Alumni Spotlight: Sophie Haase & Molly Ford

By shannon NEufeld, Communication Coordinator
From the April 30, 2010 edition of The Weekly POst

L-R: Sophie Haase & Molly Ford

What makes students who left after Lower El or Primary return to visit their school after they are grown up? Something special. Sophie Haase and her parents, Karrie Ford & Brian Haase visited Post Oak together recently while Karrie and Brian were here from New Jersey visiting Sophie, now attending Rice University. Sophie and her sister, Molly Ford, attended Post Oak until 1996, when the family moved to New Jersey. Now the girls are back, and still feel strongly about Montessori—especially Post Oak.

When they moved away, the two attended The Albrook School (a Montessori school) in New Jersey before attending a traditional all-girls school there (Kent Place).

“When I switched from the Montessori school in New Jersey to a non-Montessori school, it made me realize how great Montessori was—especially Post Oak—because even though [Post Oak] wasn’t a very big school, just the way that the entire system is set up is really good,” Sophie reflected.

Older-sister Molly, agreed. “It was a lot more self-paced,” she said. “I remember when I finally switched out of Montessori school, I thought, ‘What do you mean we’re not supposed to be friends with people who aren’t in our grade?’ In middle school and high school, I rarely intermixed with other grades, but here, it was a couple of grades mixed. I really liked that.”

Molly Ford in Lower
Elementary class

Part of that “intermixing” of grade levels allowed the students to help and learn from each other. “I think that’s a definite advantage of Montessori because you learn so much from your peers,” said Molly. “I also felt like because it was so self-paced, you were motivated to catch up to the people who were older than you, and it was fun if you were working on the same workbooks as they were.”

Molly attended Post Oak through Lower Elementary, and Sophie attended through Primary before they moved away. Despite attending Montessori school for only a few years beyond that, it made an impression on the sisters.

“I think it carried over into later years,” said Sophie. “A lot of the people I know from Post Oak are in really good schools. I think that having [a Montessori education] really helps you self-pace your life.”
Sophie is completing her freshman year at Rice, and Molly graduated from Rice last year. Molly works full-time at St. Luke’s Hospital in the health-charities department as a grants associate, and is also working on a masters degree in public health at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

Sophie majors in history a nd would like to pursue a career in business or marketing. Sophie applied to Rice as an early decision candidate since Molly was attending Rice, and their parents and grandfather attended Rice for various degree programs. Molly had been accepted to Wellesley College in Massachusetts (where her mother attended) but chose Rice instead.

While the sisters did not attend Post Oak through Middle School (where many of our students learn to love community service), they still felt they learned to love community service at a young age here. Sophie later completed more than 150 hours of community service for her high school International Baccalaureate diploma, and Molly worked in a fifth-ward Boys and Girls Club while in college, which sparked her interest in public health. Sophie participated in an Earth Watch expedition to save diamondback terrapin turtles. And it started with Post Oak:
“I think with the mixed-level classrooms at Post Oak, you have the community spirit,” said Molly. “One thing I remember is that we got to play with the really little [Infant Community] kids at the end of the day. I think that’s a unique opportunity that you wouldn’t get in most schools, but I felt like it was important to be able to have eight- or nine-year-olds helping wash their faces, change clothes, and play with them. You get some responsibility at such a young age. People trust you.”

Sophie Haase in Primary class, sporting a self-given bangs trip during her obsession with scissors. She is working with the nuts and bolts materials.

Post Oak has a community environment, the sisters agreed, and Molly said, “I feel like the culture here does breed your confidence and I feel you can really do anything with your education. When switching to a new bigger school it can be overwhelming, but more important than your class size or environment is believing that you can be successful rather than just sitting in the back of the class and not wanting to interact.”

“I think Montessori is good not only because it gives you a good experience while you’re there, but it really changes the way you think about education for your entire life,” said Sophie. “I was in a class on Brown v. Board and educational reform last semester, and we were talking about ideal types of education systems, and we talked about Montessori. I think that’s the ideal education system.”

Molly said, “I hear all these stories of some of the girls in Elementary school in West U, and all they do is study for the TAKS test with huge workbooks and they’re seven- or eight-years-old. Is that what school is really like? I don’t feel like that was ever my relationship with learning, just because of the foundation here.”

Independence and exploration were themes Sophie and Molly remembered. “This year I took a lot of intro courses at Rice, and I think I was better able to help guide my interests,” said Sophie. “Even at a young age, Montessori is about finding what interests you. It lets you look at alternatives and not just at one set path.”

“I think it also encourages confidence in work,” said Molly. “I never really liked math, but I never felt here that I wasn’t good at it. There a ton of other things that I could do, and I still got the support to do math. You can choose what you want and you get the guidance—you’re not stuck for half the day working on something that makes you hate school.”

Though the sisters have never heard about any Montessori high schools, they are interested in hearing Post Oak’s possible plans for one. “I’d be interested to see it,” said Molly. “One of the programs I’m in charge of at one of the charities I work with is on after-school programs, so we do research on programs and whether they’re actually effective…But I would go! I think Montessori is great. I want to send my kids (she doesn’t have any yet) to Montessori school—it’s so much fun.”

“We just loved Post Oak,” said Sophie. “Even within Montessori school—and our Montessori school in New Jersey was good—it wasn’t at all as well-designed as Post Oak.”