Now a junior at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., WMS alum Maddie Geller considers her work with the Camp Montessori Kangaroos (rising kindergartners) a natural extension of her current early childhood education studies.
She's been working with WMS children at camp since she was 16, tutored students in math at MathPlus in Hockessin and worked with the choir at Wilmington's Lewis Dual Language Elementary School while she was in high school, so the decision to pursue a career in teaching came easily.
But there was perhaps no better sign for Maddie that she was on the right path than when she was preparing for a class with the head of the Vanderbilt education department, Catherine McTamaney, who has written several books about Montessori education.
"Being all nerdy, I bought some of her books before I started and opened one of them, and there was a forward by [WMS's first head of school] Marie Dugan," she said.
While Maddie only attended WMS through kindergarten, she still vividly remembers counting with math beads and making paper trains for the winter holidays. When she's at WMS for camp, Maddie often runs into long-time WMS classroom teacher and current Learning Together teacher MaryBeth Auld, who taught her in preschool, which always makes her nostalgic for her WMS days.
In 2005, Maddie left WMS for Claymont Elementary School, where she was part of the gifted program.
"My mom remembers that when I first transferred to public school I very upset that things were not the same," she said. "I said, 'What do you mean we can't pick our work and do what we want?'"
Maddie continued with the Brandywine school district gifted program through middle school at P.S. duPont Middle School, and then decided to attend Charter High School of Wilmington.
"I decided on Charter because I wanted to have all the options of more advanced math and science that other schools don't offer, and elective courses you can't find before college," she said.
After attending elementary and middle school with most of the same students in the gifted program, "I was also excited that I wouldn't really know anybody," she said.
As a long-time vocalist and pianist, Maddie had also considered Cab Calloway School of the Arts. She joined the school choir in fourth grade at Claymont Elementary, and took piano lessons from former WMS teacher Linda Barclay for many years. When she was in fifth grade, a friend encouraged her to audition for the Wilmington Children's Chorus. She was accepted and continued to sing in the chorus through high school.
"I was already in the Wilmington Children's Chorus, so I felt like I could still continue music outside of school and didn't need to do it in school," she said of her decision to attend Charter.
When it came time to apply to college, Maddie knew she wanted to study education, but she also wanted to attend a school that would offer an academically rigorous curriculum with a strong liberal arts core. She applied early decision to Vanderbilt University, which met most of her criteria, and was accepted to the Peabody College of Education and Human Development.
In addition to enjoying Nashville's renowned food and music scene, Maddie is involved in Vanderbilt Hillel - a Jewish student group - in her spare time. She is part of Challah for Hunger, a subgroup of Hillel that bakes and sells challah weekly and donates the proceeds to local organizations that fight hunger. She is also a member of College Democrats, and continues to sing as part of the Vanderbilt Symphonic Choir when her class schedule allows.
Maddie has completed one semester of student teaching through the metro Nashville public schools, where she taught reading clinics for students who were not reading at grade level. Based on this experience, she is planning to stay at Vanderbilt a fifth year to pursue an accelerated master's degree program in reading education.