50 Years of Montessori in Orange County: Qudsia Roston
Written by POC Staff Writer
To the Method Born
By Noë Gold
In 1970, Qudsia Roston started the Roston Montessori Institute for Teacher Training, licensed by the California Department of Education to develop the new breed of educators here in Orange County. Heritage Montessori schools still uses her training method and notes, most of which are directly from Dr. Montessori’s original course. Mrs. Roston’s Fullerton campus was so successful she shortly opened up two more sites in Santa Ana and other facilities in the cities of Orange, Fountain Valley, Mission Viejo, San Clemente, Murrieta and Temecula. Heritage’s newest 4.5 million dollar state-of-the art campus in Lake Forest will open January, 2013.
Parenting OC: When did you first encounter the Montessori school system?
Qudsia Roston: When I was a child, my mother went to Maria Montessori to find out how to raise two children — myself and my brother. For four years we lived with them, we had dinner with them every night. Dr. Montessori taught me how to make Hollandaise sauce. I used to wonder how I learned Italian because I wasn’t conscious of it. What she would do is speak it to me in Italian, and her son, Mario, would translate it into English. When she was becoming a teacher and beginning her practice, Dr. Montessori would practice on me. I was the ignorant child, and they needed to teach the trainee.
POC: How did you become involved in the Montessori system?
Roston: Becoming involved as a teacher myself started when I came to Santa Monica because of Mario. In 1960, I helped introduce the Montessori school system to Orange County because I was asked by Mario Montessori and they needed a teacher and I knew how because I grew up with it. He and some people wanted to open a location in Orange County and I was chosen as part of the group to go find a location for them and set it up — which I did.
POC: How has your involvement expanded over the years?
Roston: Well I am 77 years old now, and I stopped teaching about 25 years ago. So what we have been trying to do lately is find good teachers because there seems to be a shortage at the moment.
POC: How have the Montessori schools evolved over time?
Roston: I think the evolution and growth of the Montessori schools in Orange County over time has proved and confirmed the core principles that the Montessori system and methods was founded on. The Montessori Method called for free activity within a prepared environment, meaning an educational environment tailored to basic human and child characteristics and to the specific characteristics of children at different ages. This allows for the children to be observed so they can learn and can develop at their own rate.
POC: In your opinion, what are the benefits of enrolling children in a Montessori school?
Roston: I believe it starts with the fact that 80 percent of a child’s brain is formed by the age of four to four and one-half. So if you can fill that brain with the best of whatever it is you need to succeed in life, then naturally, they do the best with what they have. If I had a choice whether to put money towards a child’s preschool or a child’s college, I would put it towards the child’s preschool level. We used in the Montessori schools three items: the teacher, the child and the environment. We include the expansion of the vocabulary, math, etc., and they also study movement.
These 2- and 3-year-olds would show long periods of concentration. People would come from all over to see what they called these “miracle children,” even the Queen of Italy came to see them. I would also have to say that the Heritage Montessori location is of particular interest because of the way it is run. The teachers are trained very meticulously and Montessori is only as good as its teachers.