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Munira Fleyfel, Purple Room Lead Teacher and Harvard-trained
Architect, on becoming a Montessori educator.
What is your role at CMS?
I am the new lead teacher in the Purple Room.
What has the experience been like so far?
I have had a great start at CMS. The faculty and staff have all been very warm and welcoming. The parents have been kind and open to a new team in the classroom. But, most importantly, the group of children I’m working with have been a joy to get to know, and so flexible and adaptable about all the changes to their classroom.
What was your professional background before CMS?
I worked at Lexington Montessori for 8 years before joining the faculty at CMS. Before that, I worked as an architect at a local Cambridge firm and designed custom jewelry on the side.
What were some highlights during your career as an architect?
I loved being an architect. I had wanted to be one since I was 13 years old, and it was a career choice that suited my deep interest in design and desire to create beautiful things. I was lucky enough to find a job at Anmahian Winton Architects - a local design firm - even before graduating with my Master’s degree. The work of the designers at that firm dovetailed very well with the aesthetic standard and quality that I aspired to, and I learned so much there. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work on three local projects: Cambridge 1 restaurant in Harvard Square, the renovated wing of the American Meteorological Society on Beacon Hill, and the new building for Community Rowing Inc. in Brighton. I love that I can continue to see these buildings in use!
What drew you to change professional paths and become a Montessori teacher?
This is the question that I have heard the most in my life since I made the career switch in 2009! People seem to feel there is a big disconnect between being a designer and becoming a Montessori teacher. In my case, I have always felt it almost a natural progression. I came to discover the virtues of the Montessori method as a parent of a Montessori student. I saw firsthand how Montessori fostered my son’s independence, developed his love of learning, and catered to his nature as a budding preschooler. My son attended a Montessori school for 8 years, during which I was amazed by the amount of growth on an emotional and social level that he consistently demonstrated as a Montessori student. When a position opened up for an Assistant teacher in the Children’s House at Lexington Montessori School in 2009, I decided to undergo a major career switch and I applied for the position. As I became involved in the classroom, I grew more captivated with the Montessori philosophy. I wanted to be able to bring a joy of learning to other people’s children the way someone brought it to my son. I enrolled in the Northeast Montessori Institute and acquired my Montessori credentials soon
I feel I am able to continue so much of what I loved in architecture as a Montessori teacher. Spatial design and preparation of the environment are crucial in both fields. Meticulous attention to detail and creating beautiful materials are also important in both. And in both cases, I feel it is important that one be flexible, adaptable, and open to evaluating and revising what is being created.
What is something about Montessori that parents may not realize?
I think there are two things; the first is the way Montessori prepares children to deal with situations in life. I’ve seen it with my own son...wherever they may end up, they take the confidence, sense of justice, work habits, collaboration and curiosity that Montessori uncovers in them to the rest of their academic and social experiences. Montessori allows children to hone and develop skills that many adults spend years striving to perfect.
The second is how natural a Montessori environment feels for children. Everything in a Montessori classroom, everything we present, has been carefully designed and developed to work with the natural curiosity, interest and attraction of a child. The concentration, the availability of choice, the desire for independence, the will to help others, the aim to be a role model and contributing member within a community - all these are things already within a child. Our role as teachers is to provide the optimal circumstances for the child in order to allow them to emerge. It’s not magic - it’s what children are about.
What is your favorite part of teaching Primary?
I love connecting with young children and being witness to their sense of wonder. A successful day for me is one where I have shared a moment with every child in my classroom, and discovered something new about him/her. Of course, it is rewarding when you see a child accomplish academically. However, nothing is like witnessing a child in awe of his/her work, a child making a choice, a child feeling comfortable enough to share something from his/her personal life, a random act of kindness between two children, a child demonstrating persistence until he/she completes a task...For me, the true joy is in these small details.