Know Your Neighbors: Patty Eggerding of West Suburban Montessori School

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Northern neighbor Oak Park is known for its outstanding educational options, with alternatives to fit a variety of needs, including public, private and Montessori. Before this week I was not intimately familiar with Montessori, but have picked up a bit here and there – including the idea that it may be the foundation behind several notable innovators (like Jeff Bezos of Amazon). I have always been curious to learn more and was excited to talk to our ‘neighbor’ for this week – Patty Eggerding.

Patty knows a lot about Montessori and we caught up with her as some exciting changes to her school are underway. We are happy to introduce her to the community and to let her tell you more about that, how she got involved with Montessori, what Montessori really ‘means’, what she’s up to when not at work, and more.

Around Oak Park
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Patty Eggerding
I am the Head of School at West Suburban Montessori School in Oak Park. When I am not at WSMS, I can be found driving one of my three children to a soccer game, practice or a track meet. I also love to exercise with friends.

AOP
You live in Western Springs. What attracted you to Oak Park for work?

Patty
I love working in Oak Park. When I interviewed at WSMS, I knew this was a special community of families.

AOP
How did your involvement in the Montessori schools start?

Patty
I discovered Montessori in college in some of my education courses. I grew up on a farm and at a young age had a great deal of responsibility and also independence. I value both and so Montessori made perfect sense to me. I was a Montessori Directress for over 16 years. When I had my third child, I stayed home with her and did some part time administrative work and consulting.

AOP
How would you explain the ‘mission statement’ or ‘value proposition’ of WSMS to someone in two minutes?

Patty
Our mission statement is “To ignite the child’s natural curiosity for learning”. We want to encourage our students to be lifelong learners. Our students love learning and love coming to school. We encourage questions and perseverance in the quest for answers.

AOP
How long has WSMS been around?

Patty
The building has been the home of WSMS since 1988. Some former parents of the school raised the money to put a down payment on our current building and bought it from the church next door.

AOP
What makes WSMS different from other Montessori schools?

Patty
We are a certified AMI or Association Montessori Internationale School. This is the organization that Maria Montessori started to preserve the integrity of her work. Our teachers are all AMI Montessori trained and have Master’s degrees in education.

AOP
What is the weirdest thing that has happened to you in your career?

Patty
I got a phone call from Paula Lillard, who has written most of the current books on Montessori education. I had never met her, but she asked me to come and interview at her school. I was star struck as I had read all of her books. I worked at her school, Forest Bluff School for 8 years. It made me sure that I wanted to run a school one day. It was a fantastic experience. Mrs. Lillard’s plan was that all of her teacher’s would eventually go out and start or run AMI schools.

AOP
What do you consider your biggest professional success? What are you most proud of?

Patty
We successfully opened our first elementary classroom in August 2015 at WSMS. We have amazing students and families. Our teacher, Emily Meingast has been a fantastic addition to our staff. The students are soaking in the curriculum and have also just started a bi-monthly service project at the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry. I could not be more proud of all that is happening in our elementary program. We are very excited to grow this program and continue to witness the incredible development of all of our students.

West Suburban Montessori School
West Suburban Montessori School

AOP
What question do you get most from people who walk into WSMS?

Patty
How do you handle discipline? Parents ask me this on every tour. We talk to the children. We model respectful behavior and help children navigate difficult situations by mediating for the students or redirecting.

AOP
What book would you recommend to someone looking for inspiration in their professional (or personal) life?

Patty
Better – Atul Gawande. I love his writing style and also the importance he places on small details.

AOP
What inspires you?

Patty
Hard work! I enjoy watching my staff and students engaged in work they love and totally focused on it. I am reminded how truly unique this is to witness each and every day.

AOP
What’s your favorite season? Why?

Patty
I have two. I love winter. I really enjoy watching the children play in the first snow of the year. The excitement never gets old. Spring is fantastic at WSMS. Our gardens are amazing thanks to some dedicated families who have planted hundreds of blubs. It looks like a fair garden in April!

AOP
Finally, anything coming up at WSMS that we should know about?

Patty
Yes! Our annual open house is on January 31 from 2:00-4:00 pm.


For more information on West Suburban Montessori School and to get in touch with Patty, visit:
West Suburban Montessori School
Patty Eggerding
1039 S. East Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60304
Phone: (708) 848-2662
Email: peggerding@wsms.org
www.wsms.org

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