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Letters from our Leaders

Dr. Conroy, October 2022

October is Emotional Wellness Month, with October 10th officially being designated as World Mental Health Day. At Montgomery School we care deeply about the emotional well-being of our students and strive to support them in that area as they learn and grow. Students of all ages will undoubtedly experience stress at different points in their lives. While we cannot eliminate stress completely, we can work together to teach students healthy coping strategies for managing difficult emotions and setbacks. Here are two techniques that you can try at home when your child feels distressed:

1. Name the Emotion:

What it is: In his book, The Whole Brain Child, Dr. Dan Siegel tells us that when a stressful event occurs, we can weaken the feeling we have in response by simply naming the feeling. He calls this process “Name It to Tame It.” This is a simple, yet effective technique. 
How it works: When you find yourself in a situation that’s causing stress, try to identify which emotion or emotions you’re feeling and say them out loud or write them down.
Why do it: Putting emotions into words activates a part of the brain that helps reduce feelings of distress and the physiological response to emotional stimuli.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

What it is: Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a technique designed to help your body relax. Because the body and mind are connected, relaxing your body can help reduce tension, anxiety, and associated emotions.

How it works: Find a quiet place and get into a comfortable position (sitting or lying down). Start with your feet. Tense all the muscles in your feet as hard as you can and hold for 5–10 seconds. Then relax for 15–20 seconds, taking long, deep breaths and paying attention to how your muscles feel. Repeat with your calf muscles, then thighs, etc., until you've covered your entire body. 

Why do it: This routine helps turn off the sympathetic nervous system and regain a sense of calm. 

Additionally, I wanted to share how students and families are supported by the School Counselor at Montgomery School. School Counselors help all students by:

  • Providing school counseling lessons
  • Collaborating with parents, teachers, and administrators for student success
  • Directly supporting students with check-ins / goal-setting / academic planning
  • Providing parent education on topics related to mental health and well-being

The school counselor does not provide long-term and ongoing therapy services, but is happy to provide recommendations for these types of support as needed. 

As always, reach out to me if your child is struggling emotionally. I look forward to working with you to support your child’s growth and well-being. 

Mr. Vandegrift, October 2022

I’m sure our students amaze you all daily, and I know they amaze our team. Going back to what I shared in my Chapel, imagine what our students can achieve if we provide them with platforms to show us what they can do, learn, and grow into people that never stop shy of amazing others. Over the first few weeks we have had students on stage in Bell Hall or other venues taking leadership roles by playing music, sharing their stories around family, sports, anime, art and leading initiatives like our bake sale. The goal of this year is to do just that. Provide stages literally and figuratively to share their stories, have agency, and to help us grow this already amazing community. As individuals and to the collective Monty community. Our teachers our working hard to provide the best environment to do just this both inside and outside of the traditional classroom. “Imagine what our students will accomplish this year!”

We have four goals this year which are: be your best, tackle challenges with an open mindset, show respect to others, and always take ourselves and others towards the goals of the community. This is embedded in everything we do, and we have a special opportunity to do so as the leaders of the student community. In the classroom, on the bus, on the fields, and any time a student is representing Montgomery School. When students fall short of this we will walk beside them to help them learn and grow from their experience. We ask you to partner with us. When you get a call from Mr. V or a teacher around a challenge, we ask you to partner with us. Middle School is a time where grace, growth, and transition are necessary when helping guide your child through all that they will encounter. Schools function best with positive communication and partnership. Even in times of challenge. Remember the old African proverb of “it takes a village”; it truly does. This will be a wonderful year of growth and amazement of what our students will accomplish. Let’s commit to providing them with the "stage" where they will amaze us with their talents and passions, partner in community together, and allow for safe failure. 

Most recently, our students participated in the 8th Grade Leadership Retreat. Did you know that the crops on Milky Way Farm preserve the soil from going with the water flow that eventually tracks through Pickering creek, to French creek, to the Delaware river, and eventually ends up in the Atlantic Ocean? A fun fact from the retreat, as we learned about sustainability and stewardship. To have the privilege of spending a day off campus, in community as the 8th grade class, and to focus on leadership concepts was a powerful experience. Not only for our students individually, but collectively as a group. We started the day with a speaker, who is a passionate educator, one who has dedicated their life to stewardship and providing students with opportunities to explore the concepts of being a good steward within a community and through leadership. Mrs. Schelhorn challenged students to think about different types of leaders, and embracing what we individually can offer as leaders. Mr. Ormsby talked about the importance of good communication and our ability to give directions to others. Mr. Ormsby’s activity included giving directions to Mr. Anzaldo, who was driving around Chester Springs while receiving directions from students about how to go from Montgomery School to their house. Mrs. Fields led a session around different learning styles, and how understanding our own learning styles will benefit us as leaders and students. In addition, she talked about how knowing your learning style will help your interactions with guiding and leading others. All in all, our 8th graders amazed us at the retreat and finished the day by helping the farm organize their pumpkin patches and corn maze, which 15,000 community members will visit this fall. Stewardship and sustainability at its finest! 

Lastly, overnight trips will return this year! These trips are a staple of our program and we are happy to be able to bring them back this year. Information will be sent this week with specifics about location, length, and cost. We are off to a great start to the 2022-2023 school year, and look forward to continuing an amazing year in partnership with all of you!


Mrs. Marotta, September 2022

I’m excited to report that we are off to a fabulous start to our school year 2022-2023. Starting the year with routine in all of our traditional spaces, such as lunch in the Dining Room and Chapel in Bell Hall, has been wonderful. Thank you for attending our Lower School Parents’ Night this past Thursday. Teachers enjoyed seeing class parents, and I’m sure it was fun for parents to sit at their child’s desk or table for the evening. 

Some parents who I was able to chat with on the evening of Parents’ Night asked a good question- if parents hear from their child’s teacher or me regarding an incident that we addressed at school, should the parent discuss the school incident at home? Great question, and the answer is a resounding yes! ALL kids are going to make mistakes. Mistakes are learning opportunities, and when learning is occurring, we all need to to take advantage of a teachable moment. Having your child hear us using the same language and sending the same message will be to your child’s benefit. It’s important for  children to realize quickly that school and home talk to one another and work together. It grounds their sense of security and trust in all the adults in their life. One of my favorite lines used during Covid (so I hesitate to use it here) that we should remember and use forever is, “We’re all in this together!” While we are the experts at school, you are the experts at home, and we can learn from one another to make the most of your child’s formative years.

We all strive to make sure the young people around us are happy and eager to learn during their days at Montgomery. I was also in a high school parent assembly recently. The speaker asked simply, “what do you want for your child in life?” One person did say he only wants his child to be able to have a good job, but all the others in the room said, “to be happy!” Of course that is what we want for our kids - and a good job to go along with that isn’t a bad thing either. How do we get to that happiness and feeling of wellbeing? Felicia Huppert once wrote,

"Sustainable wellbeing includes the experience of functioning well, for instance having a sense of engagement and competence, being resilient in the face of setbacks, having good relationships with others, and a sense of belonging and contributing to a community." 

"Being resilient in the face of setbacks…" and sustainable wellbeing go hand in hand. Setbacks are going to be something we have to learn to face, and face with grit and resilience. Our students embrace a setback and learn from their challenges. “A sense of belonging and contributing to a community,” is in alignment with our values at Montgomery. All students are given opportunities to contribute and lead, and they do this because of their self-confidence and comfort with others.All students are given opportunities to contribute and lead, and they do this because of their self-confidence and comfort with others. Montgomery students are so lucky to be in a community where they happily take risks and where they are known by students in other grades and the adults on campus as well. We look forward to many happy connections throughout the year. 

Upcoming Events in Lower School

  • Monday, September 26 - Rosh Hashanah - no school for students
  • Wednesday, September 28 at 9 AM - New Lower School Parent Coffee in the Dining Room, following Lower School Chapel  
  • Thursday, September 29 at 7 PM - Grade 5 and Middle School Parents’ Night
  • Consider attending a Middle School team event and cheer on our Herons! Our athletic fields are beautiful and are located behind our schoolhouse building, up the hill. Visit our athletics schedule on this page on our school website.

If you ever have any questions about anything, please feel free to reach out to me.

Dr. Conroy, September 2022

The energy on campus continues to be filled with positivity, curiosity, and excitement as we finish out our second week of school! This past week was filled with many fun moments. One of which was students spending time with their buddies! Many grades began enjoying activities with their buddies, and others will be doing so in the very near future. The buddy program is one of the many highlights of the student experience at Montgomery School. Each year students are paired together (Pre-K and 4th, Kindergarten and 5th, 1st and 6th, 2nd and 7th, 3rd and 8th) and become partners in team-building activities, schoolwide events, and special projects. 

The younger students love spending time with their big buddies! Our youngest students look up to the older students and learn from them as they model what leadership and compassion looks and sounds like. Younger students are seen and known by their big buddies, making them feel valued and reinforcing their place of belonging at Montgomery School. 

Older students thrive in their roles as big buddies! It is a joy to see the ways in which they care for their little buddies, make connections with them, and teach them new things in creative and exciting ways. Being a big buddy at Montgomery School allows students to practice valuable leadership skills and build confidence in their abilities to make a difference in their world.

Our community is at its best when we all feel connected and a sense of belonging. The buddy program is one of the many ways in which a sense of connection is formed amongst students at Montgomery. I am sure you will hear many inspiring stories throughout the year from your children about their time with their buddies. I know seeing these interactions firsthand certainly fills my heart with joy! 

Here’s to a wonderful year ahead! 

Mr. McManus, September 2022

And so we imagined what could be.

Tuesday’s first day, rainy day questions were about flying cars. As Walter and I rolled down Route 202 on the way to Montgomery where he would start Pre-K, he asked me where fog comes from. My non-expert response about water suspended in the air (“like clouds”), followed by several “why?”’s led him to ask what would happen if our cars drove through the sky. To my adult mind, science gave way to fantasy, but he was grabbing what was in his experience to understand what was not. He laughed at the idea of a car that flies, then off he went into his head, staring out the window and up into the sky. 

To imagine the world with a child is to live at the heart of education. Imagination is about emotion. We feel (and sometimes wish for) a world that is not our present. In children this can look fantastical. It’s a daily joy to enter that world of imagination, of creation, of emotional manifestation. 

As a parent, I’m keenly aware that what I imagine for each of my four children is a mix of my deep emotional investment and my personal life experiences. They are each uniquely their own people, so my wife and I always remind one another to keep our imagination grounded in what they are showing and telling us. 

And so it is with Montgomery School. We are a community that springs from the collective imagination of children and adults who genuinely care about one another. We listen to each other and are connected by the same beliefs; we continually chart the way forward based on the highest ideals we all share for happy, healthy, empowered young people. Ultimately, those young people are our gift to the world, our imagination made manifest. 

This year’s school theme of “imagine” was selected with all this in mind. What a privilege and pleasure it is to imagine the year ahead for Montgomery School with you, your children, and their incredible teachers. I can’t overstate my personal joy in beginning my third year at Montgomery without the constraints of the past two years. We can truly, individually and collectively, “imagine” our future more fully and enjoy the process of creating an amazing journey together. 

In all things, Montgomery shines brightest when we focus our efforts on our school, our community, and our purpose. This is an exciting time for tremendous growth and renewal; a time to imagine our full potential in a way that will honor and celebrate Montgomery School’s remarkable legacy. 

This year, 29 students will become Montgomery graduates. They will enter the world with the academic strength, character, and confidence that are required to meet life’s challenges. Imagine the moment when your child delivers their 8th grade chapel about a topic that is meaningful to them, or identifies a global issue and how they plan to solve it. Imagine the moment when your child walks across the graduation stage, known, loved and prepared to make an impact in the world.

We have a unique, nature-rich campus to both care for and learn from. Imagine utilizing all it has to offer while practicing–and teaching–stewardship of nature's gifts.

The educators who model and carry out our mission are a signature strength of Montgomery School. Imagine how, with new and innovative resources, they can evolve our educational program and advance their professional practice.  

Finally, Montgomery is a special community of enriching cultural perspectives and diverse backgrounds and viewpoints. Imagine how this enriches your student’s ability to think critically and creatively as they engage with others in a culture of respect, where all thoughts, ideas, and opinions are embraced.

There’s so much to look forward to, and so many new families and students to welcome. If you are new to Montgomery, we are so excited that you are here. Throughout the year here in this space and in-person, I’ll share more thoughts about things I am imagining. I also look forward to your thoughts and ideas as we look forward to the future of this school we love. 

Schoolhouse News is a weekly resource which we work hard to fill with useful information and a few words of wisdom. It also features announcements by our imaginative Montgomery School Community Association (MSCA)-- from first day doughnuts to memory making special events– which also invites you to imagine together!

A great year awaits! Thanks for an amazing opening and first week!