Isla Montessori celebrates 5 years in the CNMI
The staff and students of Isla Montessori School in Dan Dan gathered with parents, supporters and donors on the school grounds last Thursday to celebrate the school’s fifth anniversary and to look back at the challenges that faced the school in that period as a reminder of Isla Montessori School’s history of resilience.
School head Tatiana Ilmova thanked all those gathered, and all who have been involved in the school’s history for being a great support system. “These five years were quite a journey for us. …We started this school in 2018. It was two Montessori teachers and four families who really believed that Montessori education on island is extremely important. We also wanted to create a school that would not just be Montessori, but a school that will also be connected to local culture. Through Montessori Education, we bring Chamorro and Carolinian cultures to our younger generation. This was our vision and mission and it still is now.”
Ilmova shared that, after investing hard work, time and money to build up the school in 2018, that’s when Super Typhoon Yutu hit, completely devastating one of their classrooms. In just two months the school was able to rebuild the classroom and, as a nonprofit organization, they did it for free. It wasn’t long after that when the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Ilmova said that hitting the five-year mark despite the many obstacles the school has faced since its inception is just one of the displays of resilience and hard work among the school’s staff and supporters.
“And Montessori education is a hands-on education so it’s not easy to transfer it and make it online so it was a very challenging time for us,” she added.
They also lost a teacher in the process, but, despite this, the school was one of the first schools to reopen in the CNMI during the pandemic.
“Last year the economic crisis…hit us, and lots of families could not afford private schools… so we are surviving through all these obstacles because of the help of our community, and I want to thank you so much. …Through all these obstacles, we survived. We so proud of how it looks right now We’re so proud of where we are right now with our students, with our facility, with our teachers And I can tell that after all these obstacles we’re ready to meet our success.”
One of the mothers present at the event, Hyun Jae Lee, said that when her daughter comes home from school, she’ll always say, ‘I love my teachers.’ “And I think that says a lot about how much work and love they put into their students,” said Lee.
Another parent, Anastasia Inos, said she loves the concept of Montessori. “But I also love the teachers that are so warm and kind.”
Inos said her daughter has grown a lot. “We came here for the summer camp, and she started coming to school in September, and it’s very good to see how she matured. She began to vocalize her ideas, she became very verbal, she’s very productive, and I love that,” said Inos.
One of the school’s teachers, Pazlee Martinez, is happy that the school has lasted its fifth year. “We came back stronger, and we’re really happy and excited to see what is ahead of us.”
Although the Montessori method is not totally new to the CNMI, Ilmova said that what makes their school different is that they integrate the CNMI’s indigenous culture into the Montessori education. Since the beginning of the school’s inception, she and the other founders desired to not only attempt to keep the island culture alive in education, but also provide this information to children who have moved to the CNMI.
The Montessori philosophy helps children learn using three methods—hands-on learning, learning through classmates, and learning through the help teachers—in a way where children can enjoy the activities, not feeling like they are being forced to learn but rather enjoying the process of learning and storing up knowledge. Isla Montessori also helps the children learn to live independently in a fun way, learning the basics of cleaning, building, planting, carpentry, and pottery.