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Meet Barkha Naik of Willow Montessori Academy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Barkha Naik.

Barkha, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was drawn to early childhood education at a very young age. My family and friends always mentioned that I worked well with children, and I often found myself volunteering at summer camps and helping young children in many capacities. I also have a very creative side, so when choosing my first career, I took a job in the fashion industry. However, I quickly realized that while the job allowed me to leverage my creativity, it didn’t have the same rewarding opportunity to develop young minds. In 2006, I decided to listen to my heart, and I started a new career in education and fell in love with it. Today, I am still just as passionate about educating our next generation as I was back in 2006.

At my first school, I quickly realized how bright my students were, and that they needed to be challenged in new ways. I discovered the Montessori method, and I was intrigued by the practical life lessons that the curriculum taught along with the independence and self-confidence that children gained from the Montessori method. I was hooked and wanted to learn as much as I could about the Montessori method. I obtained my Montessori certification from Dallas Montessori Academy, and I started implementing these teaching methods at a Montessori school in California.

After a few years, I returned to Texas. I wanted to fulfill my once far fetched dream of opening up my own school. I obtained my director certification, gained the necessary experience as a director, and started developing ideas for what is now Willow Montessori Academy.

Has it been a smooth road?
I don’t think any project worth completing has a smooth road. I’ve certainly faced my share of struggles in opening Willow Montessori Academy. One of my biggest challenges was finding a suitable location that matched my vision. I began looking for a building over two years ago. Within two months, I had found the perfect building, and we began negotiations. I remember thinking, “Wow, that was so easy. Why did I wait this long to open a school?” But the day before the final signing, the realtor leased out the building to someone else. I was crushed!

I did not allow that set back to stop me. I reached out on many of the available social media platforms asking for help in finding a new realtor. I worked with three separate realtors, but none of them understood my vision and my needs. I was growing increasingly impatient until Alexa Conomos, parent of a former student understood my vision and introduced me to Donna Stiles. Donna listened to me, recognized my passion, and knew exactly what I was looking for.

The week before I met Donna, I had found another property I fell in love with. She negotiated with the property owners for three months, and we came very close to closing a deal. Then, out of nowhere, the owner decided to rescind his offer, and I was once again left devastated. This hurdle was particularly difficult for me to overcome. I had envisioned myself in this building—children running around outside, the education I could provide—but now I was back to square one.

I began meditating on the situation and relying on the universe to provide an answer. I affirmed to myself every day that this school was meant to be, and I would find the solution I was seeking. I was also persistent in asking Donna to follow up with the property owner every month on whether he would consider reopening negotiations. In August, I asked Donna to reach out to the building owner once again and, to my complete surprise and delight, he agreed to open negotiations again. I never stopped believing in my vision and that building’s role in achieving it. I’m so glad I didn’t give up because we are now scheduled to open in that location in Spring of 2019!

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Willow Montessori Academy – tell our readers more, for example, what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
While the Montessori method is used worldwide, each Montessori school is unique, and Willow Montessori Academy is no exception. We are a private Montessori academy with students ranging from 6-weeks old to 6-years old. Our school enrolls a maximum of 50 students at any time to ensure a personalized education for each child.

We aim to create a community of students, parents, and teachers who are engaged in both education and extracurricular activities. That’s why we sponsor gardening days, reading programs, yoga classes, and other community events for students and parents. Together, we make a family that supports all of our children.

We are committed to being a leader among Montessori schools. Our mission is to foster independent, confident, academically prepared, and socially responsible children who will be lifelong learners and problem solvers. We also focus strongly on environmental sustainability. We are located near Dallas Love Field and Parkland Hospital; the school is surrounded by nature in a protected wooded area. We support the environment by encouraging recycling, incorporating sustainable practices and using eco-friendly products within the school.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
The education field is constantly evolving, and I see great new ideas and methods developing all around us. I see a future where public schools begin picking up on the Montessori method and implementing it on a broader scale to benefit more children. Students who have been taught under the Montessori method in their early childhood years will be ahead of the curve when they enter into the public school system.

In terms of Willow Montessori Academy, I see us easily outgrowing our space as we open our community to more students. We already have visions of a second school with exciting new ideas and teaching techniques that are waiting to be implemented. You’ll just have to wait and see what’s next!

This has been an incredibly rewarding journey, and I could not have opened up Willow Montessori Academy without the support and encouragement of my parents. I am so excited about the future of Willow Montessori Academy and what it will bring to the Dallas community.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
James Edward Photography

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