Alumni Spotlight: Alison Wong

From the December 16, 2011 edition of The Weekly Post

Photo submitted by Alison Wong

In 1980, I entered Post Oak Montessori (as it was then called) as a five-year-old Lower Elementary student in Susan Wallen's class. Back then, the campus was located on Harwin Drive, outside Beltway 8 (which had not yet been constructed). In 1986, the Post Oak community took up residence in its current location on Bissonnet; I can still remember how excited and proud I was to be among the first students to use the beautiful new facility, built especially for us. Although I only spent one year on the new campus, I have vivid memories of my time spent there, happily collaborating with my friends and fellow students under the expert guidance of our teacher, John Bodi.

Recently, the birth of my first child gave me a reason to revisit the campus. As new parents, my husband and I spent countless hours marveling at our infant son's natural curiosity about the world and eagerness to explore it. It dawned on us that it was our responsibility to protect his innate inquisitiveness and, hopefully, to instill in him a lifelong love of learning. Remembering how, as a young child, my ideas were encouraged and respected by my teachers led me back to Post Oak. I wanted my child to feel as inspired and supported as I did. The moment my husband and I stepped foot inside the door, I was transported back to my childhood, the lessons I learned at Post Oak still fresh in my mind.

I remembered tracing letters, creating stories with alphabet cards, working with the binomial cube, using symbols to learn parts of speech, working with beads to understand the concept behind long division, and conducting science experiments and testing hypotheses. I remember learning about ancient Greek and Roman civilizations – yes, we read books, listened to lectures, and wrote reports, but we also visited museums, created scale models, prepared traditional foods, staged an archeological excavation, and created period costumes to wear to the lower school classrooms so that we could share with younger students what we had learned. At Post Oak, there was always more to learn than what could be found in a textbook.

When I was a kid, my best friend and I were the same age. I can remember being in the third grade reading and coveting her public elementary school textbooks, with their succinct chapters and quaint illustrations. I sometimes wished I didn't have to explain to everyone how my school was different or what I did all day; but as I look back, even that exercise was character building. It taught me not to be so concerned about what other people thought and to be confident in my own path.

After Post Oak, I went to St. John's School for both middle school and high school. I then went on to receive my BA in Psychology and Sociology from Southwestern University and my Juris Doctor from The University of Texas. While I am truly grateful for all of my academic experiences, my most treasured skill is one that I can without question attribute to Post Oak – an undying intellectual curiosity about the world and my place in it. From an early age, Post Oak instilled in me a love of learning for the sake of learning. In my experience, many distinguished academic programs too often rely on memorization and linear thinking, which allows students to succeed without requiring them to think independently. At Post Oak, this was not the case. We were asked on a daily basis to develop our own perspectives and points of view.

Being immersed in an environment in which such attention is paid to whole-brain learning had a profound impact on me – one I admittedly did not fully appreciate until I was an adult. When I began my legal career, for example, I was a litigator for the Office of the Attorney General for the State of Texas. While I thoroughly enjoyed trying cases to juries, I felt somewhat limited by the constraints of the practice of law. Currently, I am a trial consultant – a profession that enables me to think critically, analytically, and linearly, but also requires me to be creative, to think thematically, and to solve problems visually and artistically.

I would not trade my own academic experiences for the world; however, if I could prescribe the perfect foundation for a well-rounded, intellectually curious, emotionally intelligent child, it would begin with Post Oak. My husband and I are so excited to be embarking on another Montessori journey. We can't wait to see how our son develops and are thrilled to be along for the ride.