Well over a century ago, an Italian woman named Maria Montessori began snapping gender barriers when she enrolled in an all-boys technical school to become an engineer. By the time she was barely out of her teenage years—and the year itself was 1890—she had already graduated with a certificate in Physics. Initially seeking to become an engineer, she swerved into an even more unusual field for women during the time and studied medicine. She faced scrutiny from her male peers for bending from the norm yet this did not stop her. She graduated with honors, and then years later, incited an educational movement now widely adopted by both private and public schools. Montessori schools seek a child-centered education based on scientific observation on the student. They provide smaller classrooms, more specialized coursework, and a curriculum that caters to individual students.
Last month, Woodinville Montessori senior Xinan Wang, who sometimes goes by Nancy, was awarded Student of the Month by the Woodinville Chamber. The Woodinville Chamber reaches out to several area schools and inquires about students they would like to see honored with their Student of the Month program. The school nominates a student citing criteria like good attendance and academics, involvement in the community, and
positive leadership qualities, among others.
“We have been amazed at the students that are selected each month and love getting the opportunity to honor tomorrow’s leaders,” said Kimberly Ellertson, Director of Marketing for the Woodinville Chamber and Visitor Center.
In the month of January, Xinan Wang received top honors. Xinan’s younger brother had studied in California for a year after coming from Shanghai. Xinan said she’d wanted to come to the United States for years because of the influence from her older brother who now teaches at Hong Kong University. Xinan and her little brother ended up liking the Woodinville and Bothell area which worked out nicely as Xinan’s mother has a friend in Kirkland. The two now live in the area with a host family.
“Woodinville Montessori School has provided high-quality, authentic Montessori education for younger students since 1983. Our high school program is brand new, and though it is quite small right now, its graduates have each received multiple college acceptances and scholarships, and report being well-prepared for college,” said Claire Tuohy-Morgan, the Director of Communications and Marketing at Woodinville Montessori School.
Xinan is well on her way to following the school’s already impressive streak of success. Xinan said, “I’ve just submitted all my college applications this month. Currently, I’ve already received eight acceptances from different colleges, and some of them also offered me scholarships. The colleges I’ve applied to are mostly small liberal arts colleges. I want to study humanities and arts in the future but haven’t decided which specific major yet.”
It’s clear that Xinan’s success is because she is extremely intelligent. That intelligence has had the opportunity to cultivate thanks to teachers like Sharon Elise Dunn who teaches Humanities. Dunn said, “Montessori philosophy believes in mixed age groups; some courses may enroll all high school students; classes in Mathematics may include Middle and High School people.” Dunn has been a teacher at the Woodinville Montessori since 1996. While the students are taught together in groups that vary in age, their interests are central for fostering their education. Xinan is the only current senior.
Xinan said that the most “special” subjects to her right now are interdisciplinary humanities. She explained that in Social Studies she is discovering leadership in different fields like art. She gets to analyze the relationship of art and culture. “I even learned justice in dance when watching the dances by the Alvin Ailey company during the first semester,” said Xinan. This semester, the interdisciplinary English class Xinan takes with her classmate who is a Junior, focuses on feminism. Xinan thoroughly enjoys the seminars in both classes.
“I really enjoy being in a small and inclusive community. Our high school environment gives me opportunities to know my peers and teachers personally because people have more time to spend together,” said Xinan. She also spoke on the benefits of the number of resources she is able to utilize while studying at a small school. She meets with her college counselor every week. Xinan had heard that some of her friends at large schools weren’t so lucky because the student bodies were so large, the staffing so small. Xinan said, “My teachers did a lot of work to lead me through the hardest period when I first came, including improving my English and helping me do homework.” She continued, “Though we don’t have as many students as other schools to socialize, we’ve had a lot of fun, such as having a Halloween party and Festival of Lights.”
Xinan has learned to be very independent during her time at Woodinville Montessori, too. She takes the bus every day and prepares her own meals with her little brother. The first weekend of February, she passed her road test. Now she’s excited to start driving so she can explore even more. As brilliant as Xinan already is you can tell her future will be even brighter and her wit speaks to her attitude of adaptability. When asked if she preferred Xinan or Nancy she said, “I don’t have a preference. I really like my Chinese name when it’s written in Chinese characters, but the spelling doesn’t follow the rules of English pronunciation. I use the name Nancy because it’s more convenient (and Xinan sounds similar to Nancy if you read it inversely).