10 Questions with Mary Augustine

Regina Passarella, class of 2017 and Montessori graduate, went in depth with Miss Mary Augustine to find out more about the wonderful teacher. Here's what she discovered.

Mary Augustine

Q: What made you decide to go into teaching?

A: I have to say I was always interested in being a teacher and always loved the idea of teaching younger children. Growing up I was always playing school with my sisters. I knew I would be drawn towards teaching, I felt that I could have a positive influence in the lives of young children.

Q: Why do Montessori schools want children to enter at age 3?

A: It’s important for children in a Primary Montessori to start as close to the age of three as possible. The children stay in the program for three years; as a 3-year-old, 4-year-old and 5-year-old. When children begin at three we can work with them at the most sensitive period in their lives for learning certain concepts and ideas. The children make a connection with the Montessori materials in a way that allows them to work with the materials for all the years they are in the program. The children have heightened sensitivities during specific periods of their development and we want to capture them at the right moment.

Q: What is your favorite thing about teaching Montessori?

A: What I appreciate most about Montessori Education is the multi-age grouping; younger children learning from the older children and older children teaching the younger ones. It is so interesting to observe and teach many ages versus just one age. It makes a very interesting classroom environment, it truly is the most effective method for learning. There is also a great deal of hands on learning. The children are actively involved, they use their minds and bodies in the learning process. They become independent workers and children love this.

Q: How long have you been teaching at Waldron Mercy Academy?

A: I started my teaching career at Waldron Mercy Academy in 1980, so I have been teaching here for 36 years.

Q: What words of wisdom could you share with students considering going into the teaching field?

A: It is critical to remember that the children always come first. Truly understand the process of the children's growth and development. Remember to be the best role model at all times for your children. Everything you do, from how you communicate with them, to how you interact with them teaches them such important life skills and values.

Q: Do you think a technology free learning environment helps the children learn at such a young age?

A: Young children need to use their hands, their bodies and their minds for true learning to occur. They need to be actively involved in the learning process. I do not feel that young children should be exposed to technology during the preschool years. When they are in the elementary grades it is fine. Young childrens’ brains are actively developing during the preschool years-we do not want technology to interfere in any way with that development.

Q: How can Montessori teachers meet the needs of so many different aged children?

A: The Montessori Materials at this level are designed for children from ages three to six. AS the children grow and develop their use of the materials advances through the years. The materials incorporate language, math, sensory learning, geography and practical life-everyday living and lessons in grace and courtesy.

Q: What do you like to do outside of the classroom with your free time?

A: I enjoy spending time with my family. I enjoy being an active part of my nieces’ and nephews’ lives. I like to be active; I enjoy bicycle riding and walking.

Q: Do you think the children working independently in the classroom makes them a better prepared student?

A: I think when children become independent workers it allows them to become strong and capable individuals and thus great students. Independent children develop good self-confidence and self-esteem. Independence allows children to become active thinkers, who know how to plan their work and see it to completion.

Q: How can parents reinforce the Montessori principles at home?

A: We encourage parents to set the child’s home up with good organization, having toys on low shelves, not having too many toys out at once-rotating toys. Also, guiding their children to be more independent, allowing their children to work through struggles and not always solving their problems for them. Encouraging parents to set limits for their children and being the constant, dependable adults that young children truly need to feel secure in their world. Also, reading to young children is critical.

Q: What do you find is the most difficult aspect of teaching?

A: Young children are caught up in a very fast paced and complex world that is not always looking out for the best interest of young children. Parents as well, have such busy, complex lives making it so much more challenging in their attempt to raise their children. Trying to help parents see that spending genuine time with their children, setting limits for them and being, strong adults for their children are the most important things they can do to raise their children.

Q: What women have had the most influence on you and in your life?

A: In terms of my teaching profession-Maria Montessori's understanding of the young child and her methodology have enabled me to find true delight in the teaching of young children. In terms of my wonderful years here at Waldron, Sister Mary Christella has been a tremendous mentor and influence in guiding me to become a dedicated educator. And finally, in terms of my life in general my dear and humble, faith filled mother has been a guiding light for me.

Q: Have you ever considered teaching a different grade level?

A: No, I love the joy of life that young children express. I enjoy their innate desire to learn and their genuine honesty and openness.

Q: From an outside perspective, your classroom is always quiet.  How do you keep the stillness of the room every day?

A: From an outside perspective it may seem calm and quiet-but it is quite busy and active. The children are actively involved, they are busy using their minds and their bodies. When you observe the children from the moment they arrive until the time they leave you will notice how the children go through a cycle that can range from calm to unsettled, to quiet, to noisy and then back to calm. It truly is a beautiful community where children learn to function as a group caring about each other and where they are seen as unique and special individuals.

Contact us:

513 Montgomery Avenue, Merion Station, PA 19066 
t. 610-664-9847 
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