Emily Yerington, MAT ‘19, has fond memories of the Montessori school she attended as a child. Now, she’s on a mission to add to the body of knowledge about the educational philosophy—known for its focus on student-guided learning—as part of a journey that’s taken her from Chaminade to Harvard.
Yerington enrolled at Chaminade’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program with a concentration in Montessori education after seeking more information from several universities that offered what she was looking for: a graduate degree with both Montessori and state teaching credentials. “I didn’t know much about Chaminade’s program,” said Yerington, who was living in Washington, D.C. at the time. “But they personally reached out to me, answered all my questions, and made sure it was a good fit.”
As part of Chaminade’s MAT program, Yerington attended class online and then participated in summertime sessions on Chaminade’s campus with other members of her cohort. She said those in-person opportunities really made a difference, allowing her to get field experience, learn more about the educational passions of her peers and build strong relationships with her professors.
Among those professors: Dr. Elizabeth Park, the director of Chaminade’s Early Childhood and Montessori programs, who couldn’t be prouder of all Yerington has accomplished since graduating from the university. She said it has been especially wonderful to see someone who was educated in the Montessori approach pursue research questions about Montessori education. “Seeing how she approaches learning was just very striking for me. This philosophy really works,” Park said.
The Montessori approach to education, developed by Italian doctor Maria Montessori, seeks to put children at the center of their learning. “She believed every child had their own pace of development,” Park said. “She also really believed in the importance of helping students become independent.”
It’s an educational philosophy that Yerington has seen the benefits of firsthand.
After graduation from Chaminade, Yerington started teaching at a public Montessori school in her neighborhood. It gave her the real-life knowledge she needed to take her next step: returning to school to pursue research into the effectiveness of Montessori education. She applied to a master’s degree program at Harvard, seeking references from Chaminade professors, and was accepted. She recently graduated with her Master’s of Education in Human Development and Psychology degree.
And after completing that program, focusing on Montessori educational practices along the way, Yerington landed a coveted research position under a Harvard professor at the Boston Children’s Hospital’s Nelson Laboratory, where she is currently studying cognitive function in children from infancy to age three. The goal: to develop an assessment at the earliest years of development, when interventions are most effective.
Yerington is also planning to pursue doctoral studies to further delve into research of Montessori programs, especially now that more are offered in public schools. “Now that we have more of these programs, I want there to be more evidence about how effective or ineffective they are,” she said.
While Yerington said she’d never heard of Chaminade before she found its MAT program with a Montessori concentration and applied, she is so happy she attended. “I tell everyone how much I loved Chaminade,” Yerington said. “I’ve been to three universities, one of which is probably the most well-known in the world. But I was absolutely best supported at Chaminade.”
She added, “That level of support, it came from everyone. It’s a high-quality education.”
That’s music to Park’s ears.
“I feel like a proud mom,” she joked. “Emily is so incredible, and I am so happy we were able to contribute to her success, even just a little bit. I cannot wait to see what she does next in her research.”