Krista Taylor ’93 donated a $10,000 teaching excellence award to her public Montessori school in Cincinnati to help pay for eighth-graders to go on a trip to a Florida Keys marine biology research facility.
That’s how important she thinks that end-of-the-year, hands-on learning experience is for students at James M. Gamble Montessori School before they move on to their high school years.
Taylor, an intervention specialist who teaches alongside language arts and math teachers, said people call her generous, but she thinks singling out one teacher feels strange and that the money never belonged to her. “Everybody is working so hard and we all do it together. We don’t do it alone. Anybody. It can’t be owned just by me,” she said.
Taylor, nominated by a co-worker, was chosen from 18 finalists as the Dr. Lawrence C. Hawkins Educator of the Year, an annual recognition for a Cincinnati Public Schools teacher given by Western & Southern Financial Group in honor of Hawkins, a former educator in the city who served on the company’s board. The city also designated one day this June as Krista Taylor Day, and she quipped that she celebrated by working at her desk until 7 p.m. — although earlier that day, she took some students to a City Council meeting where the proclamation was read, and they went out for ice cream.
Public Montessori schools, especially for higher grades, are rare but growing, Taylor said. Her school, with about 400 students, emphasizes varied teaching based on students’ abilities, collaborative group work, skills for social and emotional situations, experiences outside the school and responsibility. Students go camping for days without electronics, and they clean up their classrooms each day, push in their chairs and wipe cafeteria tables.
She expects her gift will help four students in each of the next three years. Only about half the eighth-graders go on the Florida trip, which is too expensive for many families at the school where the majority of students qualify to receive free lunches. That’s a shame, Taylor says, because students get a chance for travel, research and camaraderie that many have never had, some flying on a plane or visiting a beach for the first time.
“This is the cohesive moment to become that ninth-grade class. If you miss it, that’s a big deal,” she said.
Taylor, who met her husband, Blake Taylor ’93, when he offered to get her a Coke at Peirce Hall, included in her spending plan this quote from writer Alex Haley, which she first heard at her Kenyon graduation: “Find the good and praise it.”
“Many years later, I find myself continuing to come back to that and thinking about what we do when we show anyone, but particularly children, a reflection of themselves that is just the good. We give them a possibility to live into,” she said.