Education in Living Color: Emily Beal

Love of learning


Emily Beal, Ethan, Arie Spitz, Owen, and Ellen and Tom Beal

How did Montessori influence your own education and career?

MMS provided with me with a strong foundation in all disciplines.  At MMS I learned grammar and language, math, science, history, art, and music. I learned that wondering and questioning are good things and how to research to find the answers to my questions.  I learned to love learning.  In high school, I studied abroad in Austria for a year.  I left my home in WV not knowing who I was going to live with or the language in the country I was to live in.  The independence and the strong foundation I had from going to MMS allowed me to tackle the language and learn it quickly and helped to give me the strength to know that I could do it.

In college, I majored in astronomy/astrophysics with a minor in international studies.  I switched fields for my PhD.  I received a dual degree PhD in geosciences (with a focus on geomicrobiology) and astrobiology.  The strong foundation, the independence, and the love of learning that I had from MMS helped me to pursue these studies.  When I decided to switch fields for my PhD, I was a bit nervous to enter a field about which I knew almost nothing.

However, I had learned a very important thing from MMS — the ability to teach yourself and answer your own questions.  Without the education I received from MMS, I do not think I would have had the courage or the confidence to pursue many of the things that I have.


emily-beal-ice-cream-cDo you have a favorite Montessori memory?

“I have so many wonderful memories from MMS, it is almost impossible to pick one.  I have many great memories from primary.  I remember making butter.  I remember learning to write my letters and numbers and being excited that I could do it.  I remember the first day I zipped my jacket on my own.  I remember getting into the loft to read.  I also have wonderful memories from elementary school.  I remember making up songs about sentence analysis and square root problems.

I remember going on wonderful field trips – spending the night in a museum, camping (in the snow when the boys’ tent fell over!), wonderful classes at Carnegie Museum, eating astronaut ice cream while at the museum.  I remember making imaginary islands (learning about biomes, coastlines, island formation, naming our islands and making a world map with all of them).  I remember listening to Mary read to us in the afternoon.

As an adult, I have enjoyed talking to upper elementary about my PhD research and seeing they excitement and curiosity.  The first day I sent my eldest son, Ethan, to primary was very nostalgic. Throughout my life, I have told many friends how great my elementary school was and how many great memories I have from going there.


annual-appeal-emily-beal-3What makes MMS special to you?

My primary teachers Nancy (Johnston) and Joe (Rice) and my elementary school teacher Mary (McKown) are all very special to me.  You are taught to respect your classmates and your teachers at MMS, and your teachers respect you.  It is very special that young kids can have such a wonderful relationship with their teachers.  I have told Mary many times she taught me all I needed to know.  MMS gives one a wonderful education, but allows one to keep being an individual.  Kids are not supposed to fit into a mold with one way of learning at MMS.  You can explore things in your own way and are not told that you are wrong.

Why did you choose MMS for your own children?

MMS gave me a wonderful foundation for my education and a love of learning.   Throughout my life, I have talked to people from many states and countries and different backgrounds, and I cannot name one person who had a better elementary school based both on happy memories and good education.


Professional/Personal Achievements

Exchange student to Austria my junior year in high school

B.S. astronomy, University of Illinois;  minor in international studies

Dual degree PhD in geoscience (focus in geomicrobiology) and astrobiology, the Pennsylvania State University

Mother of two MMS students

Mountaineer Montessori Middle School guide

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