Beginning of the Journey
Zoe: I’ve had a long and adventurous journey getting to where I am today. I always knew that I wanted to work with children, support and help them on their individual paths of discovery. After receiving my degrees in both Early Childhood and Education in Vienna and New Zealand, I worked with children around the globe. As a former Montessori student, I not only wanted to learn more but also knew that to open a school founded on strong values, codes, and principles, I needed to return to school myself, so I ended up studying Leadership and Management at Oxford University. Having a solid background in both areas has guided and supported me in my decision-making ever since.
Katharina: Inspired by the world’s diversity, I have had the honor of building various companies over the years. An understanding of human beings, guiding individuals, supporting them, and helping them become their best versions has continually inspired me to keep going. My leadership style is backed by my degree in psychology, courses at the Hochschule of St. Gallen, and my knowledge of the fluidity of intelligence, including abilities such as problem-solving, learning, and the discovery of patterns. Working with children, making a difference in this world, and giving children the opportunity to grow and learn based on the current neurological research, wrapped in an environment based truly on their developmental needs, is where I find myself most at peace.
Technology Application in the Classroom
Our students are currently between the age of 0-6 years old and not using technology in the classroom but basing their research on real-life experiences and sensorial materials such as books, nature, and microscopes. In our elementary program, which is opening in the summer of 2023, however, we will slowly incorporate technology, focusing on learning to use and purposefully work with technology as well as healthy habits.
Contribution to the Organization
For us, it has been the focus of holistic education. In addition to being an AMI Montessori school, the children are gaining knowledge via cooking and baking, learning about measurements, sequence of activities, and completing tasks, they are learning about life cycles by growing their own vegetables and fruit in the garden, creating timelines, and research books about the processes they are observing and supporting. The children have animals they are looking after; we currently have three dogs, rabbits, tortoises, ducks, quails, mice, and fish. These animals are not present under a Christmas tree that one forgets about after the excitement wears off, but are part of our community. The children care for the animals, feed them, clean their habitats and learn an immeasurable amount about care, responsibility, interpersonal skills, and being a friend. Another aspect of holistic induction we are proud of is the connection to nature; we enjoy our very large garden every day, which includes a sensory path, a vegetable garden, space to roam and explore, and even a bamboo forest but also frequently walk to lake Zurich which is right next to us. A highlight for the children is also our weekly day in the forest, where we cook food over the open fire, climb trees and take ropes to climb and walk up close to waterfalls.
About Serendipity Montessori
Serendipity Montessori is an English/ German bilingual Montessori school in Zollikon/ Switzerland which caters to children from around the world between the ages of three months and six years. In our rich community, we are proud the celebrate and include everyone’s individual story, culture, and beliefs. We follow the AMI (Association Montessori International) principles, creating a rich and holistic learning environment, individualizing programs based on interests, strengths, and learning ability, and following each child’s needs. In the summer of 2023, we are opening elementary classes giving our students the opportunity to continue their education up until the age of 12 years.
The children are so open and loving; they love to learn and be present. Most of the challenges we have faced are funnily not the daily work with the children but the families. Good communication and knowing that the relationship with the family needs to work in the form of a partnership is crucial. We are looking after these families’ most precious beings, and as educators and leaders, we need to understand that this takes an immense amount of trust and strength. We have been very lucky with our families and when confusion or questions arise, we always take the time to sit down with families and listen and discuss reasons, boundaries, opportunities, and other perspectives with them. Everything can be resolved when one takes the time to listen and walk a mile in the other person’s shoes.
Motivation for Motivators
Knowing that we as educators can help a child on their path to discovery, helping shape a growing mind and our future generation is incredibly fulfilling. It is so important for children to realize that learning is fun, life is beautiful, and being able to trust, feel empowered, capable, and strong while being kind and humble. It is astonishing to see that children in authentic Montessori schools love learning so much that by the time they are six years old most of them can read and write as well as do advanced mathematics in the thousands, and the best part of all this is that in their eyes these challenges are the most fun activities.
Education Scenario of the Country
One of the beautiful things about living in a melting pot and welcoming all cultures in our environment is that we don’t necessarily have to follow one country’s philosophy of education. The most inspiring educators observe their classroom and find exciting ways to learn not only with each other but from each other and take it from there. The education sector needs to change, it needs diversity, movement, fluidity, and a healthy dose of curiosity and humor. There is nothing worse than a cookie-cutter environment with a head of school demanding every one to have the same projects, lessons, or classroom dynamics. We need to live life to the fullest, incorporate everyone, ditch tokenism, and live happily together. Rather than putting in the extra effort to focus on individuality and global learning, the traditional educational system in Switzerland is stale and outdated and quite honestly uses the same formula for everyone, disregarding the individual, which only makes it simpler for the educator but does not benefit the learning child. for rather than putting in the extra effort to focus on individuality and global learning. Things are slowly changing though, and we are excited to see more schools join a more modern educational philosophy that is founded on current studies on brain development, social and emotional development, and multicultural learning.
Inspiration Behind the Journey
Zoe: I have met many educators that I adored and am truly thankful for their creative and hard work, one, in particular, was Mrs. Steiff, she helped pick me up after some of the most challenging years of my life. Her devotion, kindness, and belief in me helped me start every day positively. Mrs. Steiff was no push though, you had to work hard to reach goals but she was always there with a smile and a ladder if needed. I have learned a lot from Mrs. Steiff, see a lot of similarities between us, and can honestly say that I would be honored to be compared to her one day. After being taught by other teachers, however, I will always remember my father’s words “I am so glad you met this educator, now you know who you never want to turn into”.
Katharina: During my education at the Institut auf dem Rosenberg I have over and over again been confronted with the idea of becoming a leader and the best version of myself. I have had the privilege of meeting teachers that supported, inspired, and guided me to take charge, make changes happen that I wanted to see in the world, and try the different systems of learning. I didn’t know it back then, but retrospectively I acknowledge that having had the opportunity to try, fail, try again, and succeed was a truly wonderful way of learning, very much comparable with the Montessori method.
Taking the next step by opening the higher grades in the summer of 2023 we look forward to growing our authentic Montessori school with a modern twist, including nature, animals and providing children with a unique experience by learning in freedom within limits, discovery, and fulfilling their potential all the way up to adolescence.
Message For Students
Dear students, we would like to empower each and every one of you to acquire the essential knowledge, thinking skills, and strength of character, fundamental to flourish as joyous children and future successful adults.