I am Tatjana Vichnevsky, F.C.M.S.' founder and am delighted to share the school's story with you. Opening a Montessori school was a natural step for me, given my professional and personal aspirations and dreams. After my initial exposure to Montessori in 1995, and the completion of my AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) training, I began my Montessori career in earnest in 1997, when I opened a classroom at a neighboring Montessori school here in Arlington. From 1997 to 2004 I worked there as a Primary-level Directress, in love with guiding my 2 1/2 to 6-year-olds (and their parents) through their first school experience. Although my children and my former school were deep within my heart, the time eventually came for me to strike out on my own. The impetus for this undertaking stemmed from my life-long love for and commitment to children, and my vision of what a high-quality Montessori program for them SHOULD really be. I was also unable to shake this constant push within myself to do something to make high-quality Montessori education accessible to children from low-socio-economic means. I wanted to share Maria Montessori’s method with parents, educators, and the wider community in the form of a cutting edge school and outreach program, regardless of the family's income bracket. I thought, in my own small way, I could do something good for children, and thereby our world. I could make a difference. Thus, I resigned from my former school, and in the summer of 2004, began work on developing my own unique Montessori school.
My pre-Montessori business background, the experience of working closely with administration and board members to assure the smooth operation of my former school, a thorough understanding of the market (Montessori, non-Montessori, private and public institutions), and perhaps most importantly, my entrepreneurial spirit, and my tenacity helped me navigate the business side of starting a one-of-a-kind Montessori school in Arlington.
After a one-year search throughout Arlington, a suitable location to house Full Circle's first classroom had materialized and after completing the licensing process everything was in place for our mid-year start. On January 9, 2006, Full Circle Montessori School opened its doors to four curious students. Like the little ones entering Maria Montessori's first classroom at the Casa de Bambini in Rome, almost 100 years ago to the day, our four wide-eyed children would be the first to discover and explore an environment in which every detail is created, planned, and prepared with their unique, individual development in mind:
An environment based on scientific observations and the universal principles of human biology and development, psychology, and educational theory that have been tried and tested for over a century. (Clear focus - not trying to be all things to all people.)
An environment developed to respond to the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual needs of each child at each stage of his or her unique developmental path. (The core - each human being has his or her own path.)
An environment organized and purposeful, yet sensitive and flexible, and continually evolving to support each child’s individual strengths (and weaknesses) and those of the many children to follow them in the future. (A school is a dynamic organism, always growing and evolving to support the children.)
Over the next two-and-a-half years, four children slowly grew to thirty and in June 2008 Full Circle Montessori School proudly saw off its first Primary level graduates. During these first years of growth, parents, like their children, developed friendships and a very special community began to emerge. Through picnics, parent education nights, happy hours, sporting events (from running to soccer - for children and adults), vacations, community service projects, and lazy days at the park, relationships had an ideal environment in which to root and flourish. It became clear that one classroom was no longer enough to meet the needs of all of our children. Unfortunately, there was no space to come by for expansion and the admittedly well-trained candidates who applied for work at Full Circle did not satisfy all of Full Circle's criteria.
Not until the fall of 2008 did the stars align and Full Circle expanded with the addition of three primary classrooms: two at the Ballston location and one in Clarendon, within the Frederick building of the Arlington Housing Corporation's (AHC, Inc.) Woodbury Park Community. An enthusiastic staff, grown from within, welcomed a small starting group of siblings and new students, who, like the first starting group of four, slowly grew throughout the school year.
The opening of the Clarendon classroom, known as The Fred, was a dream come true. From the beginning, Full Circle had supported children from lower-earning families, who attend F.C.M.S. on scholarship. To reach more low-income children, Full Circle entered into partnership with AHC, Inc., and opened The Fred. Here, 1/3 of the children live in Woodbury Park and attend on F.C.M.S. donated funding, and 2/3 come from full-tuition paying families. The magic of the atmosphere that resides at The Fred can only truly be understood by being present and observing the children of attorneys, taxi drivers, teachers, line cooks, and doctors happily working side by side in the creation of their own peaceful children's community. In coming years we hope to extend the 1/3 to 2/3 ratio to F.C.M.S.'s Ballston classrooms and to encourage neighboring Montessori schools to open their doors to children from lower-socio economic backgrounds.
The 2009- 2010 school year found the children in the newly-formed primary level classrooms discovering and growing, at their own individual pace, peacefully and happily.
The fall of 2010 brought with it Full Circle's second major school expansion: an elementary classroom that started with a class of six delightful young explorers.
The 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years were ones of stability, focus, reflection and review of where Full Circle had come in just a few years.
In January 2014 FCMS expanded with the openings of the Young Children's Community (serving toddlers between 15 and 36 months) in Westover and F.C.M.S.' second AHC primary classroom, The Jordan community in Ballston.
Click here to find out what teenage Montessori graduates have to say about their Montessori experience. In just a few years we will be able to interview our own F.C.M.S. teenage alumni.