New Research Proves What Montessorians Have Long Known: Finger-Tracing Helps Children Learn

 

Sandpaper numbers are common in Montessori classrooms. Photo by Lisa Maruna

For more than 100 years, finger-tracing has been used by Montessorians to help children learn geometry and language. Ask a Montessorian about finger-tracing, and they might even quote Dr. Maria Montessori, who wrote in her seminal book, The Absorbent Mind: “He does it with his hands, by experience, first in play and then through work. The hands are the instruments of man’s intelligence.”

Now, new research is confirming what Montessorians have long known about how movement and touch can aid in learning.

Tracing to Success

Two recent studies from the University of Sydney compared groups of children who used finger-tracing to learn a lesson with those who did not, and the results showed the finger-tracing groups came out ahead.

In one study, conducted in Shanghai, China, nine and 10-year-old students were given a puzzle and instructed to find the missing angle. The control group was not allowed to touch the puzzle, while one group traced the shapes with their fingers and a third group traced the shapes before closing their eyes and imagining the tracing.

After the puzzle portion of the study, the children answered a questionnaire that measured learning motivation and cognitive load, or the amount of energy one spends during a mental activity.

A meta-analysis of the results showed that children who traced not only solved the puzzle more quickly, but had an easier time doing so as they had more motivation and less cognitive load.

Finger-tracing isn’t only effective for children, according to the second study. That study included 44 adults selected for their lack of astronomical knowledge. The astronomy novices were then divided into two groups: One learned about the lifecycle of a star with just text and a diagram, whereas the other group received the same text and diagram, but was told to use their hands to trace over the visual component.

The results were similar to the children’s study: The adults who traced had higher motivation and lower cognitive load.

“There are multiple reasons why tracing can help learning,” said Paul Ginns, the Associate Professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Sydney and co-author of both studies. “It seems that humans are biologically wired so that we pay closer attention to the space near our hands. So, when using an index finger to trace visual stimuli, these elements of a lesson receive processing priority. Tracing can also assist learning because it ‘chunks’ all the important elements of new material into one piece of information, making it easier for us to learn.”

Montessori Tracing

At the Montessori campuses in the Endeavor Schools family, finger-tracing is a common technique.

Faith Money, the school leader at Atlanta Montessori International School-Druid Hills, says finger-tracing is an important part of her Primary Program (3 – 6-year-olds).

“The goal is to give the child concrete materials to represent concepts that can be very abstract,” Money says. “When we see the children using their hands to understand concepts like alphabet symbols, length, weight, temperature, shapes, numbers, etc., we find they have a deeper understanding of these concepts and a solid foundation when moving to abstraction.”

One common finger-tracing technique is with the use of sandpaper.

“The sandpaper letters are a wonderful example of finger tracing,” Money says. “Once the child understands the concept of cat begins with the ‘c’ sound, we introduce them to the correlating symbol in cursive. Each letter is on a board and the letter symbol is made of rough sandpaper. Next, the child sensitizes their index and middle fingers by placing them in warm water and wiping them dry with a cloth. We then show the child how to correctly trace the letter a few times and they repeat tracing after them at least three times, but often we find the child enjoys it so much they will trace the letter many more times! While they are tracing this symbol the guide will say the sound it makes so the child is hearing the sound and feeling its symbol.”

Lee Lanou, the Director of Montessori Education at Endeavor Schools, said that new research, such as the University of Sydney studies, has added to the pile of evidence in favor of many Montessori techniques, such as the importance of combining hand movement with learning.

“More than 100 years after Dr. Maria Montessori invented her method, neuroscience research is flooded with evidence of the strong connection between the hands and the brain,” Lanou says. “In Montessori classrooms, children are given multi-sensory materials to guide their learning. This is combined with the freedom to repeat these movements as often as they desire, which creates an optimal and natural development for learning in young children.”

Making Learning Exciting: How Project-Based Learning Helps Children Excel

Project-based learning (PBL) is growing in popularity around the world, including in the United States.  Through engaging projects, students interact with their subject material while collaborating with their peers to better understand their subjects. Many of our schools, including The Endeavor School in Miami, utilize this method because it can make learning a more meaningful experience, which resonates with young students who thrive when they are excited about what they learn.

Internationally-Renowned Method

Although PBL is growing in popularity in the United States, it is considered commonplace in many countries, including Finland, which regularly tops education rankings. In 2016, the Finnish government decided that PBL was so effective it implemented the educational approach into the national curriculum. At least once per year, students participate in a long-term PBL module.

When designing the national curriculum, Finnish researchers said PBL modules enabled students to develop transversal competencies, or skills that can be used in different areas of life, including collaboration, critical thinking, and leadership skills.
Kirsti Lonka, a professor of educational psychology at Helsinki University, told Super Humanics that PBL equips children to deal with complex problems that require critical thinking, collaboration skills, and creativity.

“Traditionally, learning has been defined as a list of subject matters and facts you need to acquire – such as arithmetic and grammar – with some decoration, like citizenship, built in around it,” Lonka said. “But when it comes to real life, our brain is not sliced into disciplines in that way; we are thinking in a very holistic way. And when you think about the problems in the world – global crises, migration, the economy, the post-truth era – we really haven’t given our children the tools to deal with this inter-cultural world.”

PBL, however, does give children those tools, and the research bears that out.

A large-scale, randomized study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2019 looked at more than 17,000 students in Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Paraguay and compared results of PBL students to students participating in more traditional learning models. After just seven months, the study found that PBL students scored higher in all education areas.

Active Brains and Real-World Skills

PBL uses hands-on inquiry for a more experiential learning experience. In other words, students don’t just sit and listen. Rather, they get involved in projects that require interaction and collaboration, providing a more stimulating and memorable effect.

“When students pursue a line of inquiry that’s interesting to them, their brains can focus longer because it’s something they’re excited about,” said Dr. Amy Brereton, the Executive Vice President of Academics at Endeavor Schools. “It feels more like exploration and play, rather than just rote memorization. Brains remember something better when there’s an emotional connection.”

The pursuit of that line of inquiry is why PBL is so effective at teaching real-world skills. In everyday life situations, answers can’t always be found in a textbook or Google search. Working on projects – tinkering, testing, experimenting, – gives students the ability to work through problems, rather than just looking for a ready-made answer.

In addition, PBL enables students to learn a crucial skill: How to learn from mistakes.

In a PBL module, students are encouraged to experiment and try different approaches to accomplish their goals. Of course, they don’t always make the “right” choice in pursuit of their goal, but that’s part of the PBL process; making mistakes and experiencing disappointment, but learning from that to gain a deeper understanding of the entire process.

“Mistakes can be useful,” Brereton said. “They can teach students that the pathway to success is paved with mistakes and how we respond to mistakes is important to long-term success.”

Education researchers have found evidence that making mistakes can be beneficial to learning. According to a 2017 paper titled ‘Learning from Errors,’ psychologist Janet Metcalfe found that “errorful learning” followed by corrective feedback can help students gain a better understanding of material.

In the 1994 book, The Learning Gap, which compared Japanese classrooms to American classrooms, researchers found that Japanese teachers focused on common mistakes made during mathematics lessons. In contrast, as the UC Berkeley blog points out, American teachers mainly teach the ‘correct’ method, largely ignoring how mistakes are made. The result is that Japanese schoolchildren regularly score higher than their American counterparts in mathematics.

At Endeavor Schools, we understand that there are many different ways for children to learn and everyone learns differently. That’s why our schools use a variety of learning methods, from project-based learning to Montessori, as well as hybrid programs. What matters most is that our children have  positive and effective learning experience so that they enjoy a lifelong love for learning.

For more information on our growing network of schools, visit our schools page.

Montessori Education in Childhood Can Lead to Happier Adulthood, Study Finds

A new study published in Frontiers of Psychology found that adults who attended Montessori schools as children experienced higher personal well-being levels than those who attended conventional schools.

The study, led by the University of Virginia’s Dr. Angeline Lillard, who has researched the impact of Montessori education, tested the hypothesis that a Montessori education can help lead to happier adulthood due to the education model’s focus on self-determination, meaningful activities, and social stability.

After surveying nearly 2,000 people, the researchers found that former Montessori students scored higher in all 18 measures of psychological well-being related to general well-being, engagement, social trust, and self-confidence.

“Montessori pedagogy has features that enhance well-being contemporaneously and predictively, including self-determination, meaningful activities, and social stability,” the researchers said in the paper, adding: “This makes theoretical sense, in that Montessori schools have features that are related to these aspects of well-being. For example, Montessori gives children free choice and thus a high degree of self-determination, which has been shown in other research to render happiness and a strong sense of one’s own competence, and which allows one to find and engage in activities that give one a sense of purpose.”

The survey included 1,905 adults between 18 and 81 (median age of 36). Half of the respondents attended Montessori schools between 2 and 16 years (median time of 6 years). The other half attended only conventional schools.

Lee Lanou, the Director of Montessori Education at Endeavor Schools, said she was not surprised by the study results because Montessori education had such a positive impact in her life.

“As a child of Montessori education myself, I know that it had a tremendous impact on the person I grew to be,” Lanou said. “I was in a Montessori classroom from ages 3 to 6 and I loved the freedom to learn in a way that felt completely natural. I remember being so happy as I was learning to read and even learning division as a kindergartner. It was in high school when I realized that it was my Montessori education that had taught me how to learn.”

Lanou said her Montessori education helped her better understand the learning process. Mastering new skills isn’t always easy, but can be done with the necessary effort. Knowing this helped Lanou realize that if she didn’t know how to do something right away, she could figure it out.

“It wasn’t a roadblock,” she said. “It was just going to take a few steps to learn how to do it. I suppose that freedom in my mind allowed me to dream big! My Montessori education certainly has had a positive impact on my well-being as an adult. I am a living testament to the power of a Montessori education.”

Endeavor Schools owns and operates more than 30 Montessori schools across the United States. Each school’s curriculum promotes personal wellness and balance through physical and mental activities, such as nutrition and cooking, personal care, mindfulness, yoga, and more.

“Our goal is that when children leave our programs, they have developed a healthful and physically active lifestyle and a disposition to pursue lifelong physical and mental wellness,” Lanou said.

Endeavor Schools Expands in Minnesota with Acquisition of Woodpark Montessori

Endeavor Schools, one of the fastest-growing education management companies in the United States, has acquired Woodpark Montessori, an infant through preschool-age Montessori school located outside Minneapolis.

Established in 1990, Woodpark Montessori has been a top choice for local families for more than three decades. With two campuses in Savage and Burnsville, Minnesota, the school’s dedication to providing children with an authentic Montessori experience was a significant factor in Endeavor’s decision to acquire the fledgling school.

Although each one of our Montessori schools across the country is unique in their own ways, they all have excellent teachers who understand the value of the Montessori experience,” said Lee Lanou, the Director of Montessori Education of Endeavor Schools. “We are excited about partnering with the wonderful educators at Woodpark, and we look forward to helping them continue the excellent work they have been doing for such a long time.”

With the addition of Woodpark Montessori School, Endeavor Schools owns and operates 69 schools in 13 states across the country. The company’s growing portfolio includes preschools, elementary and middle schools that offer a variety of educational styles, such as Montessori, Reggio Emilia, and project-based programs. Endeavor also owns and operates advanced studies high schools in two states.

Endeavor Schools’ latest acquisition expands its Minnesota presence to a total of 12 campuses, all within the Minneapolis metro area. In addition to Woodpark Montessori, Endeavor owns and manages Step By Step Montessori Schools, which includes eight campuses, and Peaceful Valley Montessori Academy, which has two campuses.

Endeavor Schools has a growing presence in Minnesota. With a total of twelve Montessori schools in the Minneapolis area, the company is deepening its commitment to providing local families with excellent Montessori programs.

Ranked the fastest-growing private school company in Florida by Inc. Magazine, the Miami-based company has added 15 new campuses in seven different states so far this year.

“Providing high-quality schools that parents can count on is an integral part of our mission,” said Ricardo Campo, the CEO of Endeavor Schools. “We believe communities are stronger through education, and we are proud to give children the opportunity to thrive every day.”

Endeavor Schools Acquires Village Green Day School in Great Falls, Virginia

 

Endeavor Schools has acquired Village Green Day School in Great Falls, Virginia, adding to its growing family of schools across the United States.

Founded in 1979, Village Green Day School has provided high-quality programs for children up to kindergarten level. Its highly experienced staff draws inspiration from several celebrated education theorists to create an efficacious evidence-based approach to children’s education.

“Village Green Day School has a long track record of providing children with a nurturing environment and engaging programs that parents love,” said Ricardo Campo, the CEO of Endeavor Schools. “For more than four decades, this school has been an important part of its community, and we are committed to continuing that relationship for many years to come.”

Village Green Day School is known in the Great Falls area for its high-quality curriculum, beautiful learning areas, and passionate teachers who have gained a well-deserved reputation for excellence.

“The amazing team at Village Green Day School is why the school has done so well over the years,” said Danielle Millman, the Chief Growth and Experience Officer at Endeavor Schools. “They have created a warm and welcoming environment where children thrive. We are excited to work with this team and look forward to helping them continue their excellent work for the community.”

The acquisition of Village Green Day School brought Endeavor Schools’ total number of schools to 67.

Endeavor Schools has recently seen a great deal of growth in the state of Virginia. In April of this year, the company acquired the Loudoun School for Advanced Studies, a 6th through 12th-grade school in Ashburn, Virginia. And in March 2020, the company acquired Kiddie Country Developmental Learning Center, a preschool in Burke, Virginia.

“Working with our Virginia-based educators to provide excellent programs for children of all ages has been a wonderful experience,” said Jason Mauricio, the Vice President of Acquisitions at Endeavor Schools. “We are actively looking for more opportunities to expand in Virginia and the rest of the country.”

Endeavor Schools is the fastest-growing early childhood and private school education company in Florida, according to Inc. Magazine. The Miami-based company has experienced 61 percent growth over the past two years and has plans for continued expansion.

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Teachers Learn and Grow During Endeavor Schools’ Montessori of Alameda Teacher Education Program

Earlier this month, ten adult learners completed Endeavor Schools’ Montessori of Alameda Teacher Education Program, designed for teachers who want to gain a more in-depth knowledge of the Montessori Method and earn a teaching credential from the American Montessori Society.

The group included teachers with varying levels of experience from all over the country. Some have been working in Montessori schools for several years, while others have started within the past year. Whatever their experience levels, all the teachers shared one thing: a desire to improve their Montessori teaching skills.

Jadyne, a teacher from Endeavor Schools’ Montessori Academy at Sharon Springs in Georgia, had previously worked with children who experienced emotional trauma, which inspired her to find better ways to connect with children.

“It brought up a lot of questions for me about how do you approach children in general – not just socially and emotionally, but how do you prepare them for life in the best way?” she said.

After a great deal of parenting and children’s education research, Jadyne came across the Montessori method and found some of the answers she was seeking.

“It’s such a comprehensive way to teach children about life,” she said.

Mona, a teacher at Endeavor Schools’ Montessori at Vickery in Cumming, Georgia, has been teaching in Montessori schools for more than a decade. But she joined the MOATEP program to improve her skills and gain a deeper knowledge about the Montessori method. To explain her goals in the program, Mona quoted Dr. Maria Montessori, who said: “The greatest sign of success for a teacher…is to be able to say, ‘The children are now working as if I did not exist.”

“I want to reach that level and having the experience of this residency will help me get there,” Mona said.

Rigorous and Rewarding Learning

The current cohort of adult learners began the five-month online segment in January by reviewing Montessori’s philosophy and history. Then they dove into the methodology studies of the Sensorial, Practical Life, Language, and Math curriculum, and much more, as part of an extensive curriculum created by Lee Lanou, the Director of Montessori Education at Endeavor Schools and the Director of MOATEP.

The adult learners met once per week for an online class, which was followed by up to 10 hours of assignments that included watching videos, reading texts, writing research papers, and practicing with Montessori materials.

They also participated in group exercises. The group met online for weekly discussions and feedback sessions, and each person had a “practice buddy” to review the materials and presentations they had worked on each week.

“It was a rigorous time of learning, but highly rewarding, as well,” Lanou said.

Understanding Montessori from the Child’s Perspective

After completing the online segment, all the adult learners were invited to Portland for a 2 ½ week, in-person residency, led by Lanou and Shelby Hiken, the co-training instructor.

The adult learners practiced using Montessori materials, learned presentations for the specific lessons, participated in Montessori activities and spent hours observing children in Montessori environments.

The overall experience allowed the group to immerse themselves in a Montessori classroom and participate in activities to better understand Montessori from the child’s perspective.

“One of the first things that we did was to have a ‘Montessori Morning,’ where, for a few hours, the adult learners freely explored the classroom just as the children would,” Lanou explained. “It allowed them to take off their ‘teacher’ hat for a while and give them the opportunity to really feel what it was like to be a child in the classroom. They discovered what it felt like to be led to which work to choose and where they wanted to work. They also experienced exploring with new materials they were unfamiliar with, and the feeling of learning new skills. Having that type of authentic experience allows them to approach their role as a teacher or guide in a newfound light.”

For Sarah, a teacher at Endeavor Schools’ Montessori Academy of Cincinnati, engaging with the materials like a child would, helped her better understand the child’s experience.

I was surprised to learn how much can be done with the sensorial materials,” Sarah said. “We were given an activity where we were given one material and just told to explore. Getting to work with the materials as a child would, I saw so many more possibilities than I ever imagined!”

A Lasting and Beneficial Experience

By the end of the residency, all of the adult learners were invigorated by the experience and couldn’t wait to get back to their classrooms to put their newly acquired knowledge into practice.

Carla, a teacher at Endeavor Schools’ Foothills Montessori in Nevada, said she gained more confidence in her skills and understanding of the Montessori practice.

The residency was a great experience,” she said. “I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work. But I feel like it was necessary for me to get all the hands-on training that I needed for me to feel confident, the way I do now, to give lessons, help children, and do my job on a much higher level. It helped me so much and opened my eyes up to what Montessori really is.”

Caleb, who teaches at Endeavor Schools’ Montessori of Alameda said the entire program helped him improve his teaching skills in areas where he was not totally comfortable.

I almost feel like a completely different teacher. I’m extremely excited to dive right into the room again!” he said. “When I return, I’m most excited to apply a lot of the upper-level work in language and math. I was very apprehensive to tackle those lessons and subjects in the beginning. But after these past seven months of training, I feel capable, I feel ready and confident to be able to give these lessons and help prepare my children for their future education.”

For more information about the next Montessori of Alameda Teacher Education Program and how to apply, visit www.MOATEP.org.

Parker-Chase Teacher Wins Prestigious Award and Talks About the Teachers Who Inspired Her

Quinecia Styles Smith’s education journey began with a roadblock that might have discouraged her from pursuing an education. But today, she is an award-winning teacher at Parker-Chase Preschool in North Peachtree City, Georgia after the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning named her as a Scholar of the Year.

The award, which is in its 20th year and includes a cash prize supported by the Georgia Foundation for Early Care + Learning (GFECL), recognizes outstanding college students enrolled in an early childhood education program who simultaneously work in education.

“When you are a teacher by day and scholar by night, it can be challenging to achieve the right balance,” said Carrie Ashbee, Executive Director of the GFECL. “We hope these awards are a small way of recognizing the amazing commitment and dedication these early education professionals have to their students and families, both now and in the future.”

For Quinecia, the award was both an honor and a reminder of how she became a teacher.

‘You Can Do It!’

When Quinecia started kindergarten, she had a speech impediment that made it difficult to express words.

“The words would just come out jumbled and sometimes blended with each other,” Quinecia explained.

At her kindergarten outside Atlanta, officials put her in a special needs class and gave her an individualized education plan (IEP). Her first experience in school was already becoming more about what her limits were, rather than what her potential could be. But that started to change when she met the first of three teachers who would transform her life.

Kim Stegall was a speech teacher who worked closely with Styles-Smith when she was 5 and 6. Through encouragement and positivity, Quinecia’s speech began to improve. Most importantly, she was gaining confidence and knew that she could make progress.

“She really invested time in me and made the effort to help,” Quinecia said.

When Quinecia reached the third grade, her speech issues persisted. But she met the second teacher who make change her life: Vicky Cash.

“She always told me ‘You can talk! You have so much potential, you just have to work hard.’” Quinecia recalled.

Ms. Cash was right because Quinecia quickly excelled. By the 6th grade, she tested into her school’s gifted program. And by high school, she had overcome her speech issues so well that she was in her school’s thespian club, performing dramatic monologues in front of live audiences. By the time she graduated – with honors – Quinecia was even considering an acting career.

‘Change the Stars’

But then the third teacher made an impact: Jeff Roper.

Mr. Roper, one of Quinecia’s high school teachers, always encouraged students to do things that would help others and change the world.

“He would say look for ways that would change the stars to make somebody’s life better,” Quinecia said. “I realized that it was teachers who made me feel important, validated, and empowered. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a teacher.”

Today, “Miss Nene” as her children know her, is the lead teacher for 3 and 4-year-olds at Parker-Chase Preschool in North Peachtree City, one of Endeavor Schools’ newest campuses. She has been teaching for eight years and is studying at West Georgia Technical College with plans to specialize in inclusion therapy, so she can help children who have similar circumstances to her while growing up.

“I want to be the one who children look back on and remember as somebody who changed their stars,” she said.

The Endeavor Schools team has no doubts she will do just that.

“We are so honored to work with a teacher like Nene who is devoted to each child and actually sees their potential,” said Danielle Millman, the Chief Growth and Experience Officer at Endeavor Schools. “She is an incredible teacher who is an inspiration to our community. She truly deserves this honor, and we are so proud of her and her achievements.”

For Quinecia, the award is an honor, but it’s also a reminder about the necessity of hard work.

“It means that I have to continue doing everything I’ve always done to get to this point,” she said. “I want to try harder and be more motivated to reach the next level. My next goal is to pave the way for my students to accomplish the same kinds of things. It’s a lot of pressure, but it’s also really special.”

 

Endeavor Schools Acquires Heritage Montessori, One of the First Montessori Schools in the U.S.

Endeavor Schools is proud to announce the acquisition of Heritage Montessori, a trio of traditional Montessori schools in Southern California with a rich history that goes all the way back to Dr. Maria Montessori herself.

Heritage Montessori was founded in 1962 by Qudsia Roston, whose mother, Maria Peerzada, was a teaching student in Dr. Montessori’s first training class in India during the 1930s. As a child, Roston was one of Dr. Montessori’s pupils during the time the renowned pedagogist was conducting research for her book, “The Absorbent Mind.”

Roston went on to become an influential Montessori educator and founded Heritage Montessori, one of the first Montessori schools in the United States. Today, Heritage Montessori has three locations, including Huntington Beach, Lake Forest, and Newport-Mesa. All three campuses are beautifully designed to enhance the Montessori experience for children up to third grade, and the staff at each school consists of highly trained Montessori guides who are passionate about children’s education.

“The Heritage Montessori schools perfectly embody our mission, which is to provide children with a stellar education that helps them grow in all facets of life,” said Endeavor Schools CEO, Ricardo Campo. “The schools have a rich history and impressive track record that highlight the talent and dedication of their amazing staff.”

Heritage Montessori will continue to be led by Executive Director Dr. Alexandra Magliarditi, a trained Montessorian who started as an assistant teacher at Heritage in 2013.

“We are very excited to be a part of the Endeavor Schools family,” Dr. Magliarditi said. “Endeavor Schools understands the benefits of a Montessori education and we are looking forward to working with their team to continue providing children with a superior education inspired by Dr. Montessori’s philosophy.”

With the addition of Heritage Montessori’s three campuses, Endeavor Schools now owns and operates 64 schools across the United States as the company continues to provide innovative, high-quality education programs to children of all ages across the nation.

To learn more about Heritage Montessori and its fascinating history, visit www.heritagemontessori.com.

How Our Dallas-area Teachers Beat the ‘Texas Freeze’ with Dedication and Teamwork

Thristina Courtney, the School Leader at Parker-Chase Plano.

With summer temperatures now scorching the country, the Texas Freeze seems like a distant memory to some. But back in February, the sudden shock of extremely cold temperatures in Texas wreaked havoc across the state, causing damage to thousands of schools, some of which have yet to recover.

Two of our own schools were shut down for three months: Parker-Chase Preschools in Plano and Carrollton. Those schools are now fully re-open, but some of our Dallas-area teachers recently reflected on how they managed to handle the crisis and continue providing children with education by working together as a unified team.

“I was amazed at how the schools pulled together during this time to continue providing care to the children and families we serve,” said Cheryl Partida, the Regional Director of Operations in Texas for Endeavor Schools.

The Texas Freeze was a wintry rampage. Wind turbines froze, causing millions to lose power. Pipes burst, causing flooding in thousands of buildings. And authorities later found that nearly 200 people lost their lives, mostly from hypothermia.

By February 14, millions of Texans were dealing with the Freeze’s effects. And Thristina Courtney, the school leader at Parker-Chase Preschool in Plano, rushed to her school to check its status and rescue Steve, the classroom pet turtle.

Steve was just fine. But the school was not. What happened in thousands of schools across the state also happened at Parker-Chase Preschool in Plano: The power was out, and busted water pipes caused flooding. Surveying the damage, Courtney’s heart sank.

“Our school has always been so lovely and bright,” she said. “But now it was dark and just lost.”

Before students could return to the building, all damage had to be repaired. Immediately, Courtney looked for a way to provide education and childcare for her 82 children.

Focusing on the Children’s Well-being

Barb Sagehorn, the School Leader at Carpe Diem Private Preschool in Frisco

Working with the Endeavor Schools’ support team, Courtney arranged for all the children and her staff members to be temporarily transferred to Carpe Diem Private Preschool in Allen, located about nine miles north. Hers wasn’t the only Endeavor school that had to be temporarily moved to a new location. Parker-Chase Preschool in Carrollton had to be moved to Carpe Diem Private Preschool in Frisco (Endeavor Schools has a total of 11 schools in Texas, including six in the Dallas area. Fortunately, only two schools had to be moved to temporary locations after the Texas Freeze).

But doing so wasn’t easy. Even though the distance between the two schools was just a few miles, the logistics of getting dozens of families to “move” to a new school was challenging. From communicating to and ensuring families about the move to adhering to state preschool standards and Covid guidelines, Courtney and the Carpe Diem team had to do something they never did before. But instead of buckling under the stress, they worked through it.

There are four Carpe Diem Private Preschools in the Dallas area: Allen, Frisco, Richardson and Southlake. Although each employee works for the same company, their work rarely overlaps because each school serves a different community. That all changed when four schools had to be temporarily combined into two.

With the student population of four schools rolled into two campuses, there were many challenges, such as communicating with parents about the changes, maintaining separate classrooms and entrances for the students, making sure enough supplies were available, re-arranging school day schedules, and much more.

Preschool employees’ days can be difficult enough, but this was different. Nevertheless, the school staff at Endeavor’s six Dallas-area schools were up to the extra challenges by focusing on a common goal: providing care and education to children.

“We really grew closer as a team by getting to know each other and helping each other out,” Courtney said. “We all care very much about our children and that brought us together and helped us overcome all the challenges that were in front of us.”

Barb Sagehorn, the school leader at Carpe Diem Private Preschool in Frisco, which played host to Parker-Case Preschool of Carrollton, praised all the teachers who made it possible to continue giving care and education to almost 200 students.

“It wasn’t easy, but our teachers are professionals who know how to adapt,” she said. “They were focused, resilient, and took great care of their children during a difficult time.”

Repairing the Damage and Moving Forward

Ken Jones, the Vice President of Facilities and Security at Endeavor Schools

The teachers at the Dallas-area schools weren’t the only ones tasked with challenges. Ken Jones, the Vice President of Facilities and Security at Endeavor Schools, had to act quickly to fully repair the damaged schools.

Based in Atlanta, Jones immediately went to Dallas to oversee the emergency response to get the schools up and running as soon as possible. However, there was a severe lack of labor and materials in Texas at the time. To get the job done, Jones flew in a team from Atlanta and brought in materials from around the country.

“The best decision we made was not to wait in line for local mitigation and construction companies to free up to respond to our massive loss,” Jones said. “A mitigation and construction team that we have a longstanding relationship traveled 800 miles with tractor trailers full of tools and construction supplies from Georgia. Their support and expertise were critical in helping restore our schools to reopen for our staff and families. We learned that valuing vendors as our true partners and treating them with grace, courtesy, and respect creates longstanding bonds that are there for you when you need your partners most.”

The Texas Freeze caused close to $300 billion in damage across the state, according to a study by the University of Houston’s School of Public Affairs. Our schools weren’t spared from the Texas Freeze, but in a little more than three months, all of our Texas schools were back to normal. And due to the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of Endeavor’s teachers, children and their families were able to continue receiving high-quality care and education without missing a beat.

“We really love what we do, and we love our children,” Courtney said. “Now we’re able to continue doing so knowing that we have a support network – through each other and through Endeavor Schools – that will always be there for us when we need it.”