For kids, Covid-19 has made learning and connecting with peers a challenge. In addition to K-12 school closures, the closure of preschools in early March also meant some kids had to put early learning on hold. Recognizing that, Peace Arch Montessori Preschool founder and teacher Fawn Ventura donated her time to ensure continuous learning for local and international preschool students during the pandemic.
Ventura opened Peace Arch Montessori in 2014 and has over 15 years’ of experience in early childhood education. She has a bachelor’s degree in social services and administration and is a certified Montessori teacher. Originally from Thailand, Ventura has lived in Blaine for 10 years and is fluent in English, Lao and Thai.
“I do have a passion for helping children, inspiring them and helping them learn effectively,” Ventura said.
When the Montessori closed on March 15, Ventura saw an opportunity to continue teaching while connecting her Blaine students to others around the country and the world. From April to June, she taught students from Washington, New Jersey, Canada, France, Thailand, Philippines, Laos and the Middle East in an online classroom. Ventura taught her students at no cost, believing in the importance of continuous learning and connection to others during the pandemic.
“We are humans. We have to socialize with other people, even though we are not able to connect in person,” Ventura said.
Marissa Kleven’s two children were enrolled in Peace Arch Montessori before schools closed in March. Kleven said she worried about her kids’ education and if she would have to teach them herself. But when Ventura began teaching online, Kleven enrolled her children and said Ventura’s program exceeded her expectations.
“She kind of seamlessly stepped up,” Kleven said. “The online program was just a perfect opportunity for the kids to see each other again, be engaged, and see Miss Fawn again.”
During each class Ventura allowed her students to interact with the other children for the first five to 10 minutes and then would begin fun and engaging lessons. She taught math, reading, science and more by playing games, dancing and singing. Ventura finds children are excited to learn in this way and don’t feel as if they are doing work. Ventura also personally delivered learning packets with activities and projects to her local students.
“I think she is really gifted at captivating young minds,” Kleven said. “She’s really engaging and makes it fun.”
Along with basic preschool education, Ventura practices mindfulness with her students. She starts by lighting a candle and asks the children to be quiet for 30 seconds. During this time she also asks them to focus on breathing, recognize how their bodies feel and notice their surroundings. After the brief silence she blows out the candle and the children are told to make a wish and think of someone who loves them. Ventura believes even young children have the ability to practice mindfulness and that it benefits their learning.
“They are going to be the future,” Ventura said. “If we plant a good seed for them then they’ll grow up to be meaningful and responsible adults in the future.”
Grace Smith enrolled her 4-year-old son in the online summer class and said she was inspired by Ventura’s teaching style. She especially appreciated Ventura’s mindfulness activity, and continues to practice it at home.
“After [my son] got in the habit of it, it seemed to be pretty meaningful to him,” Smith said.
With the success of her online classroom, Ventura has decided to open Amity Online Montessori Preschool. She received a business license last month and will begin teaching again in September. Throughout the summer Ventura has been developing a curriculum that will include mindfulness along with preschool education. Enrollment for children 3 to 6 years old is now open. For more information, visit amitymontessori.com.