"If you would like to grow in many aspects of life and make a difference, Loyola is where you should be."
Meet Sinem Degerli, currently enrolled in the M.Ed. Montessori Education (Evergreen Online) program. A native of Istanbul, Turkey, Sinem earned her bachelor’s degree in Turkish Language and Literature. She worked for several years as a Literature teacher before having her baby, which marked the beginning of the change in her career path. In 2018, she completed Primary training and worked for three years at Montessori Community School in Durham, NC, where her son was a student for five years. Now in Vienna, VA, and building happy memories with her son, Sinem says: “The U.S. became our second home country, and I would like to repay it by serving children here in this country.”
What motivated you to pursue this program through Loyola University Maryland’s School of Education?
During the pandemic, my family and I moved to northern Virginia from NC and I started to look for a Montessori Master’s program. In 2020, I attempted to enroll in other Montessori programs, but it did not happen maybe it is because the time was not right or I was not ready. Whatever the reason, it eventually led me to precisely the right university, where I can grow. I always find it important to make a physical connection in my community to involve in any social activities in terms of serving my local community as well as the big community that we are connected to from east to west, north to south on this planet. I believe that Loyola is that door opening to the path of creating that connection with others.
Last semester one of my classes’ main topics was creating an inclusive classroom for our students and here at Loyola they demonstrate to us how to do it by creating that inclusive environment for us, adult learners!
I can assure you that Loyola is the right place for me to have that physical strong connection. How I know it is because after completing the evaluation form, they made immediate changes for the following semester. This event showed me that I have a voice here which is crucial to me. I would like to underline one thing: that we all are learners, regardless of our age or professional position, and we might see things differently in life. At this point, what makes everything easier is communication. If you realize that something does not look quite right, please ask questions or share your expectations with people around you, at least at Loyola. Because you will be heard!
Can you provide a brief explanation of your professional/educational path that led you to your program?
[As a child,] I lost my parents due to the earthquake that happened in 1999 in my hometown [in Turkey]. When I became a mother, the question started to play at the back of my head: What can I do to prepare my son for uncertainty in life that I might not be able to help him cope with? Then I met Maria Montessori through her books.
One of Maria Montessori’s statements in particular caught my eye: “A child whose needs were not met during his/her childhood would have a childhood like a sweater knitted by an elderly grandmother who skipped stitches. You would still wear the sweater, but you would feel the cold coming from those holes.” What were those holes in my life? I was asking myself.
Then I got my answer through my reading. Maria was whispering: Those holes are the things you needed when your parents were gone. Those things are being resilient that would stand you up when life tests you, self-confidence that tells you that you are enough with the way you are following your inner power, and self-connection that allows you to see the world around you and revolve around oneness.
I strongly believe that the Montessori Philosophy is more than its well-prepared environment full of purposefully-designed materials and trained guides. It provides a place in which children build their inner strengths and create the connection they will rely on throughout their cosmic journey, through the practical life and sensorial areas that are unique to this approach. They learn how to cope with uncertainty and vulnerability in their lives. Sometimes it could be a war, a disaster, or the death of our loved ones. But the most important thing is whether or not they are emotionally ready to cope with it. In the practical life area, children do not perfect how they do the work but themselves. Their practice whispers something to them as “I can do it, I can handle it, I can cope with it, deal with it.”.
That’s why my favorite Montessori motto is, “Help me to do it by myself.”
I believe that what we know about the Montessori philosophy is only the visible part of the iceberg and more of it is still hidden in Maria Montessori’s lectures, speeches, and photos. I believe we can find the answers to our questions about our century through this research. For example, I often ask myself what would she have done if she had seen people still struggling to cultivate peace in the world. This desire compelled me to enroll in this program.
How do you foresee yourself applying concepts, lessons, or your experience with your program to your work?
My goal is to spread the power of the Montessori methods as much as I can. Because the spiritual power of the Montessori approach is more valuable than its contribution to academic success. I have recently founded an organization called Montessori for Anyone. Montessori might not be for everyone, but I believe that it should be available for anyone who needs it. Some of my short and long-term goals are:
1)To be a policy maker in the county I live in to create opportunities for students to benefit from some of Montessori components.
2) To provide free two-week long summer camps and offer training to the local teachers in developing countries.
3) To provide free lessons and Montessori stations in the states of America where majority of students coming from low-income families.
4)To provide summer camps in some parts of Turkey where the majorities of refugees live and integrate them with the locals.
How is your online course experience at Loyola?
So far, I am very fascinated by Carrie Horwitz Lang’s techniques that show me exactly what I am missing in my assignments. Her comments are not random ones. They are built specifically for the needs and benefits of the learner as point shots. I am also excited to learn from the life and academic experience of Trisha Moquino who will be teaching Cosmic Education this [Spring 2023] semester.