Utility Container

Mobile Menu Trigger (container)

Search Trigger (Container)

Above Nav Container

Nathaniel Leonard

Nathaniel Leonard

"So much of what I value about the education that I got from Gladwyne [Montessori] is that I wasn't taught to parrot back; I was taught to think. I was taught to do things, to think for myself, to hit a problem and figure it out. The encouragement that I got to do it my way and to solve things in a way that I thought made the most sense and be supported in that. I remember very distinctly that kind of encouragement to be myself and to figure out who I was."
Nathaniel Leonard spent most of his childhood at Gladwyne Montessori from the time he was two until he graduated from the 6th grade, with a brief enrollment in an elementary school in the United Kingdom. Upon leaving Gladwyne Montessori, he enrolled in Radnor Middle and High Schools. As an undergraduate, he attended Kenyon College in Ohio and got his BA - a double major in English With Honors and Drama, a Master’s Degree from University of York, UK in Renaissance Literature, and later a PhD from University of Massachusetts Amherst in English Literature.
He’s gone from performing on the stage in high school, college, and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to now teaching Early British Literature with a focus on Shakespeare and his contemporary dramatists at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. In addition to teaching English, he runs a theatre program, overseeing theatre productions, directing, producing, casting, etc. He estimates that he has worked on well over 60 professional and student-theatre/college-level productions. This past spring they mounted a production of Antigone that was streamed on Facebook using Zoom.
His mother was "super-involved" at Gladwyne, she was on the PTA and served as the President of the Board of Trustees. His sister attended Montessori and now so does his six-year-old son, Charlie, out in Missouri. Nathaniel has fond memories of his projects and specifically his teachers: "they were all fantastic. Mary Sarni really pushed me a lot. I remember her particularly fondly, likely because I was older and my memory was more developed. I also loved Famous Person Day. I really internalized trying to stump people, that was my personality, particularly as an elementary school student. I was Admiral Lord Nelson once. Nobody got it. I was also Giotto - a fairly obscure Italian Renaissance painter one year. I did a deep dive and had a lot of fun with those."
While in Upper Elementary, he entered the Junior Authors Competition winning third place for a murder-mystery story set in Loch Ness. "It was very weird but I had a great time with it. I also remember working on a special project that we did in collaboration with another school, a play called ‘The Burning Rice Fields' it was a really neat experience."
He credits his love of education to the Montessori education he received at Gladwyne Montessori. "It taught me, more than anything, that school work was an end in-and-of itself. I didn't ever sit down to write a paper or do a project in High School thinking "I'm trying to get an A". I'd sit down and think "I'm trying to do a good job. I'm trying to learn from this. I'm trying to do something interesting. I'm trying to push myself". I was taught to think in those terms instead of "I'm trying to do exactly what the teacher wants me to do so that I can get the best most possible mark on this assignment" and I feel like that mindset - because I see it all the time with my students - is crippling because [eventually] you get to a certain point and you don’t have a teacher [or] the teacher doesn't want to tell you what they want because they want you to develop your own approach - they want you to have your own voice in your work, effectively. And if you haven't been taught to have that, it can be very hard to learn - particularly when you're older.”
Reflecting on his Montessori education as an educator himself, he credits the school with teaching foundational skills missing from the methods of traditional school systems. "What Montessori does really well is [that] it goes further than just saying: 'we want a well-rounded Academic student, we want a well-rounded Ethical student, we want a well-rounded Happy student. A student who doesn’t just have these skills but enjoys using them – who doesn’t see getting up and going to school as torture.'
I think that one of the most important parts about the Montessori approach is to teach people to be nice to each other. It sounds so simple and so obvious but yet it's not - it's not at all."