Michelle DeBacker enrolled at Mountain Shadows as a 3-year-old Primary student when the school was housed in a little white building still at 75th and Jay Road. Less than a year later, a mortgage exchange allowed the school to move to its current location and Michelle’s Montessori journey continued in the classroom which is now adjacent to Koral’s.
Twenty-one years after graduating from Mountain Shadows, Michelle enrolled her oldest son Jordy to experience and benefit from the same education she had.
What are your fondest memories of MSMS?
I have so many! I remember helping plan and put in the new swing set on the playground when I was in Upper Elementary. We helped calculate how much concrete to buy to anchor the posts, how much gravel for under the swings, and other details to plan the playground addition. We ordered the materials, worked together on the physical labor, and we inscribed our initials in the concrete (buried beneath the gravel). Students had opportunities like this to be involved with what you might call “real projects” and not just something out of a textbook.
How did your MSMS education support you through middle, high school, and college?
My transition from Mountain Shadows to the then-new Summit Middle Charter School (founded by MSMS parents) was smooth academically and a bit awkward socially (but whose wasn’t?). I was ahead of, or equal with, my classmates and I was well prepared for seventh grade expectations. I graduated from Fairview where I enjoyed my classes and participated in choir, swimming, cross country and I met friends who are still my best friends to this day.
I studied Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and worked in the midwest for several years. After Jason and I first married, we lived in Europe while he worked on his PhD.
Through it all, I credit my Montessori education as the foundation for enjoying learning and having the confidence to try new things in and outside of the classroom. Everything Montessori promises – love of learning, self-confidence, focus, ability to think for oneself, curiosity about the world – feels true for me and I know it all started with Mountain Shadows.
Fast-forward 21 years when you were considering school choice and the decision to enroll your oldest son Jordy.
I want my son to experience what I did – to grow at his own pace and in his own way, to learn to negotiate and compromise when needed, to find joy in school, to face challenges with confidence, to learn how to fail and try again, to keep track of his time, and his schedule, and his commitments, and to basically learn not only academic knowledge but the valuable life skills we all want and need. All of this makes the 35-minute drive worth it to my husband and me, and feels like a worthwhile investment in Jordy.
Having experienced MSMS as a student and now as a parent, what do you share with other parents?
Parents agree that something is missing from our public education system. I have friends who are now public elementary and middle school teachers, and they tell me how they have to waste so much time trying to “control the classroom,” get kids to sit still and listen, help the students who missed class or are behind because they just don’t learn the same way as the others. The teachers don’t have time for the kids who are ahead and the kids who are behind have a very hard time keeping up. It’s not the fault of the teachers – they just can’t give individualized attention while keeping up with the required curriculum.
An AMI education exemplifies what school should be. In an MSMS classroom, children really do learn how to love learning and not just how to do the minimum required to get by. At Mountain Shadows, our kids can actually enjoy school while getting a great education that will set them up to become who they want to be.
I really believe that Mountain Shadows and AMI is the best way to educate and really will guide our kids to reach their potential and lead happy, fulfilling lives. I love talking about Mountain Shadows with people and sharing what’s true about Montessori.