Sunday, 16 November 2008


Mother of three, Sarah Quigley-Burns is in complete shock after being presented with the National Student of the Year Award from Portobello School in Dublin. Sarah graduated last June from the regional course in Letterkenny, with a first class distinction in her Diploma in Montessori Teaching. It was a tough year for Sarah, juggling the responsibilities of parenting alongside her studies, all while she was pregnant with her third child, Saorla, (now aged four months). In fact, she gave birth to her baby daughter just ten days after sitting her final exam. “It was a bit close alright.” Sarah remembers, “I was worried that I was going to have her before the exam.”

“This award isn’t just for me,” explains a delighted Sarah, “It was a total family effort. My mother would look after Cillian (3) and LĂ­oda (2) and my husband Steven would have to organise to work at home some days to be with the children so I could go to my placement and to the course.”

Wednesdays were the most challenging days for Sarah as she juggled work placements, evening classes and obstetric appointments, often running from one to the other.

So what motivated Sarah to take on this challenge at this stage of her life? “I really wanted to get out and work, but really I was a full-time mum and I was breastfeeding too, so it was hard to find something that would fit. Also, if I were working part-time I wouldn’t be taking home much after paying for childcare. Working as a Montessori teacher seemed to fit in with my life style.”

Last September, Sarah and her partner Jennifer Grant, set up the Little Acorns Montessori Playschool in Carndonagh. They work it as a co-operative where each takes it turn about, working one week in the playschool and the other week looking after the under 3’s as Jennifer has a baby too. It is an arrangement that suits Sarah well as she finds that working part-time gives her more energy to be with her children and she is totally happy with her childcare arrangements.

Sarah really enjoyed the course and found that as well as the benefit of having a qualification to teach children aged 3-6, it helped her in her approach as a parent. The Montessori philosophy says that children are happiest when they are busy working and that if a child is able to choose its own work freely then they learn faster and more happily. Children don’t struggle to keep up with others as they work at their own pace. Sarah’s role is to direct and show the children how to use the materials. There is also a strong emphasis on connecting the children to nature and teaching them how to take care of the environment. Sarah and Jennifer’s Little Acorns Montessori Playschool is open on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Sarah can be contacted on 0749374096.

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