Preschoolers and kindergartners are massive bundles of energy and curiosity. The teachers that undertake the challenge of educating those kids help lay down a foundation for their future schooling and personal growth. Kari Brockway of Montessori Academy of Valparaiso is one such teacher and loves being able to work with kids.
Brockway, born and raised in Valparaiso, never envisioned herself as a teacher. After graduating from Valpo High, she ended up working at a music store for quite a while. Eventually, she started working with her mother as artists with their own shop.
“We would do interior design and home makeovers,” said Brockway. “We’d also redo furniture pieces, repurpose, and sell them. I did that for quite a long time until I stopped and had children.”
In looking to ensure her kids got the best education possible, Brockway did a lot of research and discovered the Montessori Method. It’s a method of teaching that focuses on the child, working with materials directly, enjoying some freedom of choice in activities, and fosters more complete personal development than a more traditional and rigid curriculum. This discovery kick-started her interest in pursuing a teaching career.
“I did volunteering and observing as a parent and absolutely loved it,” she said. “Eventually, my son started at the Academy, and I did more volunteering and substituting. I decided that it was my passion, so I wanted to learn the Method and get certified.”
After studying and working under one of the teachers, Brockway earned her certification. Now, she teaches preschoolers and kindergarteners aged 3-6. Seeing her students learn and grow is her favorite part of the job.
“My favorite thing about being a teacher is seeing the light bulb go off when a child finally ‘gets’ something,” explained Brockway. “It’s such a reward for me, and it’s super awesome to watch them get it. You can show them the material and you can show them the work, but when you see that moment where it clicks for them, you can just read their face and it’s so rewarding.”
Brockway not only enjoys teaching, she is quite good at it. Her students are quick learners, and many participate in the extracurricular programs she develops that focus on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Kids in her STEM lessons get to do things like coding a small robot to move, all as a part of making learning fun and engaging.
“The Montessori Method has been around for a really long time and the results are wonderful,” she explained. “I have one boy who’s mastered every country in the world, and that’s his passion so I let him go with it.”
In her free time, Brockway is a devoted mother and continues exploring her love of art.
“First and foremost, I’m a mom, I’m very active with my children and have them in things like swimming and horseback riding,” she said. “And for my own personal hobbies, I love art, decorating, and things like that. It was my background before becoming a teacher and I got that from my mom.”
As a parent, teacher, and lifelong Valpo resident, Brockway could talk all day about her community and its growth.
“I love Valpo, and it’s come so far,” she said. “Downtown is lovely with its ice skating rink, restaurants, and shops. It’s such a great place to live.”
With the future of the city in her classroom, things are sure to continue upwards and onwards for Valparaiso.