This week we chat with Juliette Johnson, 72, who has been a Montessori school teacher for more than 40 years.
Johnson and her husband Tim operated the Llamas and Learning Montessori School in Riverview for more than 20 years. She currently teaches at the Bloomingdale Children's House, which will enter its third year this fall. The school is located on the grounds of Sacred Heart Catholic Church off Kings Avenue and is owned and operated by her daughter, Terjiana Montalvo. Johnson talked about the family business and the Montessori method.
For more information on the school, call (813) 685-0009 or visit www.bloomingdalechildrenshouse.com
Q: Why did you want to become a teacher?
Answer: I actually had my degree in nursing, but when I was expecting my first child I found out about Montessori. I went to a seminar and learned how children flourish.
Q: What are the advantages of a Montessori education?
Answer: It really focuses on the independence of the child and what the child really wants, as opposed to what the adults want to give them. It's also very hands-on method that encourages kids to express themselves. We also have mixed age classrooms, which is closer to the way kids really learn; every child has an older sibling or an older kid they look up to and learn from.
Q: What are some of the misconceptions regarding the Montessori method?
Answer: That there's no structure. We give the child a lot of freedom to explore what they want to do, but everything in each classroom has a teaching purpose. We have activities that get them used to moving their eyes from left to right at a very early age, which will help them with reading later on. Children need structure, but they don't need to sit at a desk all day.
Q: What has the reception been like in the Bloomingdale area
Answer: We have 70 kids enrolled for next year, and our kids go from 2 years old to third grade. The priest and parishioners at the [Sacred Heart] church have been great.
Q: You've been a teacher for more than 40 years, but was there a subject in school you dreaded when you were a student?
Answer: During college, I'd have to say sociology. I was always more of an active person, and I just found that class really boring.