By Sister Nancy Linenkugel, OSF
Xavier University has the only college-sponsored Montessori Lab School in the country. In fact, Xavier has long been the powerhouse in Montessori education as it remains one of only two accredited programs nationwide and has Montessori programs in China as well. Just ask Sr. Catherine Laboure and Sr. Margretta who are proud Montessori MEd graduates from the 1970’s (influenced greatly by Sister Felicia as many of us were, but we’ll come back to her).
The Lab School faculty members not only teach in the lab school but also serve on the MEd faculty for teacher training courses taken by XU education students.
Xavier’s Montessori Lab School is an amazing environment. There’s a long chalkboard in the corridor just inches from the floor—down low so small children can write on it. Everywhere you look are “manipulatives” distributed around the classroom in specialized boxes for science, math, vocabulary, etc. There are no student desks; instead furniture around the room is conducive to discovery and exploration.
Recently as I finished interim dean service for one of the three Xavier colleges in which the social sciences, health, and education programs reside, the Lab School invited me to stop in for a thank you event.
The 60 or so Montessori children sat around the floor and I had a special chair on the magic red carpet. The principal invited me to tell the children about who I am and what I do at Xavier, so I began by saying that I was a Catholic sister and a Franciscan.
“Has anyone heard of St. Francis of Assisi?” I asked. A dozen hands shot into the air and I started calling on the eager responders.
“My aunt is a Sister.”
“My mom’s friend is a Mercy Sister.”
“St. Francis of Assisi is the Pope.”
“St. Francis is the big statue at Xavier.” (Close—that’s St. Francis Xavier)
“What is St. Francis of Assisi the patron of?” More hands.
“Fish. He liked fish.”
“Glasses so people can see better.” (St. Francis of A-See-See—makes sense to me.)
I drop a few hints. “Nature!” offers a confident girl. “Yes. Nature. The world around us is beautiful and we must protect it,” I say. Um-mmm’s abound.
Then they gave me a gift: artwork they had done accompanied by a homemade card. The card was handwritten by Leah, a second grader who wore a sash with the word “Principal”. Leah was principal for the day so she did the honors in presenting me with the gift.
Leah read from the card, “Thank you for all your hard work. Love, XUMLS” Everyone clapped.
I said, “X-U-M-L-S. What does that stand for?” Leah again took charge. “It stands for Xavier University Montessori Lab School,” she announced with authority.
I thanked her and said, “So you’re the XUMLS!” (pronounced Zoo-Muls). Everyone laughed, even the teachers.
“Thank you, XUMLS. This is the best gift I’ve gotten in a long time. For sure, it’s the best gift I’ve ever gotten at Xavier University,” I exclaim. More clapping. And then we had to do a cheer. Ready? All together now:
“XUMLS one, XUMLS all, let’s all do the XUMLS call: Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!
Now that was a great day at Xavier University. Sister Felicia was sitting next to me. Yes, dear Sister Felicia, who oozed education from every pore, who delighted in the arrival of new filmstrips, who couldn’t get enough of the elementary school scene, and who took GRADE TEACHER magazine to bed with her, would have loved it.
Can’t you just hear her enjoyment?