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Alumni Stories

Laura Morrison ’03, Directress CH IV

We often say at MSR that the school is our legacy, a gift handed down through generations.  As Laura Morrison, Class of ’03, describes her path to teaching, the concepts of legacy and inheritance begin to form.  “My mom went to a Montessori school,” she says, adding that her grandmother had her doctorate in child development and taught in a Montessori training center in New York State. It is no surprise then that Laura was brought to MSR when she was two years and nine months, and, says, Laura, “My mother sort of finagled me into Children’s House even though I wasn’t yet three.”

Laura and MSR were a good match and she continued through sixth grade. That was in 1996, three years before MSR’s Middle School was created. She explains that she and her classmates didn’t want to leave and begged teachers to “start a make-shift seventh grade,” but the time was not right, and she moved on to a public middle school in the area.  From there Laura enrolled in an IB magnet high school because she had her heart set on attending UNC and knew the IB credentials would increase her chances.  She was correct; she was offered admission and entered Carolina in the fall of 2003.

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Randy Nash '02

It happens when I listen to sports announcers describe a game on TV or when the conversation turns to pop culture—fashion, music, recording artists, etc. I recognize words being used as English but that’s where the recognition ends. This is a bit how I felt talking recently with the very highly accomplished videogame designer Randy Nash ’02. 

Randy is senior technical designer at Playful Studios, a premiere independent game studio located in McKinney, Texas. His journey to this position of great responsibility has been swift and reflects his eagerness for challenge and opportunity, a posture cultivated at MSR. Arriving on the Lead Mine Campus as a toddler, Randy continued through the final year offered, which at that time was 6th year. He believes his father ‘s educational viewpoint—teach children how to teach themselves—is what led his parents to choose a Montessori school. “My dad was all about teaching the man to fish, not just giving him a fish,” says Randy. He recalls that even on summer breaks and vacations, his dad was coaching him in how to “take things apart, physically and intellectually, and put them back together.” After MSR, Randy was enrolled in local public schools for Grades 7 through 10, but at that point his parents decided they could do a better job, and Randy was homeschooled through high school. 

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Candace Mitchell Waters, MD, '03

“Mrs. Boyd’s asymmetrical haircut—a one-sided bob—and one long, beautiful earring” is what first popped into the mind of Dr. Candace Waters as we were reflecting on her many years at MSR. She arrived at the school when she was “very, very young,” a toddler, before she has memories, and was here through kindergarten. Her parents then enrolled her in a magnet public school for gifted and talented. She recalls that one day the children in the school were starting to learn to write, and she began to write in cursive “because I had learned it already at MSR.” Her advanced skills were not appreciated, and she was told she couldn’t use cursive. “I was humiliated and embarrassed,” Candace told us. The next thing she knew, her parents had re-enrolled her at MSR, and she stayed through sixth grade, the final year in those days.

Candace’s love of learning was well nurtured at MSR, and she recalled a moment in Children’s House when her teacher honored her unique learning journey and tailored the program accordingly. “I was thumbing through division math cards one day. My teacher began to explain what the cards were about, and I said, ‘I want to learn this.’” Multiplication was mentioned, and Candace noted that she didn’t yet know how to multiply. To that her teacher said, “Well, then let’s begin with multiplication.”

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Sara Gadegbeku Costner ‘03

It was almost 20 years ago when Sara Costner walked onto the campus and into the First Grade classroom at MSR. She stayed as long as she could at the school, through the end of Sixth Grade and then had to find another setting because there was no Middle School at the time. “I went to another independent school in the area, then on to public school for high school,” she said, “but nothing else could ever compare.” Sara’s description of what she found here that created a learning environment unlike any other included a word current students and alums use often: freedom. “Montessori is about giving independence and cultivating that sense of freedom that goes hand in hand with responsibility,” Sara explained, adding, “That is how it should be.”

We were interested in knowing how prepared Sara thought she was to move to a new school, then on to a larger public school, and finally to North Carolina State University where she received her degree in communications. “I was absolutely prepared, academically, socially and mentally…I was so confident.” It was the cohesiveness of the learning community, Sara explained—everyone caring for the learning environment, everyone taking pride in the community of which they were all a part that gave rise to a transformational learning experience. “I assumed every place would be just like MSR,” she explained, adding, “I didn’t realize what it all meant to me until I went to other schools, and the freedom I had had was no longer present.”

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Deepti Doshi '99

As teachers we note the unique characteristics of each child, the likes and dislikes, strengths and talents, preferences and fascinations, and we know some of those “threads” will be stitched securely into the fabric of that young person’s life long after the school years are over. Such it is with Deepti Doshi ’99. What she loved most about being at MSR in the eighties is “the great sense of community—I always felt someone had my back,” she said. Now, as Director of Community Partnerships at Facebook, she leads a partnerships team responsible for the company’s relationships with community leaders and organizers around the world.

The school’s capacity to “meet me where I was and respect my needs” had a significant impact on this remarkable alumna and the cultivation of her professional and personal focus—addressing the polarization in society that impedes social change. It was the Montessori emphasis on personal agency, she believes, that has given her what she describes as “an incredible sense of purpose.” As we talked, she reiterated the philosophical soundness of such progressive thought leaders as Jean Piaget, John Dewey, and, of course, Maria Montessori. All placed great importance on the education of children as the best hope for attaining peaceful and sustainable societies.

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Alex Longo '18

We are so proud of our alum, Alex Longo! Not only are his ideas on where to land the next Mars Rover being seriously considered by NASA, but he has also been invited to a NASA-sponsored conference that will pick a landing site for the first human landing on Mars. Congratulations, Alex!

Source: NPR

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