The pioneer of the Little Badger Early Learning Program in Windermere will no longer be leading the learning.
After more than seven years at the valley’s only Montessori preschool, founder Maxine Hawes spent her last day as a full-time instructor at the school on Tuesday, June 24th.
“Maxine made it a great place for a child to develop and also a great place to work,” said Little Badgers manager Kathleen Elphick. “She was a phenomenal teacher with a very gentle approach.”
Maxine raised her family in the Okanagan, where she was the owner of two Montessori preschools. After her daughter Spring Hawes – now a District of Invermere councillor – was seriously injured in the valley, Maxine and her husband Barry relocated to Invermere.
She has a passion for teaching, and because there were no Montessori schools in the valley when Maxine arrived, a new preschool was inevitable.
Early in 2007, shortly after she was approached by members of the Akisqnuk First Nation, the Eva Joseph Family Centre became the home of the Little Badgers.
“It was a great opportunity in a beautiful building, she just couldn’t resist,” said her daughter, Spring.
Montessori schools practice a less structured approach than traditional learning models.
“They want something that gives their kids an early learning program, teaching children concepts through the Montessori method,” said Kathleen.
Maxine is hailed by her colleagues as a mentor. It was through her employment at a Montessori school in Kelowna that Maxine grew a strong appreciation for the learning style.
“When she started working in the Montessori curriculum, she really identified with it, because it really allows kids to develop to their fullest potential,” Spring said.
“She always described herself as Montessori, right to the toes,” said Sandy Kalesnikoff, Maxine’s co-teacher of more than seven years. “She brought an enthusiasm everyday, and has a way of bringing out every child’s individual strengths.”
But it wasn’t just youngsters who Maxine encouraged to grow.
“I didn’t have any schooling whatsoever when I began at Little Badgers,” Sandy said. “She is an absolutely amazing teacher — Maxine encouraged me to go get my Early Childhood Education certificate.”
Maxine’s retirement can’t be called a complete departure. While she will no longer be at the Little Badgers den every day, she will return for the occasional day of substitute teaching. But only when she’s not too busy with her family enterprises — Maxine co-owns Evolve Fine Used Furnishings with Spring, and administers her husband Barry’s business, Columbia Valley Taxi.
“Montessori schools could be dry and boring, but Maxine knows how to make things fun and interesting,” Kathleen said. “She’s enthusiastic and brings all that energy with her.”