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Pollinating Innovation: Removing barriers to BIPOC leadership in Montessori education

By February 16, 2022May 11th, 2022No Comments

Wildflower seeds are everywhere, including in the hearts and minds of educators all across the country. Much like the relationship between bees and the flowers they pollinate, Wildflower schools spread through the leadership of entrepreneurial educators as they shape the blooms of new teacher-led schools in their communities. 

 

Unfortunately, the current Montessori teacher landscape does not reflect the racial or socioeconomic diversity of the United States. Just as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color families haven’t historically had the same access to Montessori as more affluent white families, the same goes for educators. That is why we are launching the Wildflower Pollinator Fund–an initiative to diversify the Montessori educator workforce and support Black, Indigenous, People of Color educators to become credentialed Montessori educators. We plan to raise $1 million over the next three years to train and support 100 new BIPOC Montessorians, creating the capacity for their leadership to grow and diversify the beauty of the broader Montessori ecosystem.

 

This work is critically important to me because–after 16 years of leadership in public education–I have the unique opportunity to steward the growth of DC Wildflower Public Charter School and toddler programs here in the District of Columbia. When I think about the challenges and opportunities in front of me, I believe my most important work is to dismantle the domination culture educators have operated in and allow them to reset from the ups and downs they’ve weathered working in education.

 

I’ve already experienced this with our founding Teacher Leaders, Zani Dalili-Ortique and Ebony Marshman. Creating an environment that cultivates their ownership and autonomy is a massive task in a world where anti-Blackness has constructed assumptions about the capabilities of Black leaders and educators. Through our work together, building trust, and honoring their pace, I’ve seen firsthand the deep relationships with families and community that ground their vision and plans for The Riverseed School. 

 

There are many more incredible BIPOC educators like Zani and Ebony out there—people committed to their work with children, who have stewarded learning pods during COVID, who are credentialed educators but not Montessori trained. I have seen how strongly their beliefs align with Montessori philosophy and Wildflower’s liberatory purpose. Trends throughout the Wildflower network reinforce my experience: just under 10% of the prospective BIPOC educators who come to us are already Montessori trained. We want to support them in becoming Montessori educators in a way that is accessible for their place in life.

 

Montessori training is typically expensive and logistically difficult to access, with tuition averaging between $13,000 to $15,000 and hefty in-person training requirements that make it difficult for educators who need to maintain full-time employment. Even when candidates receive scholarships to local programs, many report that they are one of the few BIPOC students and that their program lacked an equity lens.

 

Regardless of cost, we believe investing in BIPOC leadership is the right thing to do, but these barriers continue to be a significant impediment to educators. We now have a considerable opportunity to pilot an effort to expand and accelerate our work through partnership with Rising Tide Montessori, a game-changing new AMI training program taking Montessori training online through a self-paced, low-residency program. 

 

Rising Tide’s program reduces the cost of training by half while allowing Wildflower the opportunity to create a supportive cohort of educators from across the country as they go through their online training and develop their school vision. Rising Tide will ensure our newest Montessori educators are equipped with the baseline practice and pedagogy to succeed as Montessori educators. Wildflower can provide further support and growth opportunities to determine what kind of school environment they want to thrive in as educators and liberatory leaders. 

Maia Blankenship

Author Maia Blankenship

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