Young Caymanian heads up Montessori

Students, from left, Fiona Martin, Chloe Purvis, Brooklyn Ebanks, Eadie Cornwell, Loveday Goodwin and Marianne Duranceau at the playground.

A young Caymanian has recently taken up the reins at a local Montessori school.

Briana Bergstrom, 25, now heads the Montessori School of Cayman on South Church Street, succeeding school founder Peggy Anderson.

“Peggy opened Montessori School of Cayman in 1988 and brought the Montessori teaching philosophy to the island, after completing her Montessori training in Florida,” explained Ms. Bergstrom, whose connection to the school runs deep.

“I attended the school from 1993-1995, and so did my brothers when they were of preschool age as well,” said Ms. Bergstrom. “Lucy Brewer, who still teaches here, taught my brother Matthew.”

Peggy Anderson and Briana Bergstrom share a moment on Ms. Anderson’s last official day.
Peggy Anderson and Briana Bergstrom share a moment on Ms. Anderson’s last official day.

After leaving the school, Ms. Bergstrom attended St. Ignatius from 1995-2009.

“After that I attended university in the U.K. and completed my bachelor’s in education and early childhood studies at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

“During my summer holidays from university I came and helped Peggy with summer camp.”

Ms. Bergstrom’s interest in education and child development did not stop there.

“I continued my studies and completed my master’s in education and child development at the University of Oxford,” she said, explaining that while she was at the prestigious university she conducted research for her dissertation, looking at the quality of preschools in the Cayman Islands.

The spark of a new career was lit.

“I revisited Peggy while I did my research on Montessori School of Cayman, and expressed my interest of pursuing my Montessori teacher training,” said Ms. Bergstrom.

“I also had guidance from Amy Lipton at Montessori Del Sol, who encouraged me to look into the AMI [Association Montessori Internationale] training program, as it’s highly regarded and recognized all over the world.”

Taking the advice to heart, she made the decision to further her education and training and enrolled in the AMI Montessori Diploma course in London from 2013-2014.

Chloe Purvis, Albert Duranceau, Gauge Thompson-Foster and Eadie Cornwell work on some Montessori educational materials.
Chloe Purvis, Albert Duranceau, Gauge Thompson-Foster and Eadie Cornwell work on some Montessori educational materials.

“I moved home in August 2014 to work at Village Montessori in Camana Bay with Jeifrene Small,” she said.

“I was the head casa teacher there for two years and loved it there.”

She said she remained in contact with Ms. Anderson and was aware that her mentor would one day be looking to pass on her torch.

As it turned out, Ms. Anderson was planning to make a move to Austin, Texas, this year.

“I contacted her during the summer of 2015 to ask her about her plans. We had a mutual feeling about everything and it all has seemed to have come together.”

“My parents did give me lots of encouragement about doing this, as such an opportunity really is a once in a lifetime thing,” she said.

Ms. Bergstrom said leaving Village Montessori was not an easy decision, and she was sad to go. And she’s not hesitant to acknowledge her initial trepidation about making such a step at such a young age in taking over the school.

Erin Lewis and Rory Thornton in the garden.
Erin Lewis and Rory Thornton in the garden.

“I took over from Peggy in July, and have had to very quickly, learning the ropes of running a school; I just did my first payroll, for instance,” she said.

Since she took over the school, a few renovations have been done to spruce up the property and classrooms, and Ms. Bergstrom says that ideas are already being floated about future changes.

“It helps to have parents in the construction business, as when something is in need of fixing, we are so lucky we can get that addressed right away,” she said with a laugh.

Now that the school term is under way and the garden and classrooms are filled with young voices, the young woman exudes plenty of confidence about her new role.

She cannot say enough about her gratitude for the support she has from the staff, who along with Ms. Brewer, consist of teacher Zoe Overthrow and teaching assistant Rebecca Bonnar, as well as from her family, and from Ms. Anderson, who remained at the school for several weeks at the beginning of term to assist with the hand-over.

“I am very confident that the school is in the right hands,” Ms. Anderson said on her last official day at the school. “I’m sad to leave, but it makes it easier.”

“I am very excited about what’s ahead,” said Ms. Bergstrom.

“This place already feels like my home away from home.”