LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Kristen Martin

Position: Head of school
School: Montessori School of Central Vermont
School District: Montessori School of Central Vermont
City, State: Barre, VT

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Kristen Martin was nominated by Crystal Dermody, the parent of a student.

Ms. Martin is the head of school at Montessori School of Central Vermont (“MSCVT”). The Montessori method views education as the cultivation of the child’s natural desire to learn, not just the acquisition of information. Children are given opportunities to engage in spontaneous, purposeful activities while progressing socially and intellectually at their own pace.

Ms. Martin has been instrumental in growing MSCVT to what it is today.  Without her efforts and the support she has garnered from the teachers and parent community, this school would not be what it is.  She gives so much of herself to the school, from being one of the people to greet students each morning as they come in, to planning/defining the program and how to responsibly grow the school. She ensures each student is getting the support they need to grow into a confident and self-sufficient human being, and she defines special activities that foster the learning environment.

"Kristen is amazing!  She is all in every day and gives so much of herself to the school," said Dermody. "For our family, Kristen helped us determine that this school was the right choice for us. We stand grateful to her and the school community for enriching our child’s life and helping him to continue to grow."

Comments (24)

Dana Routhier Posted over a year ago

I cannot help but be redundant in the best way and echo all of the previous comments made by parents, families, and friends who have the incredibly good fortune (for we all feel so lucky) of working with and benefiting from all that Kristen gives to the Montessori and local communities. We enrolled our son at MSCVT during a moment of profound change for our family, and with many reservations after coming from a traumatic experience at another childcare facility in Waterbury. From the moment she answered the phone, Kristen has been a force of good in support of our child and our family — creating a warm, safe, and engaging environment for all of the children who attend MSCVT as well as for their families. She shows up every day. She responds to every email. She makes time to get to know each child, to support them one-on-one. She fills in for her staff when they need her, support their professional development as educators, and is utterly, inspiringly committed to creating a school that is accessible by as many children in our community as possible, regardless of financial circumstances. She is beloved by all of us — and we appreciate her talents and her humble spirit infinitely. (Thank you, Kristen!)

Joel Schwartz Posted over a year ago

When I think of the word "lifechanger," the word "hero" comes to mind. Nowadays, media has overused and abused the latter, and seemingly it is applied to anyone who had done any good deed. Real heroes are those who risk their lives deliberately, rationally and knowing in advance the mortal danger. Lifechanger is not often used, and can be more generously applied but what makes Kristen a lifechanger is not just the lives she has changed as witnessed and experienced by those who posted comments, but she has in her modest and unassuming way made the decision to become one deliberately out of her love for children and for those who feel the same way she does. I worked with Kristen when the school expanded and moved to its present location and soon realized that she has the talent, intelligence and capability of being a Dr., a lawyer, engineer, accountant, business professional, historian, or professor or be successful in any endeavor if she set her mind to it. Because of her generosity of character, she chose to be a teacher, to promote and grow the Montesorri School and its methods because she believes it will change lives, and it has. As a dedicated professional and Head of School, she may not think of herself as a lifechanger, but she is most certainly one every single day.

Alice Dermody Posted over a year ago

As a former teacher myself, I am impressed everyday as I observe Kristen in the school. She is very empathetic and recognizes potential issues before they happen taking steps to alleviate them. She strives to make a personal connection with each child and the families. She has a way of making sure that each child knows how important they are. She represents the best in leadership that a school could ask for. And we appreciate all she does.

Alana Phinney Posted over a year ago

There is no question that Kristen Martin is a "lifechanger" given all of the lives she touches everyday. She supports children, staff and parents alike. As the Head of School, she embodies the Montessori philosophy - engaging with children as respected and able individuals within a community. Additionally, for her long-standing staff, she continually provides guidance and development opportunities that foster their own careers. Day-to-day she can be found overseeing the school and also guiding one single child through an experience or challenge. We joined the MSCVT community two years ago and have experienced nothing but warmth, inclusivity and incredibly skilled educators. We are so very grateful to Kristen for growing and supporting this community. Kristen is a perfect candidate for the LifeChanger Award.

Julie Atwood Posted over a year ago

I first became aware of Kristen several years ago when I served on the board of the Orchard Valley Waldorf School (OVWS). It's easy to imagine OVWS and the Montessori School of Central Vermont, two small independent schools in a rural area, in competition for resources and enrollment. Yet, Kristen never saw it that way. She identified needs common between both schools and advocated that the two schools work together, lifting both schools in the process. Since those early days of our acquaintance, I have become friendly with Kristen. I know her to be tenacious, resourceful, collaborative, and authentic. The type of person that I'm proud to say is my friend and a role model that I'm thankful my own children know. She continually strives to grow and improve her knowledge and skills and that of the staff at MSCVT. I've witnessed her selfless efforts to acquire a new location for MSCVT, overcoming many challenges and even taking on personal risk to move the school into a permanent home, thus securing its future. I've seen her passionately drive to ensure that young learners have choices and resources they need to flourish, whether at her own school, or at another; even at the State House in Montpelier, getting involved at all levels to advance the needs of all children in Central Vermont. She does all of this with humility and humor, inspiring anyone who has the privilege to know and work with her.

Sandra Cameron Posted over a year ago

Kristen is a gift to the early childhood field and to many individuals and families as well. She is one of the most dedicated, professional, brilliant and generous people I know. She yearns to share the unique teaching of the Montessori method without being judgmental or aggressive in her approach. Kristen is a visionary, a leader, a mentor, a collaborative colleague and an amazing friend. She is always seeking to learn more, do more and be more. We are all so. very fortunate to have Kristen in our lives and she is so very deserving of this award!

Karen Bunnell Posted over a year ago

I've put off writing this because I've been thinking that I could find the right words to describe how incredible Kristen is, the truth is, I can't. Last year my family went through an ordeal that no one should have to experience. At that time, my son was attending Montessori. Kristen went above and beyond her duties to make sure my son's education was not disrupted, as well as giving me much needed daily reassurance pursuant to what was happening in our lives. The cost of a Montessori education can be a hindrance to many in the lower middle class. Before I enrolled my son in public school for other purposes, Kristen offered us a full scholarship for the following year. If given the opportunity, I believe Kristen would financially help as many children as she could, to receive a quality Montessori education. While my son is no longer at Montessori, I still believe it is an excellent program for all children, and there is no one better to lead one of its schools than Kristen Martin; she is an exemplary human being.

Ashley Squier Posted over a year ago

As a teacher at MSCVT, I'm overjoyed to see Kristen's work being recognized. Kristen uses her whole self in leadership of our school community. Her commitment to the Montessori tenets of educating each and every child to reach his or her greatest potential is matched by her abilities to observe and analyze what not only the students, but her adult teaching staff members, most need. She is at once strong and kind, firm and compassionate, dedicated and flexible. She gives tremendous gifts of energy, humor, and wisdom to all of us. We teachers are lucky to have her as an advocate and support in our vocations; the children are lucky to have her as a trusted adult guide in their formative lives. She is a powerful example of a person who is living out her calling as a work of love.

Cheryl Dillard Posted over a year ago

Kristen is one of the most amazing people I know! She is a mentor, that I look up to in so many ways. Kristen is a leader, and helps around the school wherever she is needed, doing whatever is needed, no matter what. She is there for her community is everyway possible, and goes beyond what I have ever seen a head of school do. From giving transportation, to setting up meal trains, etc. She has helped me personally take the next step with Montessori training, supported me and encourged me all the way. My son also goes to the Monstessori and she is always there when she is needed for him. Kristen makes you feel loved. Kristen has also personally given me rides when I have needed them after totaling my car last winter. Her spirit is contagious. I am so glad I feel like I have a second home at the Montessori, and she has made it home. <3

Kayla Gilman Posted over a year ago

I have known kristen for 3 years now and have worked as an after care staff member for 2 school years now ! I am so excited to see Kristen nominated for this award as she is an amazing head of school and person! I honestly don’t know how she does it all and has such an up lifting attitude about everything that comes her way! I am so lucky I get to have the job I do and have Kristen as my boss!

Wes Hamilton Posted over a year ago

I'm not sure I even know where to begin speaking about the positive impact Kristen has had on our daughter. After six years (and counting) enrolled at the MSCVT there are countless ways that the school has helped grow and nurture her in to a thriving learner simply joyful young person and every step of the way it's been abundantly clear how Kristen has directly been behind it. Kristen's seemingly endless enthusiasm for the children and their well being, her commitment to the ideals of Montessori that view each child as their own unique person with their own endless possibilities, and her apparently effortless abilities to help guide the children towards discovering that on their own is a constant inspiration and reminder of just how much effect we can all have on the world around us if we set out to.

Lana Bodach-Turner Posted over a year ago

I have known Kristen Martin for over 15 years. She has been my children’s teacher, my mentor, my co-worker, my supervisor and a friend. Kristen has a genuine warmth and generosity that is contagious to those around her. She is the kind of person that brings out the best in all of those around her. Kristen sees a child in need and makes sure that child receives the support they need: from simply a person to listen to them, to support in academics or developmental growth, Kristen is there as a steady support to help provide what is needed. Kristen sees a family in need and makes sure that family has support: from helping get transportation for their children, helping with a meal plan or supporting a parent dropping off and separating from their child for the first time. It is not the grand gestures of help and wonder that Kristen has performed with modesty and with no expectation of recognition over the years that makes her stand out. I believe it is in the little things that Kristen does everyday to support the staff, family, children and friends around her that truly makes her special. From a check in, to a phone call or note, or simple gesture of a hug, everyday Kristen is a steady, calm and positive presence to those around her. She makes those around her feel special and important each and everyday. Kristen is the center of our community at Montessori, however, her impact goes much farther beyond our small community. She makes the lives of those around her better; and all of the families and children that she cares for then go out into the world and share that same generosity with others. I can think of no better role model effecting change today and into tomorrow.

Gwen Shelton Posted over a year ago

I am writing as a pediatrician in central Vermont and as parent of an elementary student who started as a primary student at Montessori. My child has gotten an amazing education and experienced love, respect and guidance from every member of the community there. Kristen has developed an incredibly rich supportive school that Maria Montessori would have been proud of. The Montessori method was developed in part for children who lived in orphanages or had experienced the horrors of war. Today we understand that children who have experienced adversity in childhood can be resilient, grow, and flourish in environments where loving adults demonstrate grace and courtesy; guide children into their natural love of learning; and help with internal regulation through routine and mindful repetition of the activities,of daily life. Kristen recruits amazing staff and helps hone their sensitivity to the needs of every child. She models these attributes herself as a player coach. When I have families in need of just a little bit more for their children because of past experiences, illnesses,or family struggles, I feel confident referring them to Kristen's school. And when I have families looking for excellence in education I refer to Montessori as well. Kristen' s school truly brings out the best in every student meeting them where they are at. There are no class or race boundaries here and that is yet another reason why this is the most amazing school. Thank you Kristen for everything you do as a leader and educator!

Leah Reardon Posted over a year ago

When my family first came to Montessori ,my child was struggling to get along with another in her classroom. I was a new parent and not sure how to address this. Kristen was very responsive and handled the situation beautifully, incorporating my child’s guide. She was sure to leave each child’s confidence intact and encouraged a new friendship to grow. This experience let me know we were at the right place. Every morning I drop off my daughter I feel as if she is staying at her other home for the day. Because of Kristen’s commitment and consistent presence with our children MSCVT truly feels like one “casa”.

Dave Pelletier Posted over a year ago

As a former Board member for Montessori School of Central Vermont (MSCVT) I can attest to this being a most appropriate nomination for Kristen. It is impossible to calculate the number of lives, students and parents alike, Kristen has touched in some positive way. Her energy and enthusiasm for the Montessori philosophy of empowering children to embrace learning and independence is truly remarkable. As Head of School, Kristen wears every possible hat, helping with drop-off in the morning, taking care of and supporting her talented, devoted staff, developing budgets, substituting in the classroom when necessary - you name it, she does it with a smile and humor. She is a true life-changer and deserving of this acknowledgement.

Faye Longo Posted over a year ago

My daughter has been a student at MSCVT for 3 years and this has been a life changing experience for both of us! Kristen has EVERYTHING to do with that experience. I am a single mom and I used to think a wonderful place like MSCVT was out of reach for a family like ours, and then I was introduced to Kristen. She has always supported our family in our efforts to assure that my daughter receive her chance at her very best start. Kristen has gone above and beyond to build not just an amazing school but a real, supportive, and inclusive community. I adore her, I’m grateful to know her, and I am truly honored to support her!

Mike Lannen Posted over a year ago

I can not imagine life without Montessori for our daughter and without the support, guidance and leadership of Kristen. Sometimes I question how she manages to do SO MUCH. She is a never ending amount of positive energy and a true life changer!

Sara Greenwood Posted over a year ago

I am proud to call Kristen family...she is my first cousin and only three months apart. Growing up we would watch our younger cousins during the summer. Even back then she had a way with children. Adulthood has separated us by distance, but when we go back to VT for visits my four children are loved by her. Even though it is summer time and she is out of school, she is interacting with them. Kristen is definitely walking in her calling and is changing lives as she does it!

Kelly McCracken Posted over a year ago

Kristen's first year teaching at MSCVT was also my daughter's first year of pre-school. What luck! Kristen is even-tempered, creative, and quick to laugh. Her humor is balanced with high standards; the children know that she notices everything! Personally, she is warm, easy to talk to, organized, and responsive. We had a wonderful classroom experience with her, and we witnessed the growth and development of the school as she moved into leadership. She has overseen the move to a beautiful new facility and the expansion to serving younger and older children in toddler and elementary programs. And when she occasionally has to step in to the teacher role to cover an absence, the children are thrilled to have her in the classroom. My children have graduated from MSCVT, and they feel fortunate to have begun their school-lives there. Kristen is the central figure in that experience. She is amazing.

Sara Holquist Posted over a year ago

Kristen is a treasure. When my son started at MSCVT shortly after receiving an autism diagnosis, Kristen worked with our family with such professionalism and compassion. Where prior educators had focused on my son’s challenges and saw him as a burden, Kristen instantly identified his unique gifts and developed strategies for his education with those gifts at the forefront. If it weren’t for Kristen and her leadership, I know our family would not have been able to heal and move forward with our son’s education as we did. She will always have a special place in my heart and deserves this award (and 10 million dollars) more than anyone.

Amanda Gilman-Bogie Posted over a year ago

I am so please to see Kristen nominated for this award. I have known Kristen for three years now and continue to be inspired by her commitment to our children and school, friendship, and uplifting attitude. Kristen has worked tirelessly for years to grow our little Montessori School into a viable, thriving community of learners and families. She was instrumental in helping our school find and move into a larger, permanent space in 2016; perfect for the students to grow and learn using Montessori principles. On a recent visit to the school during morning drop-off I witnessed Kristen lovingly address each child by name as they entered the building; she smiled at them brightly, asked them about their morning, showed interest in what they had to say and offered to walk some of the youngest members of the school community to their classrooms (though each politely declined and toddled along independently, secure in their place within our little school). This is just one small example of her presence being one of light and friendship in the lives of many; whether they be sweet and shy toddlers just beginning their educational journey or older (and often times louder) elementary students full of vigor and enthusiasm. I personally consider Kristen a friend and a great example of humble and successful parenting as she is full of wisdom and parental grace; I would love to see her honored with this award as she is certainly deserving of the recognition.

Paige Lamthi Posted over a year ago

Kristen helped our family decide on Montessori education for our children and I haven't looked back. Over the past two years I have seen the impact the school has had on my two girls, and Kristen is a huge part of that. She has created a comfortable space that children are excited to learn in with a wonderful staff who are passionate about what they do. Her selflessness and determination have helped propel the school into its larger, newer location in Barre. I have gotten to know Kristen and her dedication to early childhood education through work on the MSCVT school board, and continue to be amazed by the way she takes on any task to ensure the school runs smoothly. Whether it's covering for a teacher in a classroom, attending meetings to better understand the educational climate in Vermont, meeting with prospective families, or taking on additional admin work, she remains positive with a contagious smile on her face through it all. She is well-deserving of this award.

Erika George Posted over a year ago

I feel so blessed to have found Kristen and her staff at MSCVT for my daughter. The school is a warm, inviting space where you can see the magic of learning and independence flourish in the children. Kristen recently posted a video on the children's Stone Soup lesson. She showcased one long community table where the children would eat together. Each child brought in a bit of food to add to the soup (celery, carrots, potatoes, pasta, etc.) and the lesson was that when each person contributes just a little, it can turn into something big and great. How lucky is my daughter to be learning that lesson under Kristen's leadership!

Andrea Donahue Posted over a year ago

Kristen and her team are wonderful role models for all the students they teach. I will always remember Kristen’s willingness to go above and beyond with our kids when she was their teacher. It takes a special person to step up and lead and that is exactly what she has done over the last few years. She is well known in both the school community as well as the Barre, VT community. Kristen always strives for excellence in herself, her staff and her students. Montessori and the community are very lucky to have her.