Wilmington Montessori School
A MESSAGE FROM Head of School Lisa A. Lalama
Dear WMS Alumni and Friends,
Members of the class of
2013 are college students!
See where some of them
started as freshmen this fall.
Yet another great school year — our 57th — is underway at Wilmington Montessori School. The past year
has been filled with much activity, some familiar and some new. WMS’s new Middle School Program opened
its doors last September, and now includes 15 seventh- and eighth-grade students who continue to add their
unique energy, ideas and innovative spirit to our school. Our middle-schoolers have traveled to Philadelphia,
Washington, D.C., and New York to learn about a variety of topics, many related to their studies on cultural
movements throughout history. They are continuing the long WMS tradition of individual studies guided by student interest
and supported by adults, teachers, parents and WMS staff.
Earlier this year, we also began our strategic planning process. Current and alumni
parents, WMS alumni, and educators from the tri-state area joined the WMS staff
for a day-long kick-off to this process, in which we explored our past, remembered
the hard work that has gotten us this far and dreamed about our future. It was a great
day to connect with some of you and begin the work that will set the stage for the
next three years. This year we will invite even more of you to join us and share your
experiences as we craft a plan for the future. Read more about our strategic planning
process in the “What’s New” section.
We continue to expand our students’ experiences with technology and STEAM
education, exploring new ideas and tools to support student learning in all areas.
Each year our relationship with Delaware Institute for Arts in Education grows even
stronger. Visiting artists engage our students, providing rich experiences in various
Learn more about our new
strategic planning journey -
a collaborative process that
will soon include even more
Catch up with two WMS
alumni as they reflect on
their achievements since
WMS middle-schoolers visit the Historical
Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
art forms. In May, the Twin Poets, Delaware’s poets laureate, conducted a workshop for upper elementary and middle school
students, inspiring young poets at WMS and giving parents the opportunity to learn more about their work.
Parents began our school in 1964 and continue to enhance the richness of the WMS experience. Those of you who are
alumni parents may remember giving your time to the Parent Cooperative Program. You may have helped in a classroom or
with an event, worked in the library, or served on the board or other committee. Today’s WMS parents continue to support the
school in every way, showing their children and every child at WMS what it means to educate the human potential. As Maria
Montessori said, “These very children reveal to us the most vital need of their development, saying: ‘Help me to do it alone!’”
Thank you all for your support in helping the students at WMS “do it alone.”
WMS CLASS OF 2013
This year, members of the WMS Class of 2013
graduated from high school. WMS alumni attend
a variety of colleges and universities, and this year’s
class is no exception.
Some of the colleges they are attending this fall
Delaware State University
University of Delaware
University of Oregon
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Congratulations to the
class of 2019!
As WMS expanded to include a middle school program for the 2018-19 year, the Class of 2019 was WMS’s first eighthgrade
Graduate Addie Laster now attends the White Mountain School in New Hampshire and graduate Lydia Snyder attends
Charter School of Wilmington.
Planning for WMS’s Future
As many students’ and families’ wish for a WMS middle school became a reality last year, we’re constantly reminded that
achieving such goals takes planning.
One of the ways we plan for the years ahead at WMS is by developing a strategic direction. Earlier this summer, our staff,
a group of current and alumni parents, alumni and other educators embarked on this journey. We spent the day working
with author, facilitator and educator Grant Lichtman, learning about the strategic planning process and engaging in
activities that brought all of us together on behalf of WMS. There was tremendous energy and excitement in the room.
The day involved many Post-it Notes. When participants were asked to share one word that describes WMS, we saw
“community,” “innovative,” “experiential,” “caring,” “acceptance” and “creative” come up over and over again. We
learned from several alumni participants that the supportive environment that characterized their WMS education
set them up for success and laid the groundwork for future peak learning
This day marked the beginning of our strategic planning process. There is lots
of work ahead. As we work toward a meaningful and informative process for
our entire community, we will invite alumni to share their ideas and experiences.
We look forward to this collaborative process, learning more about
your ideas and sharing information with you as we take the next steps toward
Gabriele Betancourt-Martinez (WMS ’00)
Meanders Her Way Into Space
Gabriele Betancourt-Martinez’s earliest memory about
what she wanted to be when she grew up dates back to
her elementary school days at WMS.
“I got it in my head that I wanted to be a ‘doctor in space,’”
she said. “What that meant in my mind was a medical
doctor that took care of people in space.”
She didn’t dream of becoming an astronaut, although space
always fascinated her. Since that first notion that she should
be a “space doctor,” she changed her mind about her career
aspirations many times, as children typically do. She read
James Herriott books and wanted to be a veterinarian. She
made her own electrical circuits and thought maybe she
should become an engineer.
“I got it in my head
that I wanted to be a
‘doctor in space.’”
But Gabriele kept circling back to her initial interest in
astronomy. In the mornings as she got ready for school,
she tuned in to StarDate — a daily radio segment about
astronomy and space-science topics that airs on WRTI 90.1
public radio. One day, as she listened, she realized StarDate
had her interest for a long time and thought “maybe this is
something I would enjoy.”
“That is big in my mind because I have always been interested
in way too many things,” she said. “I’m sure [WMS]
helped with that — from plays, to grammar, to making your
own electrical circuits.”
Today she is a doctor of astrophysics.
By the time Gabriele was a freshman at Westtown School in
West Chester, Pennsylvania, she had made up her mind (or so
she thought) to pursue astronomy. As a senior, she applied
only to colleges that had astronomy programs, but sought a
strong liberal arts base in case she changed her mind.
“My dad calls me a butterfly — I like so many things that I
flutter from flower to flower,” she said.
Gabriele poses at the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA)
telescope site in Chile in 2006.
Gabriele was accepted at Yale University, where she began
studying astronomy and physics. After taking on a heavy
course load, she faced a steep learning curve during her
first semester. She took a summer class in Chile after her
freshman year and started thinking she should pursue
mechanical engineering instead of astronomy — it was the
first of a number of “meanders,” as she calls them, away
from her intended field of study.
“I started getting this idea that I might be more interested
in how the technology behind astronomy works,” she said.
But Gabriele stayed the course and graduated from Yale
in 2010 with a degree in astronomy and physics. Exhausted
after a rigorous four academic years, she decided to take a year
off before starting graduate school. During that year, she did
space policy research as an intern with the National Research
Council, taught space science to first- and second-graders at
a Quaker school in Costa Rica and took a summer job working
for the European Science Foundation in Strasbourg, France.
In fall 2011, she headed back to the U.S. to begin a graduate
program in astrophysics at the University of Maryland, with
an eye toward doing research work at the NASA Goddard
Space Flight Center in nearby Greenbelt, Maryland. Even
as a graduate student, it didn’t take long before Gabriele
would have a couple more “meanders” — questioning
whether astronomy was in fact what she wanted to study.
“Here I am set to get a Ph.D. in astronomy and I have a second
-year crisis,” she said. “I should be an aerospace engineer.
My last meander happened before I was about to graduate
— an awkward time to have one of these crises — I decided I
should be doing something related to climate change.”
But Gabriele’s cooler head prevailed and she realized she
had some great options to continue in astronomy. She
graduated in 2017 with her doctorate in astrophysics
and seized an opportunity to work in Toulouse, France,
to work on a European-led x-ray satellite project called
Athena at the Institute for Astrophysics and Planetary
Two years into her job at IRAP, Gabriele is loving life in France.
Gabriele in 2011 on her last day teaching at Monteverde Friends
School in Costa Rica.
As she reflects on the path that led her to this point, she
fondly recalls her Montessori years and their role in helping
her reach her career goals.
“I appreciate Montessori and the freedom and creativity
and breadth of subjects and activities that we had available
to us,” she said. “And we learned time management. It is
awesome that we had to figure out how to get everything
done — it’s an amazing lesson to be taught.”
She also highlights former WMS teacher Helen Gadsby as a
strong influence. Helen introduced Gabriele to Shakespeare
and theater, which she grew to love and still cherishes today.
When she’s not working on making detectors for the Athena
project, she’s involved with the Nothing Toulouse Drama Club
— a troupe that performs in English with French subtitles.
(Left to right) Gabriele as a sixth-grader in 2000; attending a Montessori birth and life celebration; in the lab at NASA Goddard; after
successfully defending her doctoral thesis to earn her Ph.D. in astrophysics.
Ava Gulino (WMS ’10)
Jumping Head-First Into the Unknown
As Ava Gulino embarked on a multi-country
semester abroad program at the beginning
of the year, she was encouraged to “pay attention
to your intention” by a speaker she encountered
during her orientation in San Francisco. These
words became her mantra as she prepared to step
outside her comfort zone to explore life and culture
in Vietnam, Morocco and Bolivia.
Soon after she returned home to the U.S., Ava
offered these same encouraging words to WMS’s
first eighth-grade graduates in her graduation
address to the class of 2019.
“These words are so simple, but so powerful because they
are a straightforward reminder to be aware of your goals, to
be aware of how you treat others, and to be aware of how
you approach a problem,” she said. “I now use these words
to ground myself before an important decision or before I
jump into the unknown. So, I encourage you to make that
jump into the unknown with both feet. Do not be so afraid of
the unknown that you do not make the jump when the jump
is there to be made.”
Ava made that first leap three years ago when she left
her familiar Wilmington surroundings for Bates College in
Lewiston, Maine. Despite the colder climate, Maine is now a
home away from home.
definitely fostered such
an appreciation for
learning and wanting
to learn more.”
Ava explores a Bolivian market during her multi-country semester abroad.
“Living in Maine has been very positive,” she said. “A lot of
people comment about how freezing it gets in winter, and I
always say, ‘I don’t know when else I would live in Maine.’ I’ve
learned a lot in my time here.”
As she heads into her senior year, Ava will be focused on
wrapping up requirements to fulfill her environmental
science major and religious studies minor. She’ll also serve
as a peer writing and speaking assistant for a first-year
seminar called “The Nature of Spirituality,” which she took
as a freshman. In this role, she’ll host weekly office hours to
help students with their work, teach workshops and meet
with first-year seminar professors and assistants to review
While she is still unsure of what career path she’ll pursue
after she graduates in May, Ava has immersed herself in
the nonprofit world as an intern with Lutheran Community
Services (LCS) over the past two summers. In 2018,
she handled intake paperwork for the LCS food pantry at St.
Stephen’s Lutheran Church, and tended the Lutheran
Church of the Good Shepherd’s community garden
(established by her younger sister, Adele) and organized
volunteers. This summer, Ava worked for the LCS main
office, doing research about a 10-week empowerment
(Left to right) Ava with her father, Rick, and sister, Adele, as a young WMS student; during a classroom birth and life celebration;
addressing the class of 2019
program they hope to implement for people who use the
food pantry system to teach them public speaking skills.
She also learned more about how a nonprofit works and had
opportunities to shadow different employees.
At Bates, Ava has also been involved with the radio station
since her freshman year as both a board member and radio
show host. She was elected the station’s general manager
for the 2019-20 school year.
“I’ll be the face of the station, in a way,” she said. “I’m the
one who sends emails, goes to student affairs meetings, runs
weekly meetings and keeps the station afloat.”
More importantly, she got her first choice of time slots for
her own show, and opted for a 10 p.m. to midnight time slot
over the 6 to 8 a.m. slot she started with her freshman year.
Nine years after graduating from WMS, Ava often draws
from lessons she learned as a young Montessori student to
guide her decision-making. As she told the 2019 graduates:
“I am reminded daily, that the things I learned at WMS, and
the way I learned them, have lasting value and still help me to
this day ... WMS is the kind of place that allows you to make
the decision as to what kind of experience you want it to be.
Even when you are one of the little kids, you have agency
over what you want to do. You have the ability to choose
which activities you want to do, you are able to work on new
skills, and you are always supported by an environment with
peers and teachers who want you to succeed. This kind of
environment lends itself to success after your time at WMS
and will help you for many years to come.”
Ava has also learned plenty since her time at WMS. After graduating
in 2010, Ava attended Talley Middle School, where she
enrolled in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Middle Years
Programme — a rigorous, academic program that encourages
students to make connections between their studies and the
real world and to become critical thinkers. She went on to
attend Mount Pleasant High School, where she earned her IB
diploma through the IB Diploma Programme — a continuation
of the Middle Years Programme — in 2010.
While in high school, Ava also earned her Girl Scouts Gold
Award — the highest achievement in Girl Scouts. Her Gold
Award project served Family Promise of New Castle County,
a nonprofit that supports homeless families and helps them
find permanent housing. Ava was instrumental in creating
a system to better organize the glut of household items in
the Family Promise attic — a space where families can find
items like silverware, bedding, baby toys, lamps and more
for their new homes. She also organized a bedding drive to
collect blankets, comforters and sheets — the items in highest
demand for families once they secure permanent housing.
Reflecting on her years since WMS, Ava knows her Montessori
experience has influenced many choices she’s made. She
still clings to the early love of learning WMS instilled in her
as a Primary and elementary student. She’s also remained
closely connected with WMS over the years through various
alumni events, as well as through her parents. Her mother,
Becca, has helped organize alumni events, and her father,
Rick, recently joined the WMS Board of Directors.
“Montessori has definitely fostered such an appreciation for
learning and wanting to learn more,” she said. “Montessori
allows you to be curious and interested in different things and
ask questions. I find myself in class really excited to learn.”
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In December 2017, WMS welcomed more than 30 alumni back for the Alumni Social & Amazing Race. Alumni from the classes of 2005
through 2017 — many home from college for the holiday break — came out for a rousing evening of fun and games.
On December 19 from 3-6 p.m., we’ll be hosting another Alumni Social and Amazing Race!
Mark your calendars and tell your WMS alumni friends. Race around campus with fellow
alumni as you uncover clues, test your WMS trivia skills and enjoy food, fun and nostalgia.