TNCS’s Montessori Professional Development Trip: A Transformative Journey

Terriann Lane has been Preschool Coordinator at The New Century School for a only few months so far, but her impact far outdistances her tenure!

One big example of Ms. Lane’s impact happened last month. TNCS preschool teachers embarked on an enriching professional development trip to the scenic Mountain Laurel Montessori (MLM) in Front Royal, Virginia. This venture provided teachers with the opportunity to immerse themselves in an authentic Montessori environment. They observed and engaged with both toddler (preprimary) and primary classrooms, soaking in the Montessori method in action.

Ms. Lane explained: “The visit was orchestrated through the guidance of my mentor, who connected me with a stellar Montessori teacher. She said to me, ‘You are two of my favorite people, and I need to connect you!'” The idea quickly took root, and Mountain Laurel Montessori opened its doors for observation and learning.

The group departed from TNCS on Sunday, October 8 at 2:30 p.m. On Monday, they went to MLM at 7:30 a.m. to meet their hosts and be directed to classrooms to observe before the children arrive at 8:00 a.m. There were nine in total, including Ms. Lane, Ms. Simonetti, Wang Laoshi, Sra. Garcia (x2!), Ms. Sussman, Sra. Pupo, Sra. Loveras, and Sharon Laoshi.

Beyond the professional growth, the trip was a delightful adventure involving, among other things, driving the TNCS van very slowly up a mountain. “We laughed and marveled as we navigated the Shenandoah Valley, arriving at a charming Airbnb nestled in the woods. It was an idyllic setting for continued learning, with additional sessions there on material-making and curriculum development led by myself and Ms. Simonetti,” said Ms. Lane.

Ms. Simonetti said of the experience:

We had a wonderful cabin; it was rustic but beautiful, with details like a claw foot tub. It was a great experience to see a different Montessori school and all the things that we’ve been introducing to them and showing them. Even though we have training and observation videos to see what’s possible, seeing it in practice are two different things. It really helps bridge the gap. And, again being able to connect with Ms. Lane and share our complementary knowledge and make plans for, for example, when a preprimary student might be ready to move up to primary. What are the skill sets? What are the different developmental elements that may indicate that readiness?

For many, the highlight of the trip was the bonding experience—sharing meals, conversations, and a deeper understanding of each other, both personally and professionally. It ignited curiosity among the teachers, who eagerly sought to enhance their knowledge and explore the potential for their classroom environments.

Reflecting on the trip, many teachers experienced a multitude of eye-opening moments. “As a passionate observer, I enjoyed witnessing both new and familiar teaching methods, which sparked ideas for implementation and improvement,” said Ms. Lane.

The journey has already spurred positive change at TNCS. Teachers are embracing the rich offerings of Montessori education with renewed vigor. Classrooms are transforming into spaces that reflect authentic Montessori environments, showcasing the commitment of TNCS educators to more fully embrace this approach. Those inspired by the trip are now pursuing further training, with interests ranging from positive discipline to Montessori philosophy and movement in the classroom.

This trip was a pioneering step for TNCS—an overnight professional development experience that proved to be a resounding success. It’s something we look forward to making a tradition, alongside arranging local development opportunities like those the preschool assistants enjoyed at Greenspring Montessori School.

This experience was a testament to the power of community, professional camaraderie, and the pursuit of educational excellence. It’s clear that TNCS preschool teachers are not just growing as individuals but also collectively elevating TNCS to new heights.

Check-In with TNCS’s Admissions Director Ann Marie Simonetti!

Ann Marie Simonetti, pictured below with her children, wears several hats at The New Century School, actually.

Her full title is Director of Admissions and Marketing and Montessori Programming Advisor.


Let’s see what she’s been up to so far this year. We’ll start with admissions and then delve into the other fun things she has on the horizon.

TNCS Open House

Saturday, October 21st will be Ms. Simonetti’s third TNCS Open House (register here!). She is spreading the word in multiple ways. She has a Facebook event that she is also asking the TNCS community to share. “Our wonderful executive assistant Jade Wells-White has been helping post to some of our local neighborhood sites, like the Canton Community Association and Fells Point Residential and some of the activities for kids websites that allow you to share your postings,” she said.

“Most of our referrals come from word of mouth anyway,” she added, “which is of course the most authentic seal of approval you can get. So, through the preschool newsletter and the Head of School newsletter, we have asked the TNCS community to share out with their families, friends, and colleagues. Some of our prospective families who are planning to attend asked me if they could invite friends with similar-aged children, which we of course encourage. We’re hoping for a big crowd. We have a good mix of prospective preschool friends and families as well as some K through 8s.”

During Ms. Simonetti’s first Open House in 2021, COVID-related concerns made having a synchronous component challenging. This year, everything returns to in person on campus. Mr. Warren has coordinated two student musical performances; those student ambassadors will also introduce themselves and speak briefly about what they like about TNCS and to showcase the Fine Arts. Although the format of the Open House will resemble prior TNCS Open Houses, one difference this year that has Ms. Simonetti particularly excited is showing off the newly refurbished primary environments. “Having everyone experience all of the wonderful work Ms. Lane has been putting in real life will be wonderful. I have been doing some virtual tours as kind of a first step for those prospective families who are sometimes more available to meet virtually, so they’re able to see the classrooms that way, but it’s not quite the same as when they can experience it in real life.”

In general at TNCS, the school year has gotten off to a very good start, which many attribute to the returning leadership team, and it looks promising from an admissions perspective as well. “The admissions cycle for preschool tends to happen on a rolling basis throughout the year as the children turn age 2,” explained Ms. Simontte. “COVID admissions data are outliers, because they were unreliable. We’re seeing a return to the times when our enrollment numbers are actually higher in the last day of school than on the first day of school. The projection for that rolling cycle is very similar and so very encouraging. Also, overall having the TNCS leadership team back this year is so helpful—together having been through this once, we’re able to reflect and move forward with purpose.”

Discover TNCS and Other Ways to Get to Know TNCS

TNCS has a host of exciting events coming up, aimed at familiarizing both prospective and current families with the unique offerings of the school.

Born out of the adaptations of 2020, these events have proven their value in terms of accessibility. They provide families with an insight into TNCS, minus the sometimes motion-sickness-inducing virtual tours. Instead, it’s a prerecorded slideshow that dives into the intricacies of what makes TNCS stand out. While the website does its part, these slides, supplemented with audio descriptions, offer a more tangible feel of the school environment. There’s an emphasis on TNCS’s extensive outdoor spaces and gardens, illustrating the school’s dedication to holistic learning.

Leadership from TNCS usually makes an appearance, offering their thoughts and insights. In some instances, current families, alumni, and even students share their experiences, providing a rounded perspective to prospective parents. A Q&A session allows attendees to get their specific queries addressed, and following the event, there’s an opportunity to schedule one-on-one meetings with the school representative. These sessions are thoughtfully capped at 45 minutes to an hour, considering attendees’ daily commitments.

In essence, Discover TNCS is more than just an event; it’s an experience, ensuring that families are well-informed and connected every step of the way.

Preschool Family Workshops and Observation Weeks

Current families get a firsthand experience of the Montessori and multilingual preschool programs at TNCS through these events. It’s a chance for parents to witness the practical implementation of the pedagogies they’ve heard about.

Kindergarten Previews

Tailored for current families with children turning 5 by September 1st of the next year, these previews are around the corner on the admissions calendar. They offer insights into the transition from preschool to kindergarten.

Customized Queries

TNCS understands that families might have specific concerns and questions about preschool, extended care, or other offerings. The school ensures that they have the right resources, be it meeting with a representative or coordinating with specific staff members, to address these tailored inquiries.

Adapting to Modern Admission Trends with a Montessori Perspective

TNCS has integrated Blackbaud as their mainstay communication and student management software, streamlining processes from admissions inquiries right through to report cards. While the software shares features with other platforms like Blackboard and Canvas, TNCS harnesses Blackbaud for its expansive capacities.

An upcoming Blackbaud Conference, set to take place in Denver, presents a golden opportunity for Ms. Simonetti. Earlier in the summer, she received an invitation to co-present after Blackbaud expressed interest in some of the proposals she was involved with. Blackbaud has combined its K-12 conference with other divisions, resulting in a grand global meet-up, both virtually and in-person.

Ms. Simonetti’s focus for the presentation is on the innovative methods TNCS has employed to elevate user experience for prospective families. The traditional admissions funnel has evolved; no longer a linear process, prospective parents often bypass preliminary stages, moving directly to applications or on-site tours. Recognizing this trend, TNCS has revamped its approach.

One significant change introduced was the self-scheduling system. Prospective parents can now schedule, modify, and manage their campus visits at their convenience. Automated yet personalized reminders ensure a smooth experience for both the school and the visitors. Such steps are pivotal in making the admission journey customer-centric.

By tapping into her previous experience and understanding of customer service, Ms. Simonetti has created a seamless and user-friendly admission process. The traditional notion of an “admissions funnel” suggests a linear path that prospective families must follow. However, as Ms. Simonetti reflected, this linear model doesn’t seem to resonate as much in today’s dynamic world, especially given the uncertainties posed by the pandemic. Instead, her Montessori-informed perspective evokes the image of a Nautilus or spiral, where families can enter, exit, and re-enter the admissions process at different stages as per their unique circumstances and preferences.

This cyclical approach mirrors the unpredictability and frequent changes families have faced, particularly during COVID. The spiral also aligns with the Montessori principle of accommodating individual needs, highlighting the adaptive and flexible nature of TNCS’s admissions process.

Regarding the upcoming presentation at the Blackbaud Conference, some content will be made available on demand. Stay tuned for a blog post in which Ms. Simonetti shares her experiences, offering a more in-depth insight into TNCS’s innovative admission strategies. This way, the larger community can benefit from the school’s pioneering approach and the ideas exchanged at the conference.

Montessori Adventures

Regarding Ms. Simonetti’s other main role at TNCS as Montessori programming advisor (from her infant and toddler Montessori background), she has been instrumental in helping Ms. Lane (primary Montessori credentials) acclimate to TNCS. “We love her; she’s awesome! Being able to share some level of institutional knowledge is helpful. We’ve spent lots of time brainstorming and having great dialogue about which materials are most appropriate to introduce not only to students but for staff to avoid too steep of a learning curve,” she said.

And here’s a little teaser about a future blog post: Ms. Lane recently orchestrated an overnight professional development trip for preschool staff to a Montessori school in Virginia.

We had a wonderful cabin; it was rustic but beautiful, with details like a claw foot tub. It was a great experience for preschool teachers to see a different Montessori school and all the things that we’ve been introducing to them and showing them. Even though we have training and observation videos to see what’s possible, seeing it in practice are two different things. It really helps bridge the gap. And, again being able to connect with Ms. Lane and share our complementary knowledge and make plans for, for example, when a preprimary student might be ready to move up to primary. What are the skill sets? What are the different developmental elements that may indicate that readiness?

TNCS Brand Awareness

Ms. Simonetti does not limit her reach to what her title describes. She helps TNCS achieve its objectives in many ways. Her background is extensive, and she weaves together its many threads to great effect. Did you know she even taught dance for 11 years? Her dance buddies and she created their own Zumba-inspired dance, and she stays in touch with those friends. But it’s her marketing experience that we’ll delve into next.

Brand awareness is crucial for any institution, and for TNCS, Ms. Simonetti is at the helm of this endeavor. When asked about her marketing expertise, she chuckled, “Maybe a bit comes naturally, but my background in hospitality, particularly sales and marketing, has certainly shaped my approach.”

Ms. Simonetti’s experience in event and wedding planning, industries renowned for their customer service-centric models, has been invaluable. “It’s all about the user experience, ensuring it’s positive,” she shared. Transitioning from a customer-oriented domain to a school setting presented its challenges, especially when operating without a full-fledged communications team or significant marketing budget.

However, her tenure in advancement roles within nonprofits honed her skills further. “I’ve taken courses and received training in digital marketing,” Ms. Simonetti explained. She emphasized the importance of leveraging available tools effectively, particularly those that don’t necessarily come with extra costs. “Staying updated is vital, as the landscape keeps changing,” she concluded, underscoring her commitment to providing TNCS with the best in brand awareness strategies.

High School Preparation

How is high school prep related to marketing? Well, when it comes to preparing high school–bound students, TNCS goes above and beyond. While Ms. Johnson hosts her annual seminar for 8th-graders, Ms. Simonetti’s main focus has been assisting students in their transitions. “It’s not so much about admissions for us at that point, but about ensuring these students are equipped with everything they need to move on,” Ms. Simonetti explained.

The school’s unique approach involves creating a comprehensive student portfolio instead of sending individual referrals and transcripts. “We work on building transcripts that are aesthetically pleasing. Instead of sending separate math teacher referrals, ELA teacher referrals, and transcripts, we compile everything into a student portfolio (abridged sample here). It provides a complete picture of the student,” Ms. Simonetti remarked.

Commenting on the difference between public and independent school processes, Ms. Simonetti observed, “You don’t get such a detailed portfolio at a public school. The portfolios we receive from public schools are not as comprehensive, and our method also aids in brand awareness.”

This unique approach not only makes TNCS students stand out but also embodies the school’s commitment to ensuring every student’s success beyond their campus.

It’s clear: Ms. Simonetti is integral to making TNCS the magical place it is, both present and future.

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!”