Montessori of Northampton picks new head of school


For the Gazette
Published: 6/6/2017 10:58:25 AM

Mark Dansereau sees his new position as head of the Montessori School of Northampton as a homecoming.

“It’s familiar turf,” he said of western Massachusetts. “Northampton and the surrounding area is a real special place.”

A Massachusetts native, Dansereau has worked primarily with Montessori schools, first in Hawaii, where he founded two Montessori programs in the early 1980s, and, for the last 25 years, in Connecticut.

Effective July 1, Dansereau will replace Susan Swift at Montessori School of Northampton. Swift is retiring after serving as head of the school for over 20 years.

Dansereau was selected after a six-month search. Candidates from as far away as Hong Kong were interviewed for the position. In the end, Dansereau won over the seven-member hiring committee with his collaborative approach, listening skills and Montessori background, said board president Elizabeth Dunaway.

Dansereau was born in Worcester and received his bachelor’s degree in comparative arts from Worcester’s Clark University. He currently serves as the director of the middle school at The Montessori School in Wilton, Connecticut, a position he has held since 2015.

He said he appreciates the “children first” model of a Montessori education that allows students to make developmentally appropriate choices and follow their interests rather than adhering to a strict curriculum.

“In that choice-making is where learning and growth happen and where passions are found,” said Dansereau of the Montessori approach.

Dansereau will be the school’s fifth head since its founding in 1976. Swift has been in the position for the last 22 years. She is a fixture at the school, serving as the public face and greeting students and families every morning from the school’s front porch.

“Mark has his work cut out for him,” said Dunaway. But, she said, he brings a lot of middle school experience that will move the new middle school program forward.

Currently, 122 students are enrolled at Montessori School of Northampton in pre-kindergarten, elementary and middle school programs.

Dansereau said he is excited to join the school community and described the school’s students as “so generous and welcoming, open and thoughtful about matters large and small.”

“It is clear that (the school) has its rudder deep in the water regarding how it serves the growth and well-being of its students,” he said.

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