West Side Mother and Head of School Illuminates a Unique Educational Environment

Jenn Schoepf, West Side Montessori (WSM) Head of School, always knew she wanted to be a teacher. Twenty-five years ago, with a newly acquired Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, Schoepf walked into WSM seeking her first teaching job. Finding that the Montessori method embodied her passion for education, Schoepf went on to earn her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education with Montessori emphasis.

Working as the director and teacher at the Perrysburg Campus for 19 years and as the Director of Elementary and Middle School Education for five, Schoepf and husband, Derek, who have been married for 21 years, saw their two children flourish at WSM. “Both my children started at West Side when they were 13 months old,” Schoepf shared. Now-high school sophomore Alec graduated from the school in 2018 and sixth grader Aida currently attends West Side’s Upper Elementary program.

Learning By Doing

Schoepf describes the Montessori method simply as “peaceful productivity.” She explains, “Children learn best when they are engaged in hands-on, real-world learning experiences. They learn by doing.” This educational philosophy extends throughout the school and gives students a sense of ownership and self-possession.

As Head of School, Schoepf sees herself as the curator of a great collaboration between herself, teachers, students and parents. “I collaborate and coordinate with all the members of the West Side community to foster an environment where students and staff can reach their full potential.” The school community is intrinsically connected, and mutual respect for every member is the foundation of the entire structure.

Schoepf relates that, “The Montessori learning environment is like no other. Children are nurtured to reach their full potential in an environment fostering mutual respect, social responsibility, and a love of learning.”

Each classroom at WSM is equipped with “manipulatives” or materials for learning in a concrete manner through physical interaction with representative objects. These tools allow students to be self-directed as independent learners, teachers are therefore in a position to observe the students work to their own potential. Schoepf describes the teachers as “collaborative, compassionate and demonstrat[ing a] mutual respect and positive energy.”

Looking Ahead

With 37 acres of land full of trails, playgrounds, and various natural elements, Schoepf has her eyes set on the next big opportunity for West Side Montessori. Through consultation with classroom teachers, she foresees a highly developed curriculum covering ecology, botany, and prairie development and aspires to facilitate a love of learning that inspires WSM students to become true “stewards of the earth.”

Q & A With Jenn Schoepf

What is your favorite activity to do with your family? Spending time at our family cottage on the weekends.

What is your favorite book to read to your children? My children loved Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

Best memory around town from your childhood? Visiting the lights at the Toledo Zoo created unforgettable family moments.

What is your go-to activity when you have a few minutes to yourself? Running with my dog.

Describe your life in five words or less: Joyful, active, fulfilling, caring, family-focused.

Describe Toledo in a sentence: Toledo has big-city excitement with a small-town charm which makes the Glass City the perfect place to raise a family.

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