Borrower Spotlight: Wildflower Schools
February 25, 2020
Wildflower is an ecosystem of decentralized Montessori micro-schools. These schools are teacher-led and offer child-centered learning environments to support children and families from diverse backgrounds. 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 Wildflower 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 recently closed a loan 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.
*Below is an interview with Janet Begin, founder and co-teacher-leader at Marigold Montessori in Haverhill, Massachusetts, which received a loan from the Wildflower Foundation. Janet is among several Wildflower teacher-leaders who came to Montessori education after a career in another field. Learn more about Wildflower Loan Fund II on our portfolio list. *
Teacher-Leader Q&A with Janet Begin: ‘Montessori education should be welcoming and accessible
What is your background in education?
After a career in engineering, I became an educator. First, I worked as a teacher in traditional public schools, and then I discovered Montessori education. Once I did, I became committed to making this type of education available to all children. I pulled together a group to write a charter application for a K-8 Montessori school in Haverhill, Massachusetts. I worked as the founding board chair and as the executive director of this school before studying to receive my Montessori certification. After working for a few years at a private Montessori preschool, I decided to open Urban Village Montessori, a preschool in Haverhill that is accessible to families of various income levels. When we became part of the Wildflower network in 2016, we changed our name to Marigold Montessori.
Which of Wildflower’s nine principles resonates most with you and why?
I am passionate about the equity principle because I feel Montessori education should be welcoming and accessible to students from families that are racially and economically diverse. Typically, in most communities, low-income families cannot access Montessori education, and that seems ironic since these were the exact students that Maria Montessori’s first school served.
Describe the best day you had at your school.
The best day I had at our school was the first day of this new school year when we opened in a beautiful new classroom full of Montessori materials and a strong collaborative teaching staff and multiple students who have been with our school for at least 1-2 years. This was a wonderful moment, because it was the culmination of three years of work, four renovations, and many challenges to get to the point of having an environment that we envisioned years ago.
What is something that might surprise people about Wildflower or your school in particular?
Our school started with only a few thousand dollars, three students and a great deal of collaboration, creativity and perseverance.
What are you working on next?
I am also working with Haverhill’s newest Haverhill Wildflower School, Zinnia Montessori. We are working with the city on a public-private partnership that we hope will pave the way for allowing our city to receive preschool-expansion grants from the state in order to subsidize even more spots in private preschools for low-income students. This school year, the city agreed to provide money to subsidize five students from low-income working families at Zinnia and that money was matched by a private donor to subsidize 10 students total, and by having a pilot, we hope it will better position us for receiving state funding.
Learn more about Janet and the school she leads, Marigold Montessori in Haverhill, Massachusetts, at www.marigoldmontessori.org.
About Wildflower: Wildflower is an ecosystem of decentralized Montessori micro-schools that support children, teachers, and parents. Our schools aspire to give all children and families the opportunity to choose high quality, beautiful learning environments as they follow life’s unfolding journey. Our aim is to be an experiment in a new learning environment, blurring the boundaries between home and school, between scientists and teachers, between schools and the neighborhoods around them.Our schools are small and teacher-led, with deep parent engagement. At the core of Wildflower are 9 principles that define the approach. Our network is supported by a foundation that works to build capacity, systems, tools and research to grow and strengthen the network. Learn more about our story.