Springmont marks 60th year with new leader

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

Elizabeth Lener was 10 when her family moved from New Jersey to a 70-acre farm in upstate New York.

“My parents always dreamed of being farmers, even though they were both from the city,” said Lener. “So I grew up with a flock of sheep and horses.”

Those connections to the natural world resurfaced when Lener learned Springmont School was looking for a new leader. Finding that the school has a farm in Summerville, about 80 miles northwest from the Sandy Springs campus, grabbed her attention.

“To have that for kids who are in a more urban setting is really amazing,” she said. “Having grown up on a farm and knowing first-hand what skills and habits of mind shape your character, I know it’s important for students to learn about where food comes from and how to take care of the environment. I found the things I value so much were also present at Springmont.”

On July 1, after a year-long search that involved students, faculty, staff, parents, trustees and alumni, Lener will become the head of school, leading Springmont’s 270 students from 18 months through eighth grade. Along with a degree in environmental studies from Binghamton University, a master’s in elementary education from Lewis and Clark University and a graduate certificate in independent school leadership from Johns Hopkins, Lener brings more than 25 years experience, teaching at both traditional and progressive schools. This will be her first encounter with the Montessori method the school embraces.

“What drew me was the opportunity to immerse myself in this philosophy and pedagogy,” she said. “I really appreciate how well thought out it all is. The relationship with the child as they’re each on their own journey is really exciting. And giving students the day-to-day freedom to explore in ways that make sense for them, and challenging themselves to tackle new things, has been borne out by research and stood the test of time.”

Lener will also be arriving as the school enters its 60th year, making it one of the oldest Montessori institutions in the Southeast. She plans on taking time to reflect on its history as well as its future.

“There’s a lot of passion, interest and love for the school,” she said. “I know this is a community that wants to stay true to its Montessori mission, so we’ll be challenging ourselves to improve teaching practices. At the same time, like a lot of schools, Springmont had to hold parents at a distance during the pandemic. How do we bring them back? We’ll special events during the year to reenergize and rebuild the community.”

And she herself will be following a leading tenet of the method: take time to observe.

“Coming in as an outsider, Montessori might seem mysterious, but one thing it encourages is observing and taking note of what you’re seeing but not interrupting in the moment,” she said. “I’ll be doing a good bit of that.”

Information on Springmont School is online at springmont.com.

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