Early childhood education covers a number of basic skills, including the alphabet, shapes, and colors. For Hatsumi Mann, a Montessori teacher, instructing students to be independent is an important addition to this list.
“A lot of our materials are hands-on,” says Hatsumi. “At Montessori, the teacher isn’t hovering over the child. It’s a lot of positivity, letting the kids kind of make their own choices, and critical thinking.”
Hatsumi discovered Montessori education while teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) courses in Japan. Upon returning to the U.S., she became a Montessori lead teacher before opening her own Montessori day program, which she operated out of her home.
These successes inspired Hatsumi to open the Virginia Montessori Academy. When she was unsure of where to start, a colleague referred her to the Mason SBDC.
Bernard Ferret, Hatsumi’s advisor, had previous experience mentoring owners of daycares and preschools. Before opening her doors, she and Bernard met regularly to discuss budgets and locate funding. This was especially important to Hatsumi. “I just wanted to be able to offer Montessori to families who wanted it, who were interested, and can’t really pay that big-center price,” she says.
Hatsumi reflects that Bernard “kept her spirits up” and always checked in, even after the business’s official opening. “If I felt like I was in a bind, he helped me work out the situation to find alternatives,” she explains. “Working with him the whole time kind of helped relieve the stress.”
Since opening in September of 2021, Hatsumi has experienced the positive effects of working with the SBDC. She has received $275,000 in loans — used for instructional materials and equipment — and created seven jobs. The new hires ensure that each classroom has two teachers. The Academy also offers programs for Spanish enrichment and after-school care.
Hatsumi definitely recommends the SBDC to other small business owners. “I probably would’ve made lots of mistakes along the way if it wasn’t for them,” Hatsumi admits.
As the Virginia Montessori Academy expands, the SBDC will continue to help Hatsumi locate resources to provide a quality education for her students.