Meet Terriann Lane: TNCS’s New Preschool Coordinator!

Preschool at The New Century School is where it all starts—and started! Opening its doors in September 2010, TNCS has since nurtured thousands of students ages 2 years and up. Its preprimary and primary divisions are, in some ways, the heart of the school, so it is with great pleasure that we introduce Terriann Lane, who has taken over as Preschool Coordinator! Ms. Lane’s journey spans diverse experiences and roles within the Montessori educational system.


Ms. Lane is mom to two adult children. She and her family traveled extensively while dad was a naval officer. Originating from Louisville, KY, she acquired her degree in elementary education from the University of Louisville. Although she did her practicum in a traditional 4th-grade classroom, there was a period where she stepped away from teaching, focusing on raising her children while moving around in multiple states, including Rhode Island, Florida, Georgia, and Hawai’i. This geographical tapestry forms a backdrop to her diverse experiences, providing a rich context to her journey in Montessori education.

She decided to settle in Maryland around 10 years ago, drawn by the state’s abundance of Montessori schools.

Terriann Lane: A True Montessorian

Her journey in the Montessori system started as a parent looking for a suitable school for her children. Her introduction to Montessori education was a transformative moment. Comparing Montessori to what she learned during her undergraduate study, she found the former to make significantly more sense. The sight of 4-year-olds reading and writing in a Montessori classroom was a revelation, showcasing a stark contrast to her own educational experiences and what she had observed in traditional settings. This difference fueled her fascination and determination to integrate her children into the Montessori environment.

Her children embraced Montessori education — her son through primary and her daughter until elementary.

Her background in elementary education quickly came to light during her visits, and she was invited to teach, despite her initial lack of Montessori-specific training.

Deciding against teaching without proper training, she was fortunate enough to receive sponsored training in Celebration, Florida. Post-training, her journey involved extensive travel before she found herself settled and teaching in Maryland.

She taught in the Montessori classroom for 18 years, later ascending to the head of the primary program for 2 years. During her tenure at her last school, which lasted 6 years, she transitioned into a role as an instructional guide for adults at the Center for Guided Montessori Studies (CGMS). This role, which she has now embraced for 4 years, involves guiding adults aspiring to become Montessorians—an endeavor she finds incredibly rewarding. “I really love growing the learning of adults who are passionate about Montessori,” she said.

Despite her extensive experience, she maintains a humble perspective, considering herself no veteran in comparison to mentors with 30 years’ and more experience still active in the classroom. Now, venturing into a new chapter, she is excited to continue growing and fostering learning within a Montessori-inspired program at TNCS. Here, she values the palpable passion for children’s development, a cornerstone of the Montessori method.

Her journey reveals a story of growth, adaptation, and a perpetual passion for Montessori education, shedding light on the intricate tapestry of experiences that mold educators in this unique educational landscape.

Ms. Lane at TNCS!

Arriving at TNCS was a consequence of change. The closure of her previous school, Nurturing Nest Montessori, in Columbia, due to the owners’ retirement, prompted Ms. Lane to view this as an opportunity to grow and embrace a new role. It was a chance to expand what she loves to do with CGMS.

Reflecting on her initial impressions of TNCS, she expressed enthusiasm for the opportunities it presents. Montessori education’s emphasis on grace, courtesy, kindness, respect, and valuing children’s independence resonates deeply with her. She sees the potential for impact, believing in the power of young learners to enact positive change in the world. Traditional education doesn’t focus as intently on this crucial aspect of growth and development.

In Montessori, the emphasis on valuing the the power of children gives us an opportunity to to change the world. We have an opportunity to do something different and and to actually change the world, even if it’s a teeny bit in our little building.

Addressing her goals for the year, she shared her vision of building a stronger Montessori program. TNCS hails itself as Montessori-inspired, and she believes that this approach can significantly benefit students. “The curriculum speaks for itself: if we follow it, we do a great service to the children,” she explained. Her ambition is to enhance the program’s strength and provide the necessary support to the adults involved, embodying her passion for Montessori education and her commitment to nurturing learning and supporting families the Montessori way.

Her transition to TNCS involved several structural changes in the classroom, focusing primarily on transforming the preprimary classroom from a more traditional daycare setting to one aligned with Montessori principles. The classroom environment is pivotal in Montessori education, serving as the foundation and an integral part of the curriculum, so ensuring it was specifically prepared to meet the children’s needs was essential.

This transition was no small task and involved a thorough revamp to address aspects that were previously lacking and ensure the classrooms were authentic, prepared Montessori environments. The process required a great deal of work and resources . . . and IKEA . . . to meet the specific needs of the redesigned space.

Prior to implementing the changes, Ms. Lane held meetings to understand the needs, challenges, and requirements of the teachers. She inquired about what was working, what was lacking, and how she could offer support, emphasizing the importance of open communication.

Her approach is grounded in support rather than imposition, recognizing the importance of respecting teachers’ autonomy and not dictating every aspect of how things should be done. This balanced approach demonstrates her commitment to supporting the teaching staff while ensuring the authenticity of the Montessori environments. “What has always bugged me about traditional education is you have a lot of people telling the experts in the classroom what to do, and they all have a different opinion, so it either works—if the child gets lucky—or it doesn’t work,” she said.

Feeling embraced by the TNCS community, Ms. Lane appreciates the warm reception she has received at TNCS. While adjusting to her new role was a shift from being a classroom teacher, she still feels closely connected to teaching. Having been a teacher, she believes, enables her to offer valuable perspective and support to the current teachers. She acknowledges the clear difference between traditional and Montessori education.

Her day at TNCS is dynamic and diverse, with no 2 days being the same. She usually arrives with bags full of materials to share with teachers—items they have requested or things she believes they need. After settling in, she makes her rounds through the classrooms, observing, organizing, and preparing for discussions and quick meetings to check on progress. She then assists with the arrival of the children before addressing her emails.

The day unfolds with a mix of tasks—people knocking on her door with various needs, possible administrative meetings, and interacting with parents. The role involves more time on the computer than she had previously experienced. Despite this, she doesn’t remain stationary, actively observing in classrooms and engaging with teachers. Discussions revolve around lesson planning, observations, record-keeping, and the logistics of managing their classrooms.

Although her role primarily involves coordination and administrative tasks, Ms. Lane can’t resist engaging directly with the children. Recounting a recent experience, she shared how a visit to a classroom to observe turned into an impromptu teaching session, which she found incredibly rewarding. Eager to repeat such experiences, she informed the preschool teachers that she is available for more hands-on interaction with the students whenever they like.

She is even transforming her office space into a dual-purpose area, serving both as her workspace and an additional classroom space for children. By simply repositioning her table and adding a screen, she aims to create a multifunctional area, which, in her view, is a logical and practical adaptation of the space.

When asked what she would like parents to know, her message was heartfelt and straightforward: “From all of us, we care about your children, and we want this to be an amazing year!”

TNCS Head of School Erika Johnson Shares Her Thoughts on the New School Year!

Although September has a way of overwhelming us all, the 2023–2024 school year got off to a remarkably smooth start at The New Century School. This is due in no small part to Head of School Erika Johnson, who worked through the summer to ensure that TNCS was ready for another fantastic year of teaching, learning, and experiencing.

It’s All About the Three Cs

In her second year as Head of School, Ms. Johnson says she comes to this year with “fresh eyes”:

Last year it was all new, and this year I’m finding that there’s still more to unearth. There’s no way to know a place and all the people and parts in a year; last year was learning all of the parts, and now we’re able to see relationships and how the system works together. So I think we’re going into year 2 with a better understanding, and we’ll continue to unpack it as well as bring new things.

Even with new things on the horizon (a school is a dynamic place, and change is inevitable—and good!), Ms. Johnson strives for continuity among the flux.

Growth can only come with some consistency, and so I’m excited about the leadership team and the amazing, brilliant individuals I get to work with every day. I think that that will mean a lot for our student body and their ability to feel connected because  they are constantly growing and changing, and it’s our responsibility to create some stability for them. Having a consistent leadership team will allow the students to grow and develop even more. We also have much of the same faculty and staff returning, which also means consistency. In the K1 classroom, for example, if you came in as a kindergartener last year, as a first-grader this year, you’re going to have the same teachers. So those students will not have to make a big transition, and I’m very  grateful for the faculty and staff for returning and maintaining the commitment to the student body.

If a theme is emerging here, it’s no accident. One of Ms. Johnson’s superpowers (yes, she has more than one) is the ability to weave together loose threads into a cohesive whole. Her mission during the last school year at TNCS was to strengthen and sustain the TNCS community. This year, that resolve has not wavered, and she knows that the right people are in place to continue this work, both from the inside as well as off campus with the Family Partnership committee. Her mantra? “Building community, building capacity, building curriculum.”

Building Community

Carrying over from some of the work put in last year, Ms. Johnson says, “building community really is about building a community of learners in each classroom and a community of learners for each division. The New Century School is made up of a preschool division and a K through 8 division; the hope is that we we are building learning communities in both of those divisions who are able to work together to uphold the portrait of a graduate that we introduced last year and really become citizens in in each of those communities.”

“In the spirit of building community,” she explains, “we are introducing what I’m calling ‘Wellness Work’.” This wellness work is almost anything outside of the core academic classes that is designed to nurture the “Whole Child,” such as advisory for social/emotional enrichment, racial literacy classes, and health and human sexuality. “We’re offering these opportunities more consistently this year and connecting them under one umbrella. TNCS is committed to the development of personhood.” What are communities composed of, after all?

As for how the school year is going so far, Ms. Johnson feels positive about it. The litmus test for her is whether students are happy. “When the kids first arrived, there were lots of hugs and smiles and hanging out. That good camaraderie leads to good communities. I also think our teachers are off to a strong start, and I’m cranking out as much as I can each day to provide support to them.”

Building Capacity

Some of the more wonderful aspects of TNCS are not easily achieved, although they may appear to happen as if by magic to onlookers. The differentiated education is one (of many); multiage classrooms are another. Ms. Johnson has the ability to take concepts and practically apply them. In so doing, she is giving faculty and staff the tools they need to make the “magic” happen. “I’m focused on really building the capacity of our faculty and staff so that they are able to allow each child to approach the content in an individual way, without feeling like they have to create a lesson plan for each child. There’s a real craft to teaching, and I want to honor that,” she said.

Building capacity cuts both ways—both teachers and students need the capacity to optimally fulfill their respective roles. As such, one tenet of the TNCS student that Ms. Johnson will be drilling down on this year is executive functioning skills. For 8th-graders, the ultimate goal of honing these skills is high-school preparedness. “We’re deeply committed to making sure that each of our 8th-graders is enrolled in the high school of their choice next fall, and that means meeting with them, hearing them, and helping them understand the application process,” she explained.

The rest of the student body will not be left behind in this regard, of course.

Teachers are explicitly teaching attention, organization, and self monitoring. They have a rubric to track students over the course of the week and give them a grade based on whether the particular skill is emerging, developing, or mastered. Many people don’t think about metacognition—they don’t think about their thinking. It’s not until somebody points it out that you’re able to acknowledge, ‘yes I have a pattern, and in order for me to break that pattern I have to monitor my thinking and my emotions’. We are asking children to self-monitor all day long, so we have to help them develop the awareness of how their brains are functioning. When they understand their own patterns, they better appreciate the need to shift their thinking or adopt a strategy to be more productive, concentrate a little longer, or even remember to bring a pencil to class. There are things that are out of our control, but then there are things that are within our control. By helping students to understand that early, we’ll create very dynamic and powerful lifelong learners.

Students, meanwhile, are using weekly planners that teachers help them fill out at the start of the week and offer reminders about at the end of class. Teachers are asking families to initial the planner at the end of the day to say that they have seen what their student completed. “Hopefully this will create a bridge of communication between what’s happening in the classroom and what’s happening at home,” said Ms. Johnson.

All of this meshes superbly with the Montessori foundation of independent learning that underpins TNCS.

Building Curriculum

Curriculum is also getting a sprucing up. “We have a real focus on curriculum this year and solidifying lesson plans as well as what content area we’re covering and the approach to covering it. We’re also going to continue with the racial literacy taught in the Pollyanna Curriculum and really understanding each other a little better,” said Ms. Johnson.

In fact, one more new thing that Ms. Johnson has embarked on this year is pursuit of an Education Doctorate (EdD) through American University. With all three of her children in college, she converted one room to a home office for her studies. “I’m really excited about how I’m going to be able to take what I am actively learning in the classroom and apply it to the challenges and the triumphs of TNCS,” she said. “To bring that knowledge back in a tangible way to, again, build community, build capacity, build curriculum.”

“We’re All Teachers, All Learners”

If you’re wondering how she makes time for all of the important work she does (remember those superpowers alluded to earlier?), to her, it’s more about a mindset. “You can’t ask students to do things that you’re not willing to do,” she explained. “Modeling is the strongest educator because people have to be able to see it. We model it, then I think it inspires, encourages, and nurtures our students. For example, I’ve challenged all of the administrators to sit in on the Spanish classes, so we’re all also learning the language alongside students. It’s the nerd in me.” A beautiful corollary here is that this modeling is teaching students to model, which is important in a school where mixed-age classrooms and inquiry-led education provide opportunities for students to be both explorers and teachers.

“We all must be teachers,” said Ms. Johnson.