When Bellingham’s Childlife Montessori School opens the doors to its final year this month, Kathie Wilson will begin her 41st year of teaching. Her career in education has come full circle, beginning and ending in Bellingham. After attending Western Washington University, she moved to Seattle and discovered the Montessori Method of education and was quickly certified. To Wilson, the Montessori classroom style is respectful and insightful, offering children a more individualized education during their early years in school.
Soon, Wilson returned to Bellingham with a passion to teach. “Bellingham called me back, but, in order to teach, I had to open a [Montessori] school,” she said. In 1980, Wilson and her husband Steve opened Childlife Montessori, located on the couple’s property. After the 2017–18 school year, the couple will retire the school after 38 years of educating. The school has been a place where children can begin their careers as “lifelong learners,” Wilson said. Childlife Montessori School follows the Montessori Method with mixed-aged classes for 3- to 6-year-olds who participate in a wide-range of hands-on learning activities. One of her favorite subjects to teach is botany. “I love teaching the kids about the wonders of the world around them,” she said. The Childlife Montessori School houses a large garden for just such learning.
Beyond her work as a founder at Childlife Montessori School, Wilson spends much of her time volunteering. She was on the founding board for Sustainable Connections, a Bellingham nonprofit that promotes local businesses, and has been volunteering at the Bellingham Public Library for years in the Friends of the Library program. In 2010, Wilson was inducted in the YWCA’s Northwest Women’s Hall of Fame for her commitment to education and environmental stewardship.
“I’m just so grateful,” she said. “You know, you go along doing your best, you don’t expect to be recognized, but it is sweet when you do.” She plans to continue devoting herself to nonprofits, volunteering, and spending plenty of time outdoors after retiring next spring.