The First Greene Towne Kindergartener: Lisa Porter Kuh, Ph.D.
50 Stories for 50 Years
Lisa Porter Kuh loved the maps and all the geography work. “I remember spending a lot of time digging into geography. I loved to explore.” Lisa was one of Greene Towne’s first Kindergarteners in Elizabeth Terceur Perlman’s class during our first year, 1966-1967. Lisa had spent her first two years of Montessori at Wilmington Montessori School, a school her parents helped to establish two years earlier. When she was 5-years-old the family moved to Park Towne Place in Philadelphia’s Logan Square neighborhood. Lisa felt right at home when she spotted the familiar maps, puzzles, and other hands-on Montessori materials she had come to love in Wilmington.
Lisa’s parents were dedicated to the Montessori method. Hoping to provide Lisa the opportunity to complete the Montessori cycle and wanting her younger sister, Karen, to benefit from the Montessori program, they were happy to learn that a new school was opening in their new back yard. Lisa recalls, “My parents learned about Montessori from other parents in the Wilmington area who were also looking for a good pre-school experience.” They were attracted to this child-centered approach and how “Montessori took advantage of all the child could do and didn’t talk down to kids. They liked that children were supported in their ability to become independent and confident. In Montessori, the image of the child is one of a competent, independent person who can take care of herself. There is a high regard for children’s ability to reach their full potential.”
Lisa attended the Durham School at 16th and Lombard Street for 1st through 3rd grade. “Montessori had given me the ability to make choices. I remember my first week of 1st grade at Durham. I was sitting at a desk in a row, which I’d never had to do before. I quickly finished a worksheet, thinking that when I finished, I’d be able to choose other work – that was not to be. I was told that I worked too fast.” In my new class I wasn’t free to move around and talk to people like I had been in Montessori. The social act of walking around and talking is an important part of educating the whole child.’
After the family moved to Narberth, Lisa attended Penn Valley Elementary, Welsh Valley Junior High School, and Harriton High School. When it was time for college, Lisa had always known she wanted to be a teacher and enrolled at West Chester University where she could earn a teaching degree. Lisa was disappointed with the educational philosophy being taught at West Chester, “It wasn’t a good fit, I didn’t like the approach to education they taught so I took a year off, what we’d call a gap year now. My mom heard that Chestnut Hill College had a program where I could earn a teaching degree and Montessori certification.” Lisa met Jean Prestas at Chestnut Hill College, where they were in the same Montessori certification class. Eventually, Lisa would earn her Master’s Degree in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her Ph.D. at the University of Washington.
Sixteen years after her Kindergarten year, Lisa returned to Greene Towne as a Montessori intern, working with Maggie Funchion during the 1983-1984 school year. The following year, Maggie found a teaching position closer to home and Lisa, now fully certified, took over the class. Lisa continued as lead teacher of her own classroom for the next three years, working with colleagues known to many Greene Towne alums and some current families: Regina Delaney, Phyllis Keener, Anne Salome, Jean Prestas, and Maria Kaminstein who is still a close friend. Maria and Lisa reunited professionally in March 2015, teaming up to co-present a workshop titled, The Role of Beauty and Organization in the Learning Process at the Annual American Montessori Association Conference held in Philadelphia. Anxiety that few would show up to their 8:00 am Sunday morning workshop was eased when every seat in the large room was filled.
Lisa is passionate about early childhood education, focusing her work on the importance of the environments educators create for their young charges. With over 25 years of classroom experience, Lisa now guides and teaches educators, presents at professional conferences, and has published and contributed to many books and journal articles on the topic of the early childhood environment. Today, Lisa is the Director of Early Education for the Somerville Public Schools in Somerville, Massachusetts where her team creates alignment between private and nonprofit child care centers. They coordinate teacher education and offer instructional coaching and curriculum support. In addition, Lisa conducts research on outdoor play environments and early childhood teacher professional development.
Lisa lives with her family in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She met her husband, Ed Kuh, Head of School at the progressive Fairweather School in Cambridge while teaching in Caracas, Venezuela. Their older son, Evan, is a sophomore at Ithaca College and younger son, Joshua, is a high school senior preparing to apply to colleges this winter. Lisa’s mom, Anna, lives in Jupiter, Florida and loves to hear about Greene Towne today. We look forward to seeing Lisa again soon and to welcoming Anna back during our anniversary year.
We want to know! Sadly, our archives are missing a class list from that very first school year, 1966-1967. If you were or you know a Greene Towner who was in our very first class, please let us know!