On the first day that WMS opened in 2001 we had just 26 children and five members of staff including myself. That was our maximum amount at the time and we opened full with long waiting lists already! Everyone was very excited to be finally opening.
All of the staff had been students of mine and it was to be their first teaching position. One of them now has her own school and 2 others are in senior leadership roles in education.
I had spent some nine months preparing the building that was to be out first WMS home which was in central Walthamstow. None of the children had ever attended nursery before so it was all very new for everybody.
For the first two terms we opened only for morning sessions twice a week, and two days a week we were open for afternoons until 3pm. At first we didn’t open on Fridays.
As a local parent I had my own daughter at WMS with me and I was able to share in many of her early educational moments which has given me a huge amount of precious memories. She was less keen on sharing me though!
The first day of WMS was utterly exhausting and I must admit to walking home with my own 2-year-old and crying! I did go back the next day though…
It was a sunny day and the children all arrived happily and settled well. Everything seemed so new and it was fun creating new systems, routines and a brand-new school. It was also St George’s Day and the children made painted flags stuck on straws which they took home at the end of their first day.
I am still in regular contact with many of the first group of children from that time and it’s a real joy to see what they are doing now.
The last 20 years have been such a journey for me and for WMS. I have had the privilege of helping so many young children to learn and grow. I’ve met so many wonderful families, all of whom we remember.
It is quite unbelievable to me to think that 20 years have passed. 20 years of relentless hard work every single day. 20 years of sports days, Christmases, school trips, hellos and goodbyes.
We moved to our current building in Penrhyn Avenue 18 years ago and 2 other additional buildings following that.
I have continued to strive to improve and change and better what we do without losing sight of my first values. As a Montessori teacher I have never stopped learning from the child and my commitment to the Montessori methodology is stronger than ever. It provides the most wonderful start for any child and a solid foundation in learning for every child.
I couldn’t have done any of this without my wonderful daughter who has been with me through it all from that first day as a 2-year-old. Eliza is now about to begin her own teaching journey having spent 4 years at the university of Cambridge gaining her degree and then her PGCE. She has been successful in applying for a year 4 class teacher position in a school in Barnet. I can’t quite believe that we have come full circle today.
Also the support of my own parents who literally did everything from mowing the grass, sending out letters, making the smocks and dealing with IT for many years. My partner too who supports me so greatly every single day and enables me to keep going and always believing I can do it, especially during the last very difficult year. I am so fortunate to have such strength behind me.
There are two other people who I remember every single day at WMS. Harri Varda was one of the first children at WMS along with his brother James and then followed by their younger brother Daniel. Their mum Caroline was already a teacher and joined WMS after being ‘drawn in’! Harri died suddenly at the age of 14 leaving a huge hole in the lives of all who knew him. I can still see him at school and hear his voice, always smiling, always happy, always active, a bright, curious, funny, loving and talented little boy who truly had a Montessori education from the beginning and was always a joy to be with. I smile often at him in the many photos he is in around the building.
Also, Donna Coy, whose two boys were at WMS from the first day. Donna and her husband Tom played an enormous part in WMS. They helped to decorate, fund raise and provide any amount of support to me in those early years, and Donna was the advisory group chair. They also helped the school move buildings. We had many adventures together and lots of fun! After their boys grew up and moved on they still stayed involved and Donna would bring her guide dog puppies to the school regularly. As a family they were involved in the 15th anniversary celebrations. Donna died suddenly 3 years ago. I lost a friend and support and I will never forget all she did for me and for WMS.
Of course I couldn’t have a school like WMS or got through the last 20 years without all of the WMS staff team past and present. So many incredible and dedicated people old and new who I have had the pleasure of working alongside over the years in all of the roles that are needed to keep a school running. Every single one of them has played a part in the life of WMS and I thank them all here collectively.
I want to mention 2 in particular whose support has always been without question.
Miss Florine has been at WMS for over 18 years and her love and care of many hundreds of WMS children is well recognised.
Miss Wendy has quite simply been the backbone of the school for 10 years now. It’s hard to think of high enough praise. Wendy throught she was only applying for a part time role! I soon changed that!! Wendy’s strength, knowledge, leadership and capabilities never fail to both impress and amaze me. Her ability to make everything happen and her total professionalism is unrivalled. She is without doubt an incredible woman and my constant support. Even though I know that I drive her crazy with my ideas and plans, she never gets cross and always makes me laugh even in the toughest situations. I am indebted to her for it all each day.
And to all of the parents who have passed through WMS. I never forget that you chose us to care for and educate your child, and that is truly humbling. The partnerships I have made with WMS parents over the years still continue and I still speak to lots of them regularly.
So, in short, WMS has been a true partnership and I am proud to have been part of it for these first 20 years. Thank you.
WMS has been a place of such great happiness, nurturing and love for so many children, staff and parents for 20 years and I’m pleased to be able to reflect upon all that has happened.
Thank you to the entire WMS family for making this all possible.