful to have had that opportunity.
I lived and worked in Turkey for six years and recently moved back to the United States at the end of 2018. I actually returned to the U.S. because I discovered Guidepost. I refused to move back until I knew I had an excellent school for my daughter. I started as an Assistant Guide because, despite my years of teaching experience, I wanted to learn more about Montessori before leading my own Montessori classroom. Less than a year later, I am now the head of a school that feels like my home away from home, supporting staff and families who feel like my second family.
What inspires you about education?
The thing that inspires me most about education is its potential to change the world. Politics won't change the world, but education will. Knowledge and understanding are the key to improving the world as we know it, and the children we teach will be the facilitators of that change.
How did you discover Montessori?
I spent approximately one class session learning about the Montessori method as an undergrad pursuing my BA in ECE. I remember thinking, "Wow, that sounds like an amazing approach to teaching and learning," and I wondered why we didn't spend more time learning about it. I didn't think about Montessori much more after that until I became a mother.
I suddenly became acutely aware of how precious the early years of a child's life are, and how crucial it was for me to provide the best education possible for my daughter. I had to ask myself what my goal was for her. How would I know I had given her "the best"? I decided if she could grow up to be an independent, kind, respectful adult who uses her talents and skills to make the world a better place, then I would have succeeded in giving her the best. It didn't take me very long to understand that the goals of the Montessori method aligned closely with my goals for my daughter.
How does Montessori philosophy inspire your daily life?
The first thing that comes to mind is "grace and courtesy." At a minimum, that is one aspect of the Montessori philosophy I try to incorporate into all of my interactions with other people. Being a member of Higher Ground has made me even more conscious of it, because we are all ambassadors of the Montessori philosophy, and I think embodying grace and courtesy is critical in how we represent all things Montessori. I think that is what those who are unfamiliar with Montessori will remember more than anything else when they visit a Guidepost school for the first time.
Do you have a favorite Montessori quote?
It's so hard to choose just one! I think the quote I've been referring back to the most lately is from "The Absorbent Mind," in Chapter 27: "The Montessori teacher is constantly looking for a child who is not yet there."
To me, that is so simple and yet so profound, and I think it applies to people of all ages. The word "yet" implies a sense of faith that while a child may be having a hard time in the present, he or she is not too far from being the "normalized" individual who is waiting to emerge. That quote is a beautiful reminder to look for the best in people, even if it is not immediately visible or apparent yet. Trust that it will be soon, and that you play a role in helping another person get there.
What have you learned from your time working for Guidepost Montessori thus far?
I initially chose Guidepost because I believed it would be the best choice for my daughter. While that was absolutely correct, I was surprised to learn it's actually the best choice for me, too. Guidepost Montessori (and HGE as a whole) really walks the walk. Our core values make sense and are a part of every decision that is made, which makes it easier to navigate challenging situations.
What do you enjoy most about working with your teammates?
I enjoy that my teammates come from all walks of life and all educational backgrounds, but we all share common goals and values. We also seek to achieve our goals by upholding our values and building each other up along the way. I truly believe the people I work with want to see everyone succeed. A win for one of us is a win for all of us.