We continue our Rural Teacher Spotlight series with Bryan Little. Bryan is an administrator at Redwood Coast Montessori, a beautiful school that sits very close to the shoreline. In the coming academic year, Redwood Montessori will be integrating debate into their English and History curriculum. Through debate, Bryan hopes that the students can find their voice and become a better communicator.
To Bryan, from the beginning, teaching was one of the only professions that made “absolute sense.” Bryan started his career as an educator as an informal teacher in a youth development program up in the mountains with a group of college-aged students. He refers to this time as “community teaching,” noting that his start as an educator was untraditional. Later, he decided to become a more traditional classroom teacher in order to have a greater impact on a larger number of students. After receiving academic training in science, becoming a science teacher was a “natural fit” for him.
To Bryan , from the beginning, teaching was one of the only professions that made "absolute sense."
Then, he and his wife attempted to open a nonprofit Montessori school. While the project ultimately never took off, they both pursued additional credentials in the process. His wife started the first public Montessori program, but it was single-classroom, and they soon found themselves wanting to expand to a larger number of students. This came to fruition in the form of Redwood Coast Montessori. Bryan has stepped into an administrative role as its director while his wife continues teaching. They have grown 16 students in their first class to about 180 students currently enrolled.
As for curriculum, Redwood Coast Montessori takes an open-ended approach to teaching. By employing techniques such as socratic dialogue, Redwood Coast Montessori is able to remain flexible and provide an endless number of accommodations to students. No matter how students learn best, Redwood Coast Montessori can support them, and according to Bryan, “that’s how it should be.” Curriculum also focuses on equalizing students – for example, no AP classes are offered at Redwood Coast Montessori, because administrators believe there is no need to distinguish between those who receive specialized instruction and those who do not. Ultimately, their goal is to provide the best educational fit for students that they can, no matter the barriers individual students may face.
The rural aspect is a key component of Redwood Coast Montessori as well. Bryan emphasizes that because the school is in a rural community, educators get to know both students and their families better. He believes this helps growth and development in many students. He also mentions that while many resources are difficult to access, Cal Poly Humboldt has been able to meaningfully support their programming. Their biotech resource laboratory has been open to Bryan and his students in the past, providing real, hands-on, experiential learning opportunities to his students. They’ve also been generous with surplus resources, which Redwood Coast Montessori has been thankful to receive. The local county office of education has additionally provided students with the opportunities to visit other programs and schools, not only for college exploration, but career exploration.
Overall, Redwood Coast Montessori has made a real difference in students’ lives. Bryan recalls students who struggled with chronic absenteeism become engaged, consistent members of the classroom. He also references students who’ve arrived at Redwood Coast Montessori from troubled teen camps in Utah, and how rewarding it’s been to help them realize that they are safe, valued members of the Redwood Coast Montessori community. When students see value in their education and feel they have a voice, Bryan believes, students can become truly self-motivated and get the most out of their education experience.