Monday, July 17, 2017


To work in a Montessori environment is very unlike “teaching” in the traditional sense of the word. Montessori teachers do not teach. Instead, they guide; they observe; they create an environment of calm, order, joy. They know when to intervene, and above all, they know when to step back.

At the heart of each Sunshine classroom is the teacher—the guide. Montessori teachers are referred to as guides because they are experts at assisting children to find their own strengths and their own capabilities through the use of practical, self-correcting materials. A Montessori teacher is adept at leading from behind. It’s an art, a skill, an ability.

Children experience dramatic changes that require different environments to meet their developmental needs. Dr. Montessori compares this process to the metamorphosis that a caterpillar undergoes to become a butterfly. Those who have completed Montessori Teacher training understand and see what it means to “believe in the child,” and how to best help all children discover the joys of learning.

Sunshine Montessori Teachers…

§  Respect children as individuals with unique plans for development.

§  Create a calm and joyful atmosphere in an environment that allows each child to connect to productive work.

§  Give engaging presentations with Montessori materials that the children will use on their own.

§  Foster growth towards independence and social responsibility.

§  Assist children to progress at their own pace and gradually discover their potential while helping them to help themselves.

Shawn Lawrence-Reed

I have worked with children since 1990. I started working in an after-school program while in college. After graduating, I moved to Jacksonville, Florida and worked as a preschool teacher as well as an Early Childhood Specialist. After moving back to Arkansas, I became an assistant director at a childcare center and worked with infants through school-agers. In late 2004, I decided that I wanted to take my passion for helping young children through the Montessori Method and expand it in Siloam Springs. I found a little yellow house and in 4 short weeks set up what is now known as Sunshine Montessori. I chose the name because as a child my mother always called me "Sally Sunshine". 

I have my Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Oklahoma State University and my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Oklahoma City University. I have my Montessori Certification through the American Montessori Society. I am also a part-time consultant for Arkansas State University and a nationally certified assessor for the Program Administration Scale. I am the co-author of “Stairway to Reading” phonetic readers. 

In my spare time, I like to spend time with my daughters, Maddie and Kenzie, read and watch HGTV with my mom. 

Maria Montessori's dedication and advocacy for children and their rights were unheard of in the early 1900's. I admire her strong, independent desire to do what is right in the face of adversity. I have a hard time choosing one favorite quote, but here are a couple...

"Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future."

"The child is capable of developing and giving us tangible proof of the possibility of a better humanity....The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind."

"We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit." 

Laura Arft
Assistant Director/ Primary Guide

I am a planner. I don't do anything without doing loads of research and making a plan. My life included. When I was about to graduate from college, I thought I had the perfect plan. I was going to graduate college in May, get married in June, and live happily ever after. After graduating with a BA in English, I had every intention of becoming a journalist.  My husband and I had just gotten married and moved to Joplin and I needed a job.  I took a position as a preschool teaching assistant, fully intending for it to be temporary.  That was 18 years ago. I found my calling and have never looked back!

    Shortly after the birth of my daughter in 2002, my husband was transferred to Siloam Springs. I stayed home with Kristin for a few months, but missed teaching.  Not long after I took the position of Montessori teaching assistant at Siloam Springs Children's Center.  It was then that  was introduced to the Montessori Method and to Shawn Lawrence-Reed.  I learned (and continue to learn) so much from Ms. Shawn.  When she opened Sunshine Montessori I was more than happy to go to work for her.  I have worked with her since and found my second home and second family.  In 2010 I completed my Montessori certification as a preschool teacher.

    I have one daughter, Kristin, who is almost 15, and a dog and cat. Kristin is a Montessori child. She has grown up at Sunshine.  She started her first part-time job this the preschool rooms!  Kristin will begin 9th grade this fall, which will be our 6th year of homeschooling!  In 2010 Kristin's dad suddenly passed away from a blood clot in his lung.  It was a hard time for us, but our Sunshine Family took care of us and are always here when we need them. In my spare time I enjoy gardening, reading, cooking, photography, and traveling with Kristin. I also enjoy helping with the children's ministry at church. Kristin and I are both Doctor Who and Sherlock fans and we love Friday night movie night..although I can barely stay awake past 9:00 anymore!

    My life hasn't turned out exactly the way I planned. There have been many surprises and challenges, but I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing what I was meant to do.

“The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.”--Maria Montessori

Cindy Bennett
Assistant Director at Infant Toddler Center

I am married and my husband's name is Tom. I have 4 children all grown. I have six Grand daughters and my daughter and son-in-law are expecting boy/girl twins the end of August or first of September. Very excited!

I love spending time with my family. Tom and I are active in our church and love serving others. I am blessed to have an awesome church family also. God has ordered my steps and I owe my life to Him. I am thankful for His many blessings.

I have worked with children since September of 1989. I started working in the Head Start program and was there for 15 years. I held several positions while there, teacher aide, teacher, assistant director, and fill in cook. I found I had a love for children and knew that was what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I worked at All Bout Chalk in Gentry for 4 years. I worked in several different areas there as well.  I was a teacher in an ABC classroom. I also worked with all age groups from infants to school age. Even as a cook when needed. 

In 2008 I started at Sunshine Montessori and was intrigued. Again filling several roles. Cook and teacher, ranging age groups infants to school age. Last year I earned my Montessori certification for preschool and would like to do infant and toddler as well. Currently I am the Assistant Director at the Infant/Toddler Center at the JBU site. I enjoy what I do.  

I enjoy working with children, they are my heart. I think I have learned more from them than they have from me over the years. Even as adults we are constantly learning and I love seeing that in the children. From crawling to walking to learning to read and beyond. It is awesome to be a part of a child's life and be able to see them reach those milestones. Being a part of Sunshine Montessori for so long has allowed me to see children's progression for a longer period of time. I know I am where I am supposed to be. I love my Sunshine Family!

"Let the children be free; encourage then; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and when the grass of the meadows is wet with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath it's shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning." -Maria Montessori

Lower Elementary Guide
Mary Edwards

I was born and raised in Vermont. My husband, Steve and I moved to Arkansas in 1998. I have a son, Isaiah, who is a junior at Siloam Springs High School and three step children and 6 step grandchildren. We also have 2 dogs who are our babies, Sophie (mastiff/black lab mix) and Sebastian (long haired dachshund).
I worked at a childcare facility in the after-school program during my junior and senior year of high school and had an internship at a public school my senior year. I have been working with children full time since 1998 and been blessed to be a part of the Sunshine Family since September of 2011. I attended classes at NWACC and received my Child Development Associates in 2007. Since 1998, I have received many hours of training to further my education.
In my spare time, my favorite things to do are spend time with my family and dogs, read the Bible, watch movies, cook and vacation in Vermont.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”
- Maria Montessori

Lower Elementary Assistant
Maddie Booker

Hello! My name is Maddie Booker, and I am an assistant teacher in the school age program at Sunshine Montessori.
I was born in Jacksonville, Florida, but I have lived in Siloam Springs, Arkansas for most of my life. I live with mom and twin sister, Kenzie, with whom I have an ongoing feud with. I also have two dogs named Dexter and Charly that everyone likes more than me. I am currently in college with plans to study criminology. When I am not at work, I enjoy reading, writing, dancing horribly when nobody’s watching, and to the chagrin of my family, playing the piano.
I started working at Sunshine Montessori in August of 2016, and it has changed my life. It is so fulfilling to have a part, if only a small part, in helping shape children’s minds. Everyone at Sunshine, teachers and children alike, care about each other very much, and I consider my work my home away from home.
“Of all things love is the most potent.”- Maria Montessori

Primary Co-Guide

Cook & Afternoon Primary Assistant
Pat Evans

I started working at Sunshine as the school cook a few years ago. I have several years of experience in the food industry and continue to further my knowledge when it comes to early childhood. Every day is a new learning experience. I wish I would have found Montessori when my children were young, things would have been easier on my husband and me. However, I’m happy to be able to incorporate it with my two grandchildren.

My husband, Carl, and I have been married for 41 years. We have two children, Tricia and Christopher, who have blessed us with two beautiful grandchildren Elizabeth and Allee. We live in the big town of Colcord, Oklahoma. Outside of work, my house is my happy place. I enjoy gardening, working in the yard, reading and puzzles.  I also have a strong relationship with God. He has helped me through a lot of rough times and for that I am eternally grateful. 

"Help the child to help himself." -Maria Montessori

Toddler Guide
Misty Lankford

I started working for Sunshine Montessori in October 2016. I graduated from Ashford University in August of 2016 with a Bachelors degree in Behavioral Science. I majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology. While attending college I successfully completed several classes that revolved around small children including Early Childhood Education, Ages and Stages of Childhood Development, Language and Literacy, and Social and Emotional Development.

In my spare time (when I am away from work) I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, racing, target shooting, riding ATV's, camping, gardening, farming, reading and traveling. My husband, Todd, and I have been married for 16 years and we have a 15 year old daughter, McKayla. My husband and I have been involved in dirt track stock car racing for a very long time. In recent years I have kept score while cheering him on. Racing is a sport that our whole family enjoys and now our daughter is taking interest in racing her own car. When I was younger I wanted a very large family. Although Todd and I only have one child, we have many pets to fill our hearts including horses, ducks, chickens, rabbits, two cats and two German Shepherds named Bricks and Geeta.

"The greatest development is achieved during the first years of life, and therefore it is then that the greatest care should be taken. If this is done, then the child does not become a burden; he will reveal himself as the greatest marvel of nature" -Maria Montessori

Toddler Assistant
Manuel Cisneros

For as long as I can remember I've taken care of kids. It was a part of my daily routine growing up taking care of my younger siblings. I even ended up taking care of an elementary class once because the teacher left for vacation early. After that day, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.

Hi, my name is Manuel Cisneros, I am the middle child of an all boys family (7 brothers in total). In my spare time I enjoying playing basketball, working out, hiking, practicing the ukulele, dancing (the Carlton is my favorite dance), and occasionally jamming out to oldies music.

I start working in a Montessori environment May 19, 2017. It was a different teaching method then I have been around but it has been an amazing experience. My first day of observation I was watching the kids being independent and I was astonished at how young they were and already doing simple tasks like cleaning up after themselves, putting away work without any help, and trying to master other tasks without the help of the teacher.

"The adolescent must never be treated as a child, for that is a stage of life that he has surpassed. It is better to treat an adolescent as if he had greater value than he actually shows than as if he had less and let him feel that his merits and self-respect are disregarded." - Maria Montessori

Infant Assistant
 Brittany Graham

I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and moved to Bentonville, Arkansas when I was 14. I’ve been married to my husband, Taylor, for a little over a year. I also have a beautiful step-daughter, Makayla.

I have seven years of teaching experience working with toddler and preschool aged children. I obtained by Child Development Associate Certification in 2016 and plan to get my degree to teach Kindergarten within the next few years.

I truly love what I do. I love watching the children grow and learn new things. I have always felt the job I was destined to do: to shape the minds of young children. I wouldn’t want it any other way. 

"As soon as the children find something that interest them they lose their instability and learn to concentrate." -Maria Montessori

Infant & Toddler Floater
Kenzie Booker

I have been around childcare for as long as I can remember. My mom, being a teacher, exposed me to the Montessori teaching style from a very young age and as I grew older the blatant differences between that style and the style of others became more and more apparent.

In my spare time I enjoy reading, listening to jazz music, spending time with my family and our dogs, and long, romantic walks to the refrigerator.

As my journey with Sunshine continues, I plan to further myself as a teacher and as an overall person. As much is going on in the world, children are the light that keeps us alive. They are the future and within that of an innocent child, the future will always burn bright. My only hope is that I can be there to help guide them to a place of passion, inspiration, and success.

“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”