Portfolio Partner Profile
Wildflower Loan Fund II
Wildflower is an ecosystem of decentralized Montessori micro-schools that are teacher-led and offer child-centered learning environments to support children and families from diverse backgrounds committed to the liberation of every human being, every community, and the human spirit, so that we may all live in harmony with our individual purpose and the world around us, free from oppression and able to follow life's unfolding journey.
The model combines Montessori methods in one-room, neighborhood shopfronts with a focus on parent engagement, intentional student diversity, teacher empowerment and data-driven instruction.
The Wildflower Foundation provides support services for the schools, including administrative tools, financial resources, marketing support, technology and coaching. The financial resources that the Foundation provides include startup grants coupled with low-interest loans that do not require personal guarantees from the teacher-leaders. Calvert Impact Capital lends to the Foundation’s Wildflower Loan Fund II, which supports the Foundation’s unique ability to provide teacher-leaders with flexible and affordable debt to schools so that they can focus on providing quality education and administration.
Wildflower currently has 38 schools in the network in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Indiana, Rhode Island, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Kentucky, New York City, Colorado, California, and Puerto Rico. It plans to continue to expand in its current geographies and expects to open schools in Washington D.C. over the next couple of years. As the neighborhood where the first school was opened, Cambridge has the largest existing cluster of schools with 13 locations.
Featured Impact Story
Goldenrod brings together children from across Cleveland in a centrally located historic shopfront site at the edge of several racially and socioeconomically diverse communities. Founders Jill Evan and Kaitlin Tonelli both gravitated to Montessori after working in traditional schools. During past teaching experiences, Jill frequently saw that academic pressure from administrators and districts was stressful and frustrating for teachers, families, and students. So when she found Montessori, she said it felt like a miracle: “Montessori doesn’t prize students being at the same developmental or academic level or progressing in sync. You aren’t bandied about by the trendy research and fickle pressures. You have one set of research and curriculum that 100 years of practice tells us works well. The rest of education is just starting to catch up.”
Kaitlin was exposed to Montessori while working for a STEAM-based after-school enrichment program that partnered with a variety of different schools. She fell in love with Montessori’s emphasis on self-directed education and trust in educators to prepare the environment to support the students. When she came across a posting from Jill, searching for a partner to share in the calling to launch a neighborhood school, Kaitlin couldn’t believe her luck: the school was everything she was looking for and growing just two blocks from her own home.
Because of Covid, Jill and Kaitlin experienced many delays in opening. Still, the pair found safe and creative ways to begin building their school community: they created outdoor events to meet prospective families and build relationships with their neighbors, including a food and music event at an urban farm and a parent meet-and-greet at a nature center. As their school community grew, they could also support online activities for enrolled students to build relationships with families before their launch in January.
Sundrops emerged from collective visions of the management of the El Rancho Verde affordable housing development in San Jose—who wanted a Montessori school to serve the families in the community—and founding Teacher Leaders Helen and Encarna, who jumped at the opportunity to open their school in the beautiful new space within a culturally and socioeconomically diverse community. Just within El Rancho Verde, there are 700 units, including many multigenerational immigrant families.
As immigrants to the U.S. themselves, Helen and Encarna are passionate about providing accessible, authentic Montessori education combined with nurturing and healthy family engagement. They both began their Montessori journey along with their young children. After teaching at local Montessori schools for a combined 20 years, they each reached out to Wildflower about starting their own school, and Wildflower Bay Area staff introduced them. In a twist of fate, they already knew each other. Twenty years earlier, Helen worked with Encarna’s husband. Their mutual respect and friendship formed the base of a strong partnership, and Sundrops was born.
Through COVID-19, they have felt fortunate to have achieved their license and opened during such uncertain times. They were one of the first schools in California to be licensed virtually during the pandemic, walking the inspectors through their classroom via iPad as Helen and Encarna took detailed measurements. In addition, their strong network of support—from the housing development, their families, and Wildflower—enabled them to start in February with a soft launch serving a small number of students as they focused on building enrollment through trusting relationships with area families.
Roxbury Roots Montessori, Inc.
Roxbury Roots is the dream of its founders, Renee Jolley and Kendall Allen. Renee grew up in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury and wanted to bring the magic of Montessori education to her community. The program began as a parent-child initiative, educating parents on how to complement their child’s education at home. It grew into a small, home-based program, and now Roxbury Roots will be able to serve more families as it opens a beautiful, community-embedded microschool in the heart of the Roxbury neighborhood.
After becoming a Montessori guide, Renee spent months of her time driving outside of her community to teach in different schools. When describing her work to friends and family with children, they would say, “That sounds like an awesome education. I wish it were here.” Thus, Renee crafted a vision: bring Montessori education to Roxbury, make it affordable, and bring an Afrocentric focus for Black students and families from all backgrounds who want to expose their children to a multicultural learning environment.
Renee found an ideal partner in Kendall Allen after training together at New England Montessori Teacher Education Center and participating in the Wildflower Massachusetts fellowship program together. Kendall took advantage of the opportunity to partner with Renee because she also wanted to create an Afrocentric school that honors the passions and interests of young students, inspired by a school she attended from kindergarten through third grade.
Roxbury Roots has been supporting children and parents in a small, home-based pod during the pandemic until their beautiful center in Roxbury is complete this summer. Roxbury Roots also seeks to expose children to languages, including American Sign Language and Kiswahili, and positive images of people from the Black diaspora, to instill a sense of pride and empowerment in their students.