Free to Fly: Jason Winesburg
At Mountaineer Montessori School, children are free to fly!
Our child-centered approach to education fosters learning without limits, offering students the time, space and encouragement to go as far and as high as they can.
Since our school’s founding in 1976, we’ve given wings to an estimated 1,000 children, freeing them to discover their passions, fulfill their unique potential and create stronger communities and a promising future.
As part of our “Free to Fly” campaign, students, teachers, alumni and families are sharing their stories, telling what MMS means to them and how Montessori education lifts up children, our community and our world.
This is Jason Winesburg’s MMS story:
Tell us about your own Montessori education background.
Montessori education has been a part of my life for decades! Most of my earliest memories are of my elementary years at the Montessori Learning Center (now The Green Valley School) in New Hampshire. They were a small, family-style school but they did a great job awakening the interests that would go on to shape my life. They also supported close relationships with other students and staff that weren’t ever replicated in more traditional schools.
How has Montessori impacted your life?
My teacher was a computer hobbyist during the time when home computing was starting to boom, and taught us how to use the newest toys and programs. My Montessori education gave me the freedom to practice my writing, which lead to my pursuit of English in college. Also, our school deeply valued the outdoors and physical education, with mandatory ski lessons, many overnight camping trips, and daily gardening and harvesting. This has led to me placing a high value on my own health, and a continued enjoyment of the outdoors.
What brought you to Mountaineer Montessori School?
After speaking on the phone the school director, I was impressed with the openness and straightforward attitude. I continue to be impressed with the frankness and openness of the people of West Virginia, and it has probably been my favorite thing about the state. The culture of the school is one that values honesty and puts the welfare of the children above all other concerns. The old building and classic materials also reminded me of the Montessori schools of yesteryear, which had more of a pastoral aspect to them.
What makes MMS special to you?
Mountaineer Montessori is special because of the commitment to Montessori principles and the willingness to meet the children where they are. The school is a flexible, welcoming place for all children
Do you have a favorite “Montessori Moment” either as a child or as a teacher?
In the upper elementary, I know a child is connecting to the classroom and the environment when they start coming up with ways to make it better. This shows me that they not only feel comfortable with us as teachers, but that they also care and are invested in the community. I feel I am successful when they are able to connect to the real world. Even though my own Montessori history is linked with technology, I want to help students use it as a tool and not as an escape.
Favorite Maria Montessori quote and why:
My favorite Montessori book is “The Formation of Man,” which sadly gets the least attention from teachers. In it, Montessori articulates her philosophy outside of education, and is very critical of existing norms, at least norms as they were in the fifties and sixties. It is one of her last books, and Montessori’s characteristic frankness is amplified in her old age.
A favorite from this book:
“Punishments! I had not realized they were an indispensable institution holding sway over the whole of child-humanity. All men have grown up under this humiliation!”
Our campaign theme is “Free to Fly.” Can you share how Montessori helps children soar?
A Montessori teacher is often called a guide, but I see it also as more of a protector role. The child’s own internal drive is protected during development from the external levers of classical behaviorism and conditioning. Without grades, without punishments and rewards, the child can fasten on to those things in the environment that call to him or her (as in my own case with computer science, biology, and creative writing). Because the curriculum is so logical and so advanced, I also had the foundation to complete just about any work I encountered in high school, and I went to a very challenging preparatory school. I was left with plenty of time and freedom to pursue my own interests, while having the academic background to do well in later school.
What do you hope your students take away from their time at MMS?
I want the students to come away with their minds full of thousands of ideas and opinions. I want my students to care about the world, to have strong feelings about the world, to abolish their apathy. I hope to model moral courage and a strong work ethic for them, and I hope that they come away with a love for work and the satisfaction it can bring. I try to instill in them a healthy skepticism, without it curdling to cynicism. In the end, I want them to be able to say that they experienced freedom at MMS.
Mountaineer Montessori serves 135 students ages 3-14 in Charleston, West Virginia — the heart of Appalachia. Our mission is to elevate our students and region with forward-thinking, 21st century-aligned education that nurtures tomorrow’s problem solvers, creators, entrepreneurs and community builders…a new generation that will lead the way to a brighter tomorrow and a better world.
Propel possibility….empower the promise… and lift up the future with a tax deductible donation to the Mountaineer Montessori School “Free to Fly” campaign. With your help, the sky’s the limit!