Spotlight Post: Kathy Heckert

Kathy Heckert is passionate about Montessori education and has worked at West Side Montessori for the past 26 years. Kathy taught for 8 years in the Children's House program before moving into administration. Kathy is the Director of Early Childhood Education and works with the children, parents, and teachers from 13 months - Kindergarten.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
I happened upon West Side in 1995. After my first interview, I was absolutely sold and wanted desperately to work here. All these years later I am still here! My husband Eric and I live in Swanton with our two boys, who attended West Side from the time they were toddlers through 8th grade. John is a senior at Swanton High School and Ben is a freshman at St. John’s Jesuit.
I have my Bachelors of Education (Kindergarten - 8th grade) through Bowling Green State University and my Masters in Early Childhood Education, Montessori-based, from Siena Heights University. My Montessori certification is from the American Montessori Society for children ages 3 - 6.
I taught at the Children’s House level for eight years prior to moving into administration.  I am now the Director of Early Childhood Education and work with the children, parents, and teachers from 13 months - Kindergarten.
I love to shop, wrap gifts, and travel to warm places. If I could live in shorts and flip-flops at the beach I would be in my element!
Q: What’s your favorite quote?
The quote I have in my office is by Betsy Braun Brown. It says, “The surest way to make life difficult for your children is to make it too easy for them. Prepare the child for the path, not the path for the child.” My oldest son referred to that quote one day a few years ago when he felt I wasn’t trusting a choice he made. Children pay attention to far more than what we realize!
Q: What do you love about Montessori?
I love that Montessori believes so much in the child. Maria Montessori felt if the environment was prepared in a way that spoke to the child, then the teacher would not be needed. I love the time and attention to detail that our teachers put into their environments; thinking about the needs of the children in their rooms. That is why the environment doesn’t look the same way twice. Every year the class is a little different and their needs are different. 

I also love how the teachers can meet the needs of the children. With two teachers in each classroom, I am always amazed at what they can provide. The math curriculum is absolutely amazing.  Children do not memorize the end product; they are taught the “why.” Once they know why they can continue to build upon each concept and there is strength in their understanding. I always wonder if I would have been more successful in math had I had the Montessori math curriculum where it is hands-on. Sometimes I need to see something versus being told auditorily and the math curriculum does just that. 
Q: What continues to inspire you about Montessori?
As someone who works with the toddlers and preschoolers, and then with my own boys, I can see how each level builds on the next. As a parent, I would watch the Independent Investigations at the Upper Elementary level and be amazed at how well the students could get up and speak to one another and the parents. I knew part of that confidence came from the Lower Elementary level where the children ran morning meetings and in Children’s House where the Kindergarten children would read aloud to the class. Then in Middle School, with all of the public speaking they were able to do in those two years, it just was absolutely amazing.  The confidence, respect, and trust they have with each other is so unique. It was very obvious in high school when my son would present or speak to administrators the confidence he has in himself. He knows how to research, look someone in the eye when speaking, how to hold his body and project his voice. Those traits are life-long skills that will serve him well his entire life.  That may be the greatest gift of Montessori education for me as a parent; self-confidence.
Q: Why did you choose to teach/work here?
I initially came to West Side because it was a job opportunity. I have stayed at West Side because the people I work with are part of my family. They are here for what I believe to be the right reasons -  because they love the philosophy and the children they are with day in and day out. There is a culture here like no other and I am so very blessed to have been part of it all these years.