Head of class: Mountaintop Montessori’s newest addition

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Patricia Colby because interested in the Montessori method after researching schools for her daughter. Photo: Keith Alan Sprouse Patricia Colby because interested in the Montessori method after researching schools for her daughter. Photo: Keith Alan Sprouse

Mountaintop Montessori’s new head of school, Patricia Colby, has spent most of her adult life working in education. From South America to California to New York, Colby’s journey to Charlottesville has been long and fascinating. 

After completing her undergrad work at the University of Houston, the Venezuela native pursued a doctoral degree in social psychology from the University of California, Davis, studying human adjustment—a field that is now called Positive Psychology.

“I was interested in learning what makes people thrive,” says Colby. “And this interest led me to education and goal-setting—I wanted to know what makes people feel good and perform at their best. I wanted to understand how that process worked and how it might be systematized.”

After graduation, Colby took a position at Skidmore College in New York, where she taught for six years before moving back to California and starting a family.

“My plan was always to go back to work as a college educator,” says Colby. “So when my daughter got to be preschool-aged, I started looking into programs. I read about Montessori, and I thought, ‘This is the school I want to have my child in.’”

An educational model that gives students a less-structured learning environment, Montessori struck a chord with Colby. She started volunteering and, eventually, decided to put her higher-ed teaching career on hold to learn more about Montessori methods. After 10 years in the classroom, Colby then took on an administrative role. She and her family moved to Charlottesville four years later.

“Seeing the methods and techniques the classrooms had in place, I thought back to my research and realized they were doing all the right things,” she says. “Only here, they were doing it right away; from the get-go they were giving the kids the tools they needed to thrive.”

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