Today we’d like to introduce you to Bobbi Cecio.
Bobbi, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
For 15 years prior to arriving in California 8 years ago, I ran Montessori Schools in NJ and my husband, Larry, taught. In 2009, after many years of both wanting to start our own school and my friend, Susie Walton, asking me to start a school in Southern California, we moved our family across the country to start Village Gate. Starting with only 8 students on September 9, 2009, we doubled in size each of our first four years. Our growth has been completely word of mouth.
Currently, we have 75 elementary and middle school students.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Things didn’t quite go as planned when we first got here. Prior to arriving, I had been creating the school in partnership with another gentleman and had an investment team who purchased a building for the school. As we were getting closer to opening, it was becoming clear that we had some differences of educational philosophy and two weeks prior to opening we parted ways. With eight students ready to start in our elementary program and no location, we found ourselves in quite a predicament. Quitting was not an option. One of the blessings of giving up everything on one coast and moving to the other is you have no choice but to figure out how to succeed. Thankfully, Larry had done some research and found that our numbers still fell within the range of acceptable home school numbers and so we transformed our garage into a classroom over the course of Labor Day weekend 2009 and on September 9, 2009 held our first day of class.
Please tell us about Village Gate Children’s Academy.
We educate students using the Montessori method of education which for our school means that we have multi=age classrooms allowing younger children to learn from older and older children can solidify their learning by being able to teach another child. The multi-age classroom also takes away the sense of comparison – because kids are all working on different things at different times, there isn’t an ability for kids to gauge their success on how they measure up to other students allowing them to internalize their work and their success. Also, because our students are with their teachers for a couple of years, they really get to know and understand them. Kids work at tables, at floor tables and on mats. Sometimes they sit outside to do their work. There isn’t only one place to read. We teach them about themselves and how they best learn. Students won’t always have teachers that teach them in their best learning style, but if a student understands how they best learn, they’ll be able to adapt their learning style to a teacher’s teaching style. We also teach “concrete to abstract” meaning that we start with manipulatives and materials before moving them onto paper and pencil allowing our students to fully understand the concept and not memorize or operate strictly from rote.
My favorite example of how this works is learning to ride a bicycle. There are no words that truly describe “balance” in quite the same way that you understand it the moment you experience it – which can only happen with your whole body. And… you could not ride a bicycle for 10 years and within a couple of moments, your body would re-find and remember balance because you learned it with your whole body and not just your mind. Montessori believed that learning was much the same way. When students use multiple parts of their body to learn they retain it better and are therefore able to bring it forth more readily when they go one to more and more complex subject matter. In addition to those basic Montessori components, we also focus on peaceful conflict resolution, the importance of diversity coupled with an understanding that we are also alike, presentation skills, American Sign Language, horticulture, art, music and world cultures. Our middle school program is like no other that I know of. The best way to get a full scope is to visit here: http://vgmiddleschool.weebly.com/
Finally, I think the thing we do extremely well and that really identifies us is our commitment to partnership and community. We operate under the notion that it really does take a village to raise a child and that village happens by cultivate and nurturing relationships. Partnership is vital to the success of your child. You know your child and we have years of experience with students. Bringing forth our knowledge, commitment and desire for each child to succeed in partnership with all that our parents bring makes for a richer more dynamic environment by which all of our students benefit.
If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
Nothing, honestly. I love the journey that got us here. I’m grateful for where we are and what we’ve created. Things haven’t always been perfect or easy and there will be less than perfect and not so easy moments still to come. We face them just as we would hope our students face their challenges, with courage and determination and with the support of those around us.
- Address: 1227 Village View Road, Encinitas, CA 92024
- Website: www.villagegateacademy.com
- Phone: 760-815-4818
- Email: Bobbi@villagegateacademy.com