Fall Connections: A New Year and New Opportunities

Dear Pacific Crest Families, Welcome to the new school year! Last Monday all of our returning students gathered at Ross Park, holding hands in concentric circles, greeting each other and the new year in our Opening Ceremony. The Primary and Elementary children sang songs and Middle School students and teachers read out the Middle School values that make our school a place of joy, trust and discovery for everyone. This community is now ready to greet all of the new, youngest children, whose special first days of school began last week and stretch through to the end of the month. This is a big year for Pacific Crest. While our teachers are focused on coming to truly know each child as he and she develops, our school as a whole is reaching new milestones and new opportunities as well. This is our 33rd year, our 27th year for the Middle School, and our 15th year with our beautiful farm! This month we are wrapping up the final draft of our latest strategic plan encompassing all of these areas. Last year more than 200 of Pacific Crest parents, alumni and current students, and all of our staff and Board participated in this process through surveys and facilitated discussions. This incredible year long conversation was so valuable in allowing us to see our whole school from many perspectives. We are now able to strategically focus our energies, our creativity and our resources on those areas of communication, facilities, program and community needs that will have the greatest power to allow every one of our children to thrive as they become their best selves in the present and in the years to come. We expect to publish this Strategic Plan before December, and our newest Annual Report for 2017/18 before November. You can review the 2016/17 Annual Report in our main gallery or on line, at the base of all Pacific Crest School web pages. I am also thrilled to share news of a very exciting opportunity for our school. For the first time in two decades, the near-acre land that houses PCS, as well as the adjacent parking lot, is for sale and we have first rights to purchase. While our lease is secured through 2022, our board is currently exploring all financing options for purchasing the property and buildings that house Pacific Crest. This is a very unique offer in one of the hottest neighborhoods in the country, a location that is central for so many of our families. As renters, we have been extremely limited in our ability to make desired improvements to our campus in the past, so as Montessori practitioners and advocates, the teachers, the board and I are extremely excited that this finally gives us the opportunity to realize the true potential of our urban campus, with enriched programming and improved facility space. Regarding our Vashon campus, I have some great news, as well. Just last month, and thanks to the diligent efforts of our Board of Directors and our farm managers, we completed our acquisition of the lovely woodland, meadow and creek that lies behind the western fence (behind the figs and low growing apples). This opens up fabulous new types of ecosystems for our teachers and children to explore, to learn about and to fall in love with. Take a peek at this beautiful new addition to our farm this Saturday during the Cider Press. With our school year well underway, you can stay on top of special events by checking the weekly Thursday email and by syncing your own Google calendar to ours. Here are a few more important dates: Saturday,

September 22, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Cider Press at Pacific Crest Farm

Monday, September 24, at drop off & pick up
Volunteer Fair, front parking lot

Tuesday, September 25, 7 p.m.
Elementary Parent Philosophy Night
(for all elementary grades, in classrooms)

It is exciting to see children returning, finding that work that calls to them in their classroom or the courtyard and showing others who are new where to find everything they might need. The joy and self-assurance that our children and adolescents show as they welcome new children into our shared lives demonstrates that great personal development that happens here at Pacific Crest. Seeing the courage and grace in everyone of our students and the joyful dedication of our teachers and staff inspires in me great gratitude and hope. It’s a real gift to have the children and all of you at Pacific Crest this year.



November Connections from Dorrie

Dear Pacific Crest Parents,

What an exciting couple of weeks we’ve had, thanks to many parent volunteers and staff! Parents, teachers (and older students, too!) met together in conferences to reflect on children’s work and growth throughout the fall.  Our gardens and lobby look great thanks to last Saturday’s Garden Work Party and Annual Fund team.  Our Auction committee is also meeting weekly and will be reaching out to all those who’ve signed up to help.  And two weekends ago we hosted two other important events that I’d like to recognize here:  our first Parent Ed night and an extraordinarily productive meeting of the international Montessori community.  

First, thank you for coming to our first All-Parent Ed night of the school year.  Our speaker, David Kahn, explored how we enhance every child's zeal for learning by heeding the developmental needs that guide her as she grows, by building community with her and for her, and by bringing her into contact with the natural world.

• David reminded us of what it feels like to be engaged at our optimum level of challenge, to experience flow, and the satisfaction that engenders.  It is this peak engagement that defines Montessori experience, at every level.

• He emphasized that in natural settings, the child encounters the detail within the whole: that something is always moving, breathing, and working within a system, ready to be discovered anew by each and every child.  

• He concluded that when the child works and explores outside, on campus or at our farm, we allow her mind, body and spirit to thrive, and in so doing the child comes to know herself within the whole of nature.

After landing upon this grand goal, important questions were posed to David at the end of the night; two that called forth some absolutely key values of Pacific Crest school -- values that I want to underline here:

1. Does a Montessori education actively cultivate an inclusive community?  Yes. Inclusion, belonging, and appreciation for diversity in our race, sexual preference, religion, gender, ethnicity and learning style is essential to Montessori philosophy, curricula, and our community.  Montessori is rooted in one purpose: to nurture the true and whole development of all children so that they may discover their authentic selves and be connected and valuable to the world community.  How we do this at each level was a topic of our first faculty meeting this year, and will be the subject of our next Crest Newsletter.

2. How does Montessori support life-long learning?  Montessori inspires a drive for life-long learning in two ways:  First, our teachers and assistants are unabashedly in love with learning!  And secondly, learning through discovery is deeply satisfying.  Our teachers are trained to design classrooms, learning materials, lessons and open work periods that allow your children to experience the delight and satisfaction that comes from self-paced intellectual discovery, understanding, and mastery.  As one of our middle school students said to his mom after his first day of school, "You walk into that building, and you can just feel the possibilities!"     

Lynne Lawrence

Lynne Lawrence

Finally, I must share with you the exciting news of what the national and international Montessori leaders accomplished at our school!   That weekend meeting was a culmination of years of work on the Bold Goal project under the leadership of Executive Director of the Association Montessori Internationale, Lynne Lawrence, and managed by our own Kate Hastings.  Montessori trainers, organizations and Heads of School came together this weekend to strengthen the number and quality of our Montessori programs across the nation. This will be possible thanks to fruitful working groups, an exchange of mutual support, and commitments to increased diversity and cultural competency in every area of our schools and leadership.


I must also pass on to you the gratitude that Lynne Lawrence and so many participants shared. They were grateful for the care with which our rooms were prepared for their visit  (thank you parents, staff, and alumni volunteers!) and they were powerfully inspired by the presence of our children:  elementary children created beautiful lesson inspired cards for the participants; the middle school artwork surrounded us; three middle school students played music during our lunch; and one Middle School student shared a poem that reveals a Primary child in her Montessori classroom and the promise for humanity that she builds within herself.



Amidst the generous and brave spirits of these children, the adults found their strength, drive and solutions to thorny, adult challenges so that we better serve the child.  What a marvel!



Thank you, all!


Pacific Crest School - Fall Connections from Dorrie

Dear families,

Welcome to the new school year!  There was so much wonderful energy around the whole campus today.  It is exciting to see children, new and returning, finding that work that calls to them in their classroom or showing others who are new where to find everything they might need.  The joy and self-assurance that our children and adolescents show as they welcome new children into our shared lives demonstrates that great personal development that happens here at Pacific Crest.  Seeing the courage and grace in everyone of our students inspires in me great gratitude and hope.  It’s a real gift to have the children and all of you back at Pacific Crest.

If you haven’t already filled out a paper or on-line volunteer form, please take a minute today to tell us about the special skills, expertise and passions that you have.  It is when parents share their gifts with student groups or with our parent led projects, that we create a truly vibrant community.  This volunteer form helps us know to whom we should reach out and for what.  The on-line form is available from the Parent Resources link at the bottom of our main web page.

I do want to let you know about our approach to the smoky air, give you an update on our facilities, and remind you of some upcoming dates.

The smoke from the wildfires seems to have lightened, however we are noting changing conditions and watching recommendations from air quality agencies.  We will limit children’s time and activities outside accordingly and respond to any apparent signs of irritation from our children as well. If your child has any respiratory conditions please remind the teacher with a written note.  We are also keeping windows closed so our indoor air quality remains high.  

When you arrive, you and your child may notice some wonderful improvements to our gardens and a rather pungent, rural perfume of sorts around our school grounds:  This is just the nutritious compost feeding all of our plants.  Thank you to Martha Obenauer and Hugo Cirilo, who put a lot of work into weeding, pruning and upgrading our gardens this summer!  They look absolutely beautiful!  If you like to garden, too, please join our next garden party.  We’ll let you know the date.  

You will also see the beautiful front door portico that is in process.  It replaces an identical, 24 year old structure that had to be removed this summer.  It was originally designed by former parent and board member Nash Gubelman.  Work will continue on it only during weekends until it is completed, but we should again have shelter from the rain before the winter showers begin in earnest.

Classroom orientations for parents are underway.  Primary parent orientation takes place Thursday, September 7, from 5 to 6 p.m. in your child’s classroom.  It is important for parents of returning and new Primary children to attend this orientation.  The School Handbook is another valuable resource for all parents.  Please let us know if you need a copy.

Here are a few more important dates:

  • Wednesday, September 13, 7 p.m. All Middle School Parent Meeting

  • Saturday, September 16, 11 - 5 p.m.   Alumni & All School celebration

  • Monday, September 25, 5 - 7 p.m. Volunteer Fair

  • Wednesday, September 27, 7 - 8:30 p.m. Elementary Parent Night


So glad to see you all,




Spring Connections...

Dear parents,

Spring is here, with rain and sunshine!  Exquisite apple blossoms have followed the glowing display by the cherries, and the vibrant new growth in our gardens, reminds us of nature’s resilient abundance (when we do our part!).  Within our school community, it is also inspiring to see children of all ages - and adults - pursuing new challenges and unhesitatingly helping those whom they can:   Taking the hand of the youngest (newly 3!) to practice a fun language game; working with a partner to build the largest squared number in lower elementary; noticing and gently naming an important truth in a middle school community meeting.  That is the human spirit that animates each of us and each child; that is what allows us to become our true and best selves -- within community; and that is what Pacific Crest works to nourish.

Such investments of the heart, mind and hand are essential to this work, and we couldn’t do this without financial investments into our program.  I am so grateful for all of your donations to our Annual Fund this spring.  Our grand total has reached $133,078!  A truly impressive sum.  And all of this goes directly to support this 2016/17 school year - supporting every one of our children in our classes today.  Thank you!  And thank you, Annual Fund Parent Volunteer team!  Your dedication, care and tremendous efforts made this year’s campaign a great success!   

There have been more successes accomplished over the winter that I’d also love to share:

  • Pacific Crest renewed its accreditation through Advanced Ed, an international organization that reviews 32,000 independent schools. The external, AMI Montessori credentialed, review team enjoyed their classroom observations, scoring us quite high in “active learning environments” and “well-managed learning environments.”  They were struck by the “extensive opportunities for authentic learning and community outreach,”  and concluded that our “students are well prepared to become adult learners and ready for college and career challenges.”  Thank you, Liz Altschule, for all of your leadership in facilitating this great effort, and to all of the teachers and parents who participated in it over the last year!

  • Dr. Steven Hughes’ visit to our school in mid-March:  His fascinating presentation at our Parent Ed night reached current and prospective parents, as well as other Montessori teachers from the region!   Thank you to all who helped to extend such gracious hospitality to our growing community on this wonderful night.  

  • Professional Development for faculty and staff since January:  Three teachers and seven assistants attended a seminar on child development, neuroscience and Montessori community; three teachers attended the AMI Refresher Course on Mathematics in Austin, Texas and shared with their teams; two assistants and I attended a Racial Equity workshop; all faculty and assistants made formal observations in many area Montessori schools and local public and private high schools.  We then shared our observations by level and had great discussions to help us refine our practice and know more about the high schools that our children are heading to after 8th grade. Faculty and staff also attended a professional development session with Dr. Hughes before his evening presentation.

  • All of our classrooms are alive with activity.  The Middle School has launched a new curriculum focus within their Humanities program:  The study of economics.  And our farm managers have added important new opportunities for our students to make substantive improvements to our farm.

Parents have also done so much in March and April that inspires our gratitude:  The elegant and delicious multi-course lunch that you provided to our teachers and staff before conferences; a heart-warming Pancake Breakfast that kept us content as we marveled at the talents on display during the Talent Show;  a fabulous Spring Fling and a supercharged garden work party, complete with delicious French pastries and coffee!  Thank you to all of you!

Don’t miss what’s next:  Come enjoy our Plant Sale today to make your gardens beautiful, and come join our work party at the farm this Saturday to help the farm thrive - there will be jobs for children of all ages!  And you may get a peek at our new lambs and chicks!

With much gratitude and excitement,



Dorrie Knapp Guy

Head of School


Connections from Dorrie... November 4th

Hello parents,

Last night, in response to the school’s doorbell, I found myself face to face with a noble Greek scholar, robed in emerald silk, deep in thought behind the luminescent surface of oils on canvas.  The cheerful young artist, a friend of a parent, had come to deliver her three beautiful paintings.  We walked to the Middle School building together, where we saw dozens more works of art carefully propped up along the perimeter of the big room.

Pop Up Arts Night is an endeavor imbued with and defined by the values that Pacific Crest holds dearly: community, work, reverence for the whole personality and joy.  All of our parents and many community members contribute their energy and their unique talents to create, participate in and enjoy this extraordinary evening.  The arts, in themselves, offer us unique questions to ponder in silence or in conversation; art can invite us to engage with the creative minds of one another.  And this event, this labor of love, also allows us to meet, thank and stay connected to those artists in our community who donate their work to us during auction years.  In this event, we come together for a wonderful party; we discover and enjoy works of beauty or intrigue together; and we support and celebrate both the artists and artisans of our parent and extended community.

Last night, after the young artist submitted her work and took time to explore and delight in the opportunities that our art studio offers our students, our small team of parent craftsmen had just begun to install rafters and lights from the ceiling.  The panels that will become gallery walls lay in wait for the next phase of construction.  This morning, as I write this, a new crew of parents is hanging and labeling the hundreds of art pieces that will have arrived by now.  On Saturday, local artisans will arrive and display their fine, hand made gift items; volunteers will fill trays of hors d'oeuvres and concoct the evening signature drinks.  By tomorrow evening, our school rooms will have been transformed into both a refined boutique and an elegant venue in which you too can meet and consult the noble scholar, consider his mood, and tell me, how on Earth did she create flesh, form and spirit, just so.

With much gratitude for all of that has been done and all that awaits us,

Dorrie Knapp Guy

Head of School






Dear parents,

Welcome to the new school year!  It was such a pleasure to see so many of our children, young and old, come together for opening ceremony on Monday and to walk to school together ready to start their explorations of our world, our cultures and our universe!  I have taken several opportunities to observe in different classrooms over the past week, and I have seen our teachers skillfully orchestrating the development of these budding communities at every program level.  The children are slipping right back into their dignified lives in these classrooms that are truly their own.  It is also wonderful to see our returning children and adolescents partner with new and younger children in these first days:  helping each other to learn where everything is and how to accomplish all the things our students can do for themselves. 

“All men must be taught to see the world in all its grandeur, to extend the limits of their lives, to make their individual personalities reach out and touch those of others.”  Maria Montessori, 1939

At Pacific Crest, we create opportunities on a daily basis for children and adults to reach out to each other (and beyond) to make our lives, our environments and our own sense of ourselves much richer.  Keep your eye out for this, and I expect you’ll see it, too.

Thank you to all of you who were able to attend our orientations and parent meetings so far.  I know that it can be difficult to arrange for childcare if you don't have enough lead time -- we are working on fixing that! And we do apologize if that impacted you this month.  We do encourage returning parents to attend these informative events as well, so please check our annual and monthly calendars for several important upcoming events (posted in the main building and online).  Our teachers are always working to revitalize our programs, so they often have new information or new processes to be aware of.  In fact, they have so much to share with you that they often plan to cover a series of topics over the course of three or more years.  It’s also incredibly valuable to new parents in particular, when returning parents can share their experiences of the growth and changes they’ve seen in their children across a three year span.  So please join us:  It’s a really important way that you can support your child’s experience at Pacific Crest and become more connected yourself.

If you have questions about your child's classroom, please connect with your child's teacher - your communication with each other is vital.  If you would like to connect with me, please stop by, call me (789-7889), or arrange a specific time through Sarah at the front desk.  

I am looking forward to all of us getting to know each other better and better over the coming months, in both work and play.  Please join us for the Volunteer Fair on September 26 in the Big Room of the Middle School building, from 5 PM to 7 PM; children are welcome and expected.  They will have space to play while you learn about our annual traditions or about how you can get involved in new ways.  Also, be sure to arrange for childcare now for November 5, Pop-Up Arts Night!  It will be a wonderful evening of culture and fun for parents!


With gratitude for the gifts of this collective, great work,

your head of school,

Dorrie Knapp Guy

AMI Refresher Course Recap from Dorrie

Thank you, parents, for raising the paddle to supplement our professional development budget!  Several fellow teachers and I were able to attend Association Montessori International’s (AMI) 2016 Refresher Course in Long Beach, California because of your generosity.  Jennifer went on behalf of Primary; I went on behalf of Elementary; and Amy, Chuck and Brad attended on behalf of the Middle School.  The opportunity to hear engaging speakers, analyze and reflect on our teaching habits, acquire new lessons and reconnect with Montessori colleagues from across the country rejuvenated all of us.

The theme of this year’s refresher course was, “Beyond the Pink Tower.”  Across the board, we were encouraged to look beyond our discrete lessons, to consider the greater goals of Montessori education:  respect for the rights, abilities and needs of every child, everywhere; and the creation of a new, truer peace in our communities and throughout the world.  

The event began with a guest speaker from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr. Travis Wright, who is the founder and director of a school and community-based intervention program for homeless preschool students, their families, and teachers.  In his work with children who are surviving trauma, Dr. Wright emphasized that by preventing situations that make the child feel powerless and by truly respecting that child, the teacher will be freed to perceive and nurture that child’s true personality.  Montessori has a long history of serving communities of children who have survived significant traumas, and it continues to do so today.  Dr. Wright’s stories reminded us of the many allies and kindred spirits working throughout the world who honor and care for humanity by honoring and caring for every child.  

With such an inspiring story of service to kindle our passions, we spent the next two days in coursework and discussions specific to each level.  At the elementary level, teachers and teacher trainers assembled to reflect upon and extend our work in teaching all of the components of writing to children aged 6 - 12.  We practiced new presentations, acquired new tools for observation and child self-reflections, new writing games and techniques, and considered ways to better prepare the environment to inspire more kinds of writing.  Our instructor, AMI teacher trainer Elise Huneke-Stone, rooted all of these ideas in a respect for the needs, abilities and interests of the elementary child.  I filled my notebook with ideas and have already presented several of the new lessons to great effect.  I would now like to add a greater variety of stationery and postcards to our language shelf.  So, if you have any stationery or postcards that you’ve grown weary of, please consider donating them to our upper elementary classroom.  

The weekend ended with another inspiring presentation describing some of the work done by Educateurs sans Frontières to create Montessori schools in communities around the world that have reached out for it.  These stories demonstrated the universality of the stages of development and how well Montessori pedagogy supports the joyful development of children in all cultures.  They also emphasized the heroic and healing role of the adults in these communities, who created and now sustain these schools for their children.  For more information about this global Montessori movement, see their website at http://ami-global.org/ami/what-is-ami/educateurs-sans-fronti%C3%A8res.

Overall, this refresher course was an inspiring and professionally enriching event.  I am quite grateful for the opportunity to participate. Thank you so much!

Dorrie Knapp Guy

Upper Elementary teacher