By Ashley Lodato
When Mariah Clements was my kids’ babysitter and swimming coach back in the early 2000s, she frequently told me that she wanted to attend Montessori college after high school, get certified, and return to the Methow Valley to teach at Little Star Montessori School in Winthrop. That dream became a reality a few weeks ago, both for Mariah as well as for Little Star founder Rayma Hayes, when Mariah and her family moved back to the area for Mariah to become Little Star’s newest member of the teaching staff.
Mariah, a 2010 Liberty Bell High School graduate, attended Little Star as a pre-school student in 1996-97. After attending Linfield College as an Education and Philosophy major and completing Montessori certification in Portland, Oregon, she first taught at a Montessori school in Portland followed by a year at a Mexican Montessori school in Ensenada, Mexico.
Teaching at Montessori La Milpa was a bit of an adventure. The school itself was constructed of shipping containers. There was electricity and composting toilets, but no water. The staff collected water in rain barrels and the owner trucked in a water tank in a pickup. Mariah and her partner Ian, along with their daughter Zion, loved the experience, but Mariah’s long-term goal was always to return to Little Star when a job became available.
“I met with Rayma at the Rocking Horse Bakery over Christmas,” says Mariah, “and we talked about future possibilities, but I didn’t expect an opportunity to come so soon.” But later in the spring, Rayma contacted Mariah about teaching in the pre-kinder/kinder classroom, and Mariah jumped at the chance. “I had a Skype interview with [school director] Dani,” (Reynaud, another Little Star graduate), says Mariah, “and everything fell into place.”
Mariah and Ian have been teaching summer camps at Little Star, and in the fall Mariah will return to the classroom to team-teach with Michelle Shafer-Bosco, whom she has known all her life. The Montessori materials have changed since she was a student, Mariah acknowledges, but the love of and dedication to the students is still the same.
“It’s so cool to be back,” says Mariah. “And also so surreal.” Mariah is teaching in the same building and same classrooms she frequented as a Montessori student. “I’ve come full circle,” she says. “I have so many memories of this place and the people in it. I’m in a different role, but I’m still seeing all these wonderful people playing with kids and having so much fun.”