From warm and nurturing roots in Philadelphia, our alumni have spread branches out across the globe, bearing the fruit of incredible lives.
We cherish the stories and updates we hear from our past students.
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Montessori formed me. Montessori teachers are committed to the whole child. They’re interested in who the children are as people. My kids have as fond memories as I do. “At my children’s Montessori school whenever somebody did a kind gesture, they put a stone in the “Peace Bowl”. It was a badge of honor for my kids…Read More
When Musa Brooker was 5-years-old, he told Anne Arfaa, “In school I like to play with Adrian and John. And I like to play with the thousand chain. After school, I like to look at cartoons and at Sesame Street.” When Musa recently read this quote from 1978 on Greene Towne’s Facebook page, he remarked. “I guess the whole watching cartoons thing worked out!” Today, Musa (that’s “Moo-say”) is an accomplished Los Angeles based 3D Stop action animator, director…Read More
Brendan remembers sweeping and using the dust pan in the courtyard. Putting peanut butter on a pine come with seeds; “I was very proud of that”. The back reading area of Maggie Funchion’s classroom and all the wood. Walking through the classrooms brought a rush of memories for Brendan, “I remember…Read More
When London-based Annabelle Charlier learned that a fashion industry colleague was moving to Philadelphia, she reminisced about how impactful her Montessori experience in Philadelphia had been when she and her family lived here from 1999-2001. That school was Greene Towne and her colleague’s family is new to our school community this year. Annabelle’s family came to Philadelphia so that her father could attend Penn’s Wharton School…Read More
Montessori formed me. Montessori teachers are committed to the whole child. They’re interested in who the children are as people. My kids have as fond memories as I do.
“At my children’s Montessori school whenever somebody did a kind gesture, they put a stone in the “Peace Bowl”. It was a badge of honor for my kids.”
“It reminds me how my experiences at Greene Towne helped give me a kind heart. The teachers were so warm and inviting. They accepted who we were, understanding that we are all interconnected. The feeling of peace I felt at Greene Towne helped me to have a peaceful heart” The comfort and security I felt was soothing and helped me early onto be good to others and to myself. As an adult, I wanted to serve others as a journalist. It’s all connected. The way were treated solidified the kindness in my heart.
“One of my strongest memories is going up the stairs; they creaked as you went up the steps. My mom was so concerned about kids falling down the stairs, she lobbied for the gate at the top.” The gate became known as “Bev’s Barrier”
Kuae’s parents were educators. Beverly, who passed in 1997, taught drama at CAPA, Philadelphia’s high school for the Creative and Performing Arts. Father, James, is now retired from his 40 year professorship at Temple University. James was one of the group of professors who established Temple’s School of Social work in the 1960s. He still lives in Philly and loves going to out to hear some good Jazz.
“My parents were active and involved. They were partners with the school.” “My parents were so proud that we were there. They loved Greene Towne and it made me feel like it was second home.” Coupled with the excellent education she received at Greene Towne, Kuae feels strongly that her parents’ involvement was equally important.
The teachers were an important part of our lives outside of school too. Mrs. Sperr was for me the very first teacher that left a wonderful mark on me. I always liked the way Mrs. Sperr and the other adults guided us. I didn’t see the teachers as teachers but as guides, guiding us to learn.
Kuae remembers the Pink Tower, rolling mats, folding cloths and above all, “learning how to take ownership and to own our work.” And she remembers Jamie Unkefer, “One of my strongest memories is nap time. Jamie was slightly mischevious, trying to wake people up.
After Greene Towne, Kuae attended Greenfield Elementary School with some other Greene Towne friends and graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls before heading off to University of Maryland. After one year she transferred to Howard University to earn her BA in Journalism and then Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism where she was awarded a fellowship to the Alfred I. duPont Center for Broadcast Journalism.
Kuae worked in Journalism for 14 years and then decided to stay at home with her children, but always kept her toe in the waters as a freelance journalist.
Kuae sent all 3 of her children to Montessori. “I love the process over product. It’s about
“One reason I sent my children to Montessori was my fondness for my Montessori experience. It was warm and nurturing. My parents, particularly my mother, was very involved.
“I think I did so well at Greenfield and Girls High because of the seeds that were planted at Greene Towne. The excellence bred at Greene Towne filtered up, it was the root” Kuae thought of this when choosing preschool for her own children “I chose Montessori for my own children because where you start really plants the seeds for the future.
Today, Kuae is a wife and mother to three children who all attended Montessori school near their Montclair, NJ home. She is an editorial producer for CNN’s morning show New Day with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerata in addition to contributing blog posts on parenting, education, sports, stay-at-home mothers of color and the spirit of volunteerism to HuffPost Parents and HuffPost Black Voices. Among her many journalistic accomplishments, Kuae was a producer for the award-winning newspaper magazine Dateline NBC and Headliners and Legends with Matt Lauer on MSNBC. Since 2010, Kuae has served as National President of Mocha Moms, a not-for-profit organization supporting stay-at-home and working mothers of color.
Kuae’s older daughter, Teddi, has just finished her first year at UCLA. She was recruited to join the rowing team and is majoring in International Development and Political Science. She’s the Global child.
Son, Cole, just completed his sophomore year at Seton Hall Prep where he plays lacrosse and has a special interest in quantitative analysis. Cole’s summer plans included a coding workshop and working at a venture capital firm. He also had plans to establish a hedge fund and was busy researching pro bono legal help when we spoke to Kuae.
Younger daughter, Evan, just turned 13 and is entering 8th grade where she also plays lacrosse.
We first reconnected with Kuae in 2001 when a group of early parents organized a reunion for families form Greene Towne’s first 10 years to see the, at the time, new home at 2121 Arch Street.
When we spoke this spring she pointed out that the fact we were talking that day was a testament to Greene Towne’s power.
“Portia is transcendent – I have such fond memories of her. Her style was so open and welcoming. “What would you like to do? She would ask
As an adult, wanting to serve others as a journalist, It’s all connected. The kind way we were treated solidified the kindness in my heart. Kuae loves the idea of process over product – it’s the steps you take, not the end result, that matter. “Thinking critically what do you need to accomplish. It’s an intrinsic part of who I am today. I credit Greene Towne with planting the seeds that I’ve carried though my life.
In addition to her family and her service to others though journalism, Kuae is passionate about Mocha Moms, a not-for-profit established to support stay at home mothers of color, meeting the call of a new generation of African American mothers who have the choice to stay at home or work in a profession. Though initially established to serve women who chose to stay at home with children, today, Mocha Moms’ membership includes a variety of women, some working, some at home, part-time, full-time, and entrepreneurs. Today they have 100,000 followers on line and heir messaging reaches 1,000,000 women.
Kuae first got involved in Mocha Moms in 2001, establishing an Essex County, NJ chapter in 2002. She joined the national board in 2003 as National director of Media and Publicity and went on to be director of Community Service for Mocha moms
When Musa Brooker was 5-years-old, he told Anne Arfaa, “In school I like to play with Adrian and John. And I like to play with the thousand chain. After school, I like to look at cartoons and at Sesame Street.” When Musa recently read this quote from 1978 on Greene Towne’s Facebook page, he remarked. “I guess the whole watching cartoons thing worked out!”
Today, Musa (that’s “Moo-say”) is an accomplished Los Angeles based 3D Stop action animator, director, and producer collaborating with a broad assortment of commercial and independent film makers, musicians, and creative friends to create quality hand crafted animation. His varied credits include the holiday classic, “Elf”; series such as “Tumble Leaf”, “Robot Chicken”, and “Sponge Bob Square Pants”; ads for Google, McDonalds, Honda, and Bacardi; and music videos for The Foo Fighters, Jane’s Addiction, The Raconteurs, and Plain White T’s. Musa is also an educator, teaching in the Division of Animation and Digital Arts at University of Southern California. Whether teaching, directing a big production or producing a small labor of love, Musa approaches each project with a respect and appreciation for the beauty and rich diversity of creative opportunities stop action animation affords.
Maria Kaminstein was Musa’s teacher in his first year at Greene Towne, when he was 3-years-old. She recalls that Musa didn’t want anything to do with art, painting or drawing, which she took note of because Musa’s dad, Moe Brooker, is an established Philadelphia artist. Maria remembers having to make him do a painting for the end-of-year art show. Musa thinks that is so funny considering where he ended up. He must not have minded because today the art fair is among his fondest memories of Greene Towne. “I remember the art fair on the last day of school when all the kids made a painting and hung it up. And I remember the 1000 chain and being excited to use it. I remember the desks with circles and the church we were in. I have fond memories of the church, the hardwood floors, the openness and that the classroom was very colorful. The colors and beauty of the classroom stand out most. We had graham crackers for snack and now every time I eat a graham cracker, I think of Greene Towne.”
Musa’s mom, Virginia, was a school teacher. “My parents saw the value of a Montessori education and we lived nearby; it was the perfect match.” After Greene Towne, Musa attended Friends’ Central School in Wynnewood along with other Greene Towners, Tori Curl Wolgin, Forrest Curl, and Walker Gilmore. After graduating from FCS, Musa earned his BFA in animation from University of the Arts in Philadelphia and an MFA in Experimental Animation from California Institute of the Arts where he was a Jacob K. Javitz Fellow.
Musa notes that his work is spatial, very dimensional and hands on. All qualities that one finds in the Montessori materials. “Knowing what I do about Montessori, I see how my experiences in that environment affect me to this day. In my professional work and personally, I enjoy talking to people of different ages. I work with students, veteran animators, and people new to the industry and I find it very easy to interact with them, just like in the mixed age Montessori class.” In his own classroom at USC, Musa talks a lot with his students about freedom within limits; “that comes from Montessori too. Having limitations and boundaries in the creative process helps focus the work. I give my students boundaries and I get better work from them.”
When we caught up with Musa this summer he was just wrapping up his latest project, directing and overseeing production of the new Bratz web series. Musa was excited to work on this project because the new series takes these controversial dolls and makes them an engine for good, emphasizing positivity and empowerment for women and girls, encouraging individuality and addressing modern-day challenges like video game addiction. “There are 10 episodes, giving us time to develop the characters and their personalities. The new generation of Bratz are creative and contemporary, engaging in urban farming and crafting, and they think for themselves.”
“The heart of what I do is telling stories, whether comical or serious; it’s evoking emotions. I like telling stories and the problem solving that comes with telling the story through animation. I especially like the tactile nature of stop action, touching an actual, physical thing. There’s something crafty about it that I really enjoy. I studied all forms of animation in school, 2d, 3d, and CGI but when I was working at MTV as a layout artist they had a show using stop motion and I started doing that and fell in love with it. 3D stop action animation is physical and concrete but it’s still animation.”
Above all, Musa remembers having lots of fun at Greene Towne. “When I look at the class photos on Facebook I remember a lot of those faces. I’m still friends with Krista Ruah, who is an artist and a chef. Walker and I went to Friends’ Central with Tori and Forrest; we’re still Facebook friends. Greene Towne gave me life-long friends. Knowing that it is where my education started I see that it set me on the right path to combine work in a creative field with the responsibility needed for the business side. It provided me the opportunity to learn how to solve problems in my own time frame and to work collaboratively with others.”
“By 5-years-old I knew I wanted to work in cartoons and animation. I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to do that every day.” See a sampling of Musa’s projects at platypuspictureworks.com.
Brendan remembers sweeping and using the dust pan in the courtyard. Putting peanut butter on a pine come with seeds; “I was very proud of that”
The back reading area of Maggie Funchion’s classroom and all the wood.
Walking through the classrooms brought a rush of memories for Brendan, “I remember the Chains and I totally remember the maps, and painting. I definitely remember the knobbed cylinders. I remember Maggie Funchion and Miss Salome, Vincent Termini and his cousin Danica Melso.
“I remember coming up the stairs and seeing the giant cross and I have fond memories of Regina Delaney.”
While in town on his book tour this spring, Brendan stopped by Greene Towne to see the school today and tell us what he’s been up to since he attended GT in the 1980s. Brendan toured the classrooms with Maria Kaminstein and they explored some of the materials that he would have worked with when he was a student at Greene Towne over 30 years ago.
Brendan grew up at 20th and Lombard Streets, three doors down from the Kaminstein family home. He fondly recalls how the back alley was their kingdom. A lot of families were leaving the city back in the early 1980s. Brendan’s mom, Kathy Gosliner, wanted to stay in the city and Greene Towne provided a learning environment in line with her country childhood, it instilled independence.
Though the Kaminsteins moved to Lower Merion, Brendan and Daniel stayed life-long friends and Daniel came from his recent home in Lancaster, on the eve of a move to Georgia, to see his friend discuss Alaskan Laundry at the Free Library of Philadelphia Author series.
After Greene Towne, Brendan attended The Philadelphia School for elementary school, spent two years in lycee in Normandy, France and returned to Philadelphia to graduate from Germantown Friends School before heading to Oxford University to major in Modern Languages with a focus on 13th Century French and English. Today, he speaks French to his daughter, Haley.
Today, Brendan lives with Haley Marie, and his wife, Rachel, on a WWII era tugboat in Sitka, Alaska
“I always loved boats. The idea of floating and being free was always enchanting.” They have everything they need on the boat, 2000 square feet of living space and even a garden where they grow blueberries and herbs.
Brendan has tried many jobs to support himself while establishing his writing career. He developed his carpentry skills during his first …,.
Living in SanDiego in 2003, he started building decks and liked it so much that when he moved to Alaska soon after, he joined the Alaskan Carpenter’s Union for a very rigorous training program. Then he spent some time in New Hampshire learning Timber Framing.
Returning to Philadelphia, Brendan founded the sustainably-minded Greensaw Design and Build, remodeling homes and building furniture with reclaimed materials. Greensaw designed and built Pennsylvania’s first LEED Platinum certified renovation. The Platinum rating is the highest possible.
A favorite story Brendan tells is how, at the end of one of his first days working on a salmon boat in Alaska, the captain having left him alone on the deck, he cleaned up the deck. A surprised and bewildered captain returned and asked Brendan how he had learned to clean the deck like that. Ultimately, Brendan realized the act came from his Montessori training to be responsible for your work and your environment and to put your work away when you are finished with it. This same practice inspired him and served him well at Greensaw. “respectful of space, being able to communicate clearly with clients. Doing a good job requires an intellectual capacity. This is what Montessori stands for.” Maria Kaminstein agreed, “Montessori is about doing what you do for a reason, whether on a work site, and boat, or …..
Brendan’s perseverance and drive to figure things out served him well when he became the new owner of his current home, a tugboat. Unable to find affordable home on the main land, he learned of a tugboat being sold cheap. It wasn’t until he purchased it that he learned the boat had to be moved by week’s end or it would be impounded. And, the engine was shot. Brendan quickly learned how to fix the engine.
He remembers the sensuality of Greene Towne’s former home, the smell of the incense, the dark wood paneled rooms of the church. He laments that “Doing things with your hands is rarer and rarer. It brings a certain peace to children and adults.” “In the engine room, when you have to take off a cover, there are 12 bolts and you have to take them off, organize them and put them back tight. Afterwards, I’m a much happier person.” “There’s a lack of rights of initiation today.” Alaska was that for me. Greene Towne taught me how to do things with my hands, to make things.
With everything he remembers and the numerous positive aspects of his life and work he assigns to his Montessori experience, Brendan still had a lot of questions about Montessori philosophy and attitudes because now he and Rachel, are thinking about how to start their daughter, Haley’s, education and how to do it on a 40’ tug boat moored off the Gulf of Alaska. Rachel recently finished reading “Montessori from the Start, your child from birth to 3” and though there is no Montessori school in Sitka, there is a growing community of interested families.
Still, Brendan’s first passion was writing, “From a young age, I wanted to be a writer.” and all of his forays into carpentry, commercial fishing, were initiated to support the writing. In 2011 he sold his home in South Philly and his share in Greensaw and moved back to Alaska, having earned Stamford University’s Stegner Fellowship, funding two years of writing. Now, with his book published and back home after a national tour that took him to both coasts and many destinations in between, Brendan is eager to start work on his next project. “I have non-fiction and fiction ideas. I’m seeing how they develop.” Writing, carpentry, and Montessori share similar aspects of engagement; you have to bring yourself to it.”
When London-based Annabelle Charlier learned that a fashion industry colleague was moving to Philadelphia, she reminisced about how impactful her Montessori experience in Philadelphia had been when she and her family lived here from 1999-2001. That school was Greene Towne and her colleague’s family is new to our school community this year.
Annabelle’s family came to Philadelphia so that her father could attend Penn’s Wharton School of Business. Her parents were committed to providing Annabelle the opportunity to continue along her Montessori path, begun at a school in Belgium, and they found Greene Towne which Annabelle transferred to as a 4-year-old.
We were delighted to reconnect with Annabelle recently and to hear about what she is doing now and her memories about Greene Towne. “I really cherish the years I spent at Greene Towne. I believe those were the most important years of my development. I remember Mrs. Kaminstein very well. I absolutely loved her. I also remember taking black and white photography classes after school which were fundamental to me in my creative development which has now become a career path as I do fashion design.”
The Charlier family returned to Europe in 2001, settling in eco-friendly Germany, where Annabelle’s upbringing and the cultural climate established a deep commitment to environmental consciousness. Born into a textile manufacturing family, Annabelle played with leftover rolls of defective fabric from an early age, developing a profound love for textiles. Disappointed by the clothing available in stores for her dolls, Annabelle used her creative spirit, self-taught skills, and familiarity with fabric to design and create her own doll clothes. As the years passed, she became more and more keenly aware of and sensitive to the unsustainability of the fashion industry.
While studying fashion design at London’s Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design, fellow alumni include Alexander McQueen, John Galliano, and Stella McCartney, Annabelle interned at the haute-couture house Ralph & Russo and the young London-based start up Sadie Williams and also worked in a Saint Laurent boutique to better know the high-end fashion luxury customer. Today, Annabelle is a designer specializing in mixed media and alternative printed textiles for high-end fashion as well as embroidery.
In addition to her own work, Annabelle works full-time at Richard Quinn studio in London. A young start-up with over 60 worldwide stores secured for its second season including Bergdorf Goodman, Net-à-Porter, and Dover Street Market, Richard Quinn is the first recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design and was honored to have the Queen sitting front row with Anna Wintour at its last show and has dressed both Beyoncé and Amal Clooney. When we caught up with Annabelle this summer, she was in the final weeks of preparing the Spring-Summer 2019 collection for presentation in London’s recent Fashion Week. Annabelle shared, “I have been in charge of many aspects of this collection so I am very excited to see it come to live on a runway!”
In all of her creative endeavors, Annabelle aims to challenge traditional textile processes in order to generate innovative solutions whilst maintaining her core aesthetic values: elegance and sophistication. Above all, Annabelle feels deeply that creating textiles and fashion lines of long-lasting quality and avoiding non-biodegradable materials over the manufacture of throw-away quantity is key. “The fashion industry is the second-most-polluting industry in the world. The artificial idea of “cheap” leaves us with a false economy and a destroyed planet.” Annabelle’s aspiration is “to build my own sustainable high-end fashion empire with new environmental solutions. This is why I am interested in gaining experience at a successful start up rather than an established house.”Check out Annabelle’s graduate work at annabellecharlier.design and on instagram: annabellecharlier Richard Quinn on instagram: richardquinn1