1513 Hall Johnson Road
Colleyville, TX 76034
Last month at this time we were looking forward to the AMI Refresher Course to be held in Fort Worth, February 17-20. The month of March finds us on the other side of the whirlwind of activity that surrounded this important event. Now that the dust has settled, I thought you would like to hear about the role BGMS played in the success of this huge national conference.
Among the 950 Montessorians who registered for the event, our group of 25 guides, assistants, administrators, and parents was by far the largest contingent of any school in the country. We are overwhelmingly grateful to the generous Annual Fund donors who made it possible for so many of our staff members to participate in this inspiring educational opportunity!
Not only did we benefit from attending the weekend’s many lectures and workshops – designed specifically for AMI guides at each level, assistants, administrators, and parents – but we also, in large part, made it all happen! It’s safe to say that it would have been quite a different experience without the work of BGMS volunteers.
► To start with, each level of workshops needs a “course liaison,” a person who does all the logistical work necessary to produce that course. For the A to I Refresher Course (for guides for 0 to 3), that liaison was BGMS toddler guide Cristel Ruiz. Cristel also chaired the Tourism Committee, which did a wonderful job of informing the attendees about Fort Worth restaurants and attractions.
► BGMS parent and former elementary guide Sara Wyer chaired the Ticket Committee, which was responsible for ticket sales for the Keynote Address on Friday night.
► BGMS Director of Marketing and Development Brian Brooks was an official event photographer.
► BGMS Maintenance Director José Garcia created all the flower arrangements for the weekend’s events.
► As an international teacher trainer, BGMS Pedagogy Advisor Larry Quade attended the AMI Consultants’ Training.
► BGMS founder Barbara Gordon and I were invited to present in the Administrators Workshop, where we offered a session for 135 Montessori administrators on “The Other Side of Administration: Guiding Relationships.” I spoke on relationships within the school involving administration and staff, and Barbara addressed relationships with parents and the Journey and Discovery.
► I was in also charge of School Tours, and BGMS guides Teresa Aquino, Lucy Cáñez, Raana Saiyed, and Billy Cunningham volunteered to man the School Tours table.
► BGMS parent Roger Ochs serves as a member of the national Board of Directors of AMI/USA. In this capacity, he joined fellow board members from around the country to host an open meeting of the AMI/USA Board.
In short, BGMS was definitely center stage throughout the weekend, involved in almost every aspect of the Refresher Course! But impressive as our contributions were, they pale in comparison to what occurred right here on the BGMS campus on Saturday evening, when BGMS staff, parents, and members of the Board of Trustees hosted a tour of the school.
I have visited schools in various parts of the country on this popular tour over the years, and I can tell you that I have never seen anything to match the party we threw that night! As one of our guides said, “We put BGMS on the map forever!” There’s no question that the tour of BGMS was the high point of the Refresher Course for everyone who attended.
To start with, there was a lot of anticipation surrounding this event in the Montessori community from the time it was first announced. Several times people told me, “The whole reason I came to the Refresher Course was to see The Barbara Gordon Montessori School!” I opened sign-up sheets for two chartered buses on Friday morning when the Administrators Workshop opened, and by that evening both buses were full. Administrators were actually standing in line at our table to sign up their staff.
On Saturday morning, when the teachers began to arrive, we had a problem. A great hue and cry arose, and there was tremendous disappointment that both buses were full. People were so upset that I decided to start a waiting list, to see if we could justify chartering a third bus. By noon we had to close that list, too! Luckily, we were able to get a third bus and driver at the last minute, so the problem was solved.
In the end we had approximately 250 visitors – 168 on the three buses, and over 80 who came by private car. That's over twice the number of people any AMI school tour has ever had!
Some of the "tourists" were long-time friends from the Montessori community who have known our school for years. Some were curious newcomers drawn by our international reputation. We welcomed guests from New Jersey to California, and even from Alaska and Hawaii. I personally met teachers and administrators from Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, the Philippines, Japan, Canada, and Bhutan. Whether we knew them or not when they arrived, everyone left as a friend.
Despite the cold and the rain that persisted throughout the evening, our campus, classrooms and gardens have never been so beautiful. It was obvious that our visitors were amazed by what they saw.
Almost Home was warm and welcoming, and Joan Veazey and Denise Weston were gracious hostesses. BGMS Trustees Amy Crain, Carol Demlow, Stacey Dwyer, Keith Jones, and Marietta Klein greeted our guests with a warmth and sincerity that set the tone for the evening. BGMS spouses Raul Cáñez and John Demlow were also on the "welcome team," and Doug Veazey helped with the set-up earlier in the day. Many of our guests commented on the atmosphere of welcome that pervaded the campus. One visitor said that she felt at home from the moment the bus drove into our driveway!
The refreshments were unbelievable! Never, in all my experiences at any school or conference, have I ever seen anything like the gourmet delights that Monica Fausti created, assisted by Amy Crain, Marietta Klein, and Barbara Ruby. A culinary school student, Monica created the entire menu and prepared the food as the "capstone project" of her training! One of our guests said that the elegance of the refreshments and the grace with which they were offered made her feel she was attending a party in someone’s home!
Carol Demlow’s creative “BGMS Timeline” was the subject of fascination. I saw many people absorbed in reading and appreciating our history throughout the evening. If you haven't had a chance to see this colorful timeline yet, it’s worth a special trip to the office where it is now on display.
The chivalry with which Keith Jones, Brian Brooks, and José Garcia braved the elements to show our guests around the campus was deeply appreciated. Keith went home soaked to the skin from escorting people from place to place, and Brian was thoroughly chilled from standing in front of the office all night directing cars back to Almost Home. José worked tirelessly the entire evening – managing traffic and offering directions. Some visitors told us that even though our campus was large, dark, and unfamiliar to them, they felt safe everywhere because of the gallantry with which they were escorted from building to building. The kindness of these gentlemen and their dedication to the safety and comfort of our guests was greatly appreciated!
BGMS classrooms have never been lovelier. The guides and assistants were overwhelmed with expressions of admiration and delight. Comments were made that our classrooms and materials were "gorgeous," “immaculate,” “pristine” and “beautiful in every detail.” All the effort that everyone had put into their gardens and flowers, including Ms. Aquino’s parents, was noticed and admired. Our outside environments were as beautiful and inviting as the classrooms. An administrator from California came up to me after her tour, looked me in the eye, and solemnly declared, “I have one word for you – WOW!”
BGMS is one of only a few schools in the country that has an AMI Parent-Infant program. So naturally our Parent-Infant room was a big attraction, with many people taking pictures of every detail of the room. The covered porches with outside work displayed were a popular feature of the Toddler Communities, as was Ms. Molly’s charming “bedroom” with little beds all made up for sleepy toddlers, and Ms. Cristel’s unique fireplace/aquarium conversion.
More than one guest offered to bring a truck and carry off Ms. Lucy’s grain mill! Visitors to Primary classrooms took photos and begged the guides to give them samples of special math and writing papers. They also tended to peek inside all the storage cabinets and drawers and take pictures there, too. Good thing all BGMS guides are so neat and organized, right?
In Lower Elementary guests commented on the generous size of our classrooms, and how wonderful it is to have a kitchen! Many remarked on how well-equipped our classrooms are, with a rich variety of interesting materials.
Visitors to Upper Elementary were amazed at the children’s work on display, particularly the 3-dimensional Aztec marketplace, the extensive art work, the science materials, and the samples of creative writing. Mr. Rap was besieged with questions, and threatened to write on the blackboard in big letters: "I have 28 children and my name is Mr. Rap."
The Adolescent Community, as always, was a showplace. Once again our students outdid themselves in preparing their own delicious refreshments and conducting their own tours. They set up outside lights to illuminate their gardens, bee hive, and brand new chicken coop, and the gardens glowed green in the surrounding dark. One guest was overheard urging a friend not to miss the Adolescent Community because “they have real adolescents there!” (And yes, Alexander the Great made another appearance!)
A faculty member from the NAMTA/AMI Adolescent Orientation was one of the visitors to the Adolescent Community. She had high praise for what she saw, and for how Tricia Miller is developing and guiding our program.
Some people were so impressed with Almost Home that we had to shoo them out to visit the classrooms. Several actually thought that Almost Home was the whole school! Everyone seemed to be enchanted with the name "Almost Home." Mr. José told me that he translated it for some visitors from Ecuador who loved the concept when they understood its meaning.
It’s hard to express how proud I am of our staff, our parents, our adolescents, and our Trustees. I always feel it is an honor to be associated with BGMS. The Refresher Course tour made me realize that this is because of the beauty, harmony, and warmth that is created here, not just for the school tour but every day, by all the members of our community – guides, assistants, support staff, Board, parents, and children, too. This experience should confirm for all of us that BGMS is special and unique, at the very highest level of Montessori practice. With the Refresher Course tour, we showed the world who we are.
Mary Caroline Parker, J.D., M.Ed. © 2012
Mary Caroline Parker, J.D., M.Ed.