Judy Donovan

Upper Elementary Teacher


Where did you grow up?

I was born in Lansing, Michigan. I came to Napa on an adventure in 1985.

What were your dreams as a child?

I wanted to be an artist. I spent a lot of time drawing horses when I was around 9 years old. I got lots of encouragement from my parents with presents of art supplies, and then art lessons in high school. I was also very curious about how young children learn to talk and spent my free time playing with the neighbor’s two year old daughter-trying to teach her words and concepts. Earlier, when I was around 7 or 8, I became very curious about how to tell our neighbor’s two year old twin boys apart and spent time watching them closely for clues to their behavior. I think this was probably the beginning of my interest in children and teaching.

Where were you educated?

I attended Monsieur Gabriel High School in Lansing. After school I went to Michigan State University to study art. Later I went to West Michigan University, again majoring in art, but transferred back to Michigan State to study Early Childhood Education in my junior year. My courses covered preschool through 8th grade. I did my Montessori primary training in the Detroit area, and later trained at the San Francisco Montessori Training center for my Lower Elementary coursework.

How did you learn about the Montessori philosophy?

During my college years I taught at an inner city Detroit elementary school. In an effort to help the students I went to the library to explore different reading programs and came upon a Montessori book which explained her philosophy regarding the teaching of reading. Once I read that, I was hooked!

How long have you worked at Sunrise?

I have worked at Sunrise since 1995

Which age groups have you worked with at Sunrise?

I have worked with the Lower Elementary, 6-9 year old children. 

Where else have you worked?

I have worked in a Toddler program for 1 year, in Kalamazoo, Michigan and worked as a Co-teacher in a Montessori primary program at the YMCA in Kalamazoo, Michigan for 5 years. I created a Montessori Kindergarten program at Pine Trails Elementary in Allegan, Michigan, and spent 5 years there. In California, I spent 3 years at Casa Montessori School as a primary teacher and 1 year at Hopper Creek Montessori as a primary teacher. I also worked for 5 years as head teacher in the primary classroom at the Montessori School of Sonoma.

What excites you about the Montessori philosophy?

  1. The writing and language program. When the children catch the essence of a writing lesson and then make it their own. When the emerging readers and grammar students begin to see patterns and start making their own comparisons. The beauty and genius of the Math curriculum.

  2. The emphasis on the healthy social emotional life of each child.

  3. The creative freedom to add new materials to help learning in all subjects.

  4. The spontaneity of discovery afforded the children, because of the philosophy of freedom within limits.

  5. The enthusiasm around learning that the children show each time they are about to receive a new lesson.

What is the essence of the Montessori philosophy for you?

  1. Being fully present and respectful of each child.

  2. Allowing the children to follow their inner guide.

  3. Allowing the children to follow their passions.

  4. Learning through hands on work, with deep concentration, in order to form their own mental framework.

What do you love to do outside of school?

I love painting while listening to music, woodworking, reading historical novels and biographies, going to movies, and walking or hiking in nature. I love being with my friends and family and the special gift of time I have with my four grandchildren.