Years spent at Gladwyne Montessori: 2002-2014 (Toddler-8th grade)
Degree working toward: Mechanical Engineering, Stanford University
Where has life taken you since graduating from Gladwyne Montessori?
In 9th grade, I transitioned to Loomis Chaffee, a boarding school near Hartford, Connecticut, where I resided for all four years of high school. Living away from home, my independence naturally grew, but I entered with the advantage of a Montessori background, with 12 years of independence-building under my belt. After graduating from Loomis Chaffee in 2018, I decided to take a gap year and traveled as much as possible, optimizing the seasons and working when I could. The year began with horse packing through Wyoming and moved to lifeguarding in Cape Cod. I then ventured to South America for four months, spending the first month with a ski instructor program in Patagonia, Argentina—since our summer is their winter—and the final three months in a semester abroad group called “Where There Be Dragons”. This program took me around Peru and Bolivia, allowing me to culturally immerse myself in the Andes and Amazon and providing an exclusive experience, quite different than that of a tourist, where I resided with host families and also studied Spanish. I then returned to the States for our winter and worked as a ski instructor in Jackson Hole. Following Jackson Hole, I spent a few weeks at home before heading back to South America for another month and a half of backpacking. Over the summer, I went on a two-month road trip with my sister all around the western United States, visiting cities as well as national parks and family along the way. The backpacking and the road trip acted as culmination experiences because they involved much more independence and freedom, building on the skills I had learned earlier on in my gap year. Overall, taking a gap year was the best choice I could have made right out of high school, a decision I may not have considered if not for Gladwyne Montessori. The unconventional approach to learning then pushed me to make this more unconventional decision later.
What are your favorite memories of Gladwyne Montessori?
The overall partnership and familial feel of special projects and trips. I participated in the school Robotics team, the FIRST Lego League (FLL), during my two years in middle school here, right up my alley as a current engineering major. Upper elementary and middle school students would collaborate and compete, and our team made it to the second round at the University of Pennsylvania both years. As one of the older kids in the group, I had to organize and set goals months ahead of time, figuring out our team’s trajectory. I also remember traveling to the UK in Upper Elementary—to coincide with our European history study—and just as much as I’ll never forget our Scotland and England experience, I’ll never forget the planning element either. We sold pizza to raise money, setting budgets and downloading Excel to make spreadsheets for profit, and, again, as one of the older kids, I took the lead on much of it. Finally, although it was only a one-day event, middle schoolers piled into a minivan with our teacher, Mr. Shin, and traveled to Cape May. There, we completed conservation work, learning about an endangered bird and fencing off its breeding ground so people didn’t trek on the eggs. I remember feeling so happy with my school family throughout this day.
Which teachers influenced you the most and how so?
Mr. Shin, who was always very accessible and easy to talk to. He personalized math classes, and when I transitioned to boarding school, I was able to take advanced classes because of my one-on-one geometry lessons with him. Even at the time of my one-on-one lessons, I remember thinking, “Wow, this is really special.” Also, Mrs. Leininger; other than officially teaching Humanities at the school, she also left us with so much extra knowledge outside the regular curriculum. I remember her conventional wisdom, like “be sure to live east of your job to avoid driving into the sun.” I also remember her 30-minute read-aloud each day before school. As 5th graders, we were listening to Homer’s The Iliad, and everyone wanted to be there for it, making sure to get to school early to share this time with her.
What do you value most about your time here?
The way Gladwyne Montessori taught me flexibility in dealing with adversity. During my freshman year of high school, I earned a "C" on the English midterm. Other kids who performed similarly said, “I can’t figure this out. I just won’t be a strong English student.” However, I didn’t stand for succumbing to that mindset. Instead, my attitude fell in line with more of an “I can figure this out” approach, spending extra time, asking older students, and seeking out all possible resources. Gladwyne Montessori instilled this, sculpting me to become my own best advocate to navigate on my own when I needed help. In overcoming obstacles, my boarding school pushed the motto of “I’m not good at that … yet.” However, I started high school already having this attitude. The environment at Gladwyne Montessori is created to be safe, comfortable, and supported; I never had to struggle with anything alone. Another aspect I value greatly is the idea of self-direction inside the classroom: other students at my boarding school thought students talking in class and deciding on their own work were such novelties. These were the very things that served me well later: not being told exactly what I should be doing at every moment of the day helped me in managing myself.