Most of us have long forgotten our primary school teachers—but many of Saachi Kumar’s students keep in touch with her.
One recently graduated from the prestigious Wharton School for Business, another studied medicine at Johns Hopkins University, and yet another is pre-med at Georgetown, recalls the Highland Park resident.
Saachi has been nurturing children ages three to six at the Montessori School of Lake Forest for more than 25 years, following the Montessori philosophy of education, in which students learn through free but guided play. The intellectual curiosity, cooperation and generosity she fosters in her students provide a strong educational and ethical foundation for the rest of their lives.
“No student is too challenging for Mrs. Kumar, who maintains order and a love of learning in a classroom of more than 20 children of varying ages, needs and abilities,” says Lissa Hektor, executive director of the Montessori School of Lake Forest. “At any one time, Mrs. Kumar’s class includes children who are gifted, facing learning challenges, learning English as a second (or third!) language, or physically challenged. At no time do any of Mrs. Kumar’s children feel left out of her attention or warmth.”
Lissa also praises Saachi for taking her young students seriously, holding them to high expectations and respecting their individuality.
Rather than crediting herself, Saachi admires the Montessori approach for its “cooperation, respect and beautiful environment”—all aspects that drew her to it years ago, when she was searching for a school for her daughter.
She says, “there’s freedom, but with responsibility and limits. It gives the children a tremendous love of learning.”
One of the most remarkable facets of Montessori is that the students learn to take care of each other, because they are grouped in three-year classes. The older kids become leaders and guides for the younger students.
And Saachi clearly loves leading and guiding her young students. When asked when she’ll stop teaching, she says, “When it stops being fun.”