Leslie Droege – From Mainstream Teaching to Montessori Elementary

Leslie Droege graduated from the AMI Diploma 6-12 in 2002 and is a Lead Teacher at the Maria Montessori School, she says:

Before I started on my Montessori journey, I had been teaching earth and physical sciences in secondary prep schools for about 12 years. As a teacher I was continually disappointed with working in traditional classrooms and my best efforts to connect subject areas, inspire collaborative work and guide students to self-initiated study were not effective. I chatted with a friend who was a PhD. in Educational Psychology to get her perspective and ideas and she recommended Montessori. I said what’s that? She said to read Paula Polk Lillard’s Montessori Today. I read through it in an evening, astounded that it mirrored all I’d tried to create for my Masters in Environmental Education, yet nobody at that university had even mentioned Montessori to me.

Consequently, I was already a true believer before entering training, and already devoted to being a classroom teacher. I signed up for the very next Elementary training programme I could attend, studying across the summers of 2000-02. I got a job with a new charter Montessori elementary school that sponsored me to train but the downside was that I started a new class with only a few weeks of training and nobody else on campus had any training at all – not advisable, but we survived. However, working while training did give me a disciplined approach to completing assignments as I knew I’d be depending on the outcomes in my own classroom and I think the teaching practice that is an integral part of the course is so important for this reason – because it motivates you and makes the abstract concepts concrete.

The training, given I was totally bought into the concept before starting, was not difficult and I was delighted to see how the materials and lessons had been designed. As a Diploma student, I think good communication skills were key: being able to listen well and converse with fellow students and trainers. For me, it helped that I was interested in all subject areas as this gave me an awareness of the potential to connect them through lessons and projects. I remember feeling complete joy at learning more about the things I did not already know well enough to give lessons on. One of the best things about the course was making friends with my classmates with whom I’m still in touch, though we came from around the world and only see each other once in a while.

My intention was always to teach Montessori Elementary but I discovered that the Lower Elementary (6-9 years) was my best fit. I found an excellent AMI school in Reno, Nevada and was hired by them in 2003. I had a great admin team and fellow lead teachers so that made it a perfect place for me to continue refining my skills and practice. I stayed there for 14 years, which seemed a short time compared to a few of my colleagues. I only left because I had the chance to live in Europe, which had always been a dream. I came to the Maria Montessori School in 2017 because I knew that being part of the Maria Montessori Institute, a flagship AMI training centre, they would always be supporting us all to meet the highest standards of Montessori practice.

For anyone considering training as a Montessori Elementary teacher I would say that you will discover you can love all children and even like the tricky ones as you find out what makes them joyful learners. The more experience I have gained as a teacher the more I have been able to close my mouth and OBSERVE OBJECTIVELY which has increased my ability to trust children to show me what they can do, what scares them and what excites them. It’s been quite a journey and one I am looking forward to continuing.

Become a qualified Montessori Elementary teacher for 6-12-year-olds with our AMI Diploma 6-12.