More than 80 people gathered together to hear the stories of two Wildflower Teacher Leaders from Puerto Rico, the visions that sparked their schools, and their experiences with Wildflower’s School Startup Journey. They included parents, interested Montessorians from around the world, and educators with dreams of creating education environments for their communities.
Karla Vázquez-Torres is a Founding Teacher Leader at Mariposa Montessori, which bloomed out of a partnership with a home for women who have experienced domestic violence. She spoke with participants about her previous work in traditional schools, sharing that it often felt like a hostile environment for children and educators alike.
Karla realized that she needed to join with other brave people fighting for Montessori for the communities that need it most. On that path, she met the Wildflower family and her partner in founding Mariposa to serve the protected children within the home and–more recently–the children from a neighboring foster home.
Karla describes the changes she sees in her students as almost instantaneous:
It is amazing. The kids come with a lot of trauma, and they find in Mariposa a peaceful space with love and respect. That’s their space that we create. At first, they don’t know how to deal with freedom–they ask for permission, ‘Can I go to the bathroom? Can I do this?’ In a couple of days, they are born again.
Ruth Melian founded Moriviví Montessori before discovering Wildflower. Morivivi also partners with a foster home in Caguas, Puerto Rico. She told the group that she “fell in love” with Wildflower after attending the Montessori for Social Justice conference in 2019. She met many Wildflowers there and found a group of like-minded people who believed in centering Montessori on its founding vision of equity and social justice. They decided then and there to join the Wildflower network, seeing their alignment with Wildflower’s principles and values.
Ruth feels incredibly proud of the Moriviví community, including the parents who believed in the school and organized a fundraising campaign. Because the school started as a toddler and primary program, the parents wanted an elementary program so their children and the foster home children could continue in a Wildflower school. A year later, Passiflora Montessori opened next door. She grounded this experience in what makes a Wildflower school different: “It’s not only the Teacher Leaders doing the job, it’s the whole community embracing and taking care of all of us.”
Both Karla and Ruth spoke about their experience as Teacher Leaders within the Wildflower network as “Montessori for adults,” echoing the freedom with support paradigm that the children experience in a Montessori learning environment. In describing the process of starting up her school, Karla explained: “Wildflower is a family full of dreamers, fighters, a community of people who walk with you on an amazing journey. You always have them. Today I can’t imagine teaching in a school that is not with Wildflower.”