Ella Cohen

Ella Cohen

Years spent at Gladwyne Montessori: 1998-2005 (Kindergarten-6th grade)

Degrees: B.A. in Art History, University of Pennsylvania; currently pursuing Masters in Art Education, Harvard University

Describe your professional work experience.

Since graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, I have dedicated my time to working with low income communities through arts education. I started off at a public middle school in the Bronx, teaching English Language Arts, facilitating literacy groups and designing after school arts programs. Then, in 2016, I joined the staff at Lincoln Center Education, the education wing of the largest arts and culture institution in the country. While there, I worked both to bring students in to experience the best of the arts as well as to coordinate outreach efforts into surrounding boroughs.    

What did Gladwyne Montessori instill in you as a learner?

The constructivist approach to education was key for me: playing with materials and being my own learner. I also remember writing a nonfiction piece in 4th grade that won a Junior Author Contest (my dad still has it framed)! My teacher encouraged us to keep coming back to our writing to edit, a strong writing practice I’ve never forgotten. During such an important exploratory period of life, Gladwyne Montessori created a stake for me in my education, encouraging me to to think critically. Additionally, art never felt like an “extra”; students were always able to work on art projects in the classroom, connecting them to other areas of study, all while managing our own learning time.  

How did Gladwyne Montessori drive your current professional work?

This school provided an environment where older peers served as mentors—a quality I believe helped mold my view of myself as a leader and, specifically, as an educator. Within this, I hope to embrace my responsibility to incorporating the type of education I was fortunate to receive into the lives of my students. Recently, in one of my graduate courses, we discussed the Montessori philosophy in the context of Eleanor Duckworth’s The Having of Wonderful Ideas, which reinforced one of my central conceptions of education: it is better cultivated when learners are free to pursue by choice. The Arts in Education program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education will further allow me to act on this as I work to spread the love I have for both education and the arts.  

Finally, describe Gladwyne Montessori in 3 words.

joyful; liberatory; welcoming