I recently read that on December 15, 1966, Walt Disney died and the world lost one of its greatest Imagineers (Walt’s word for dreamers and visionaries). But five years after his death, his greatest dream materialized. Walt Disney had envisioned a theme park so grand that it created a fantasy world where families could leave the reality of the outside world behind them.
On October 1, 1971, Disney World was officially opened in Orlando, Florida. Walt’s brother, Roy, presided over the ribbon cutting ceremony. In the midst of the celebration, somebody came up to him and said, “It’s too bad Walt couldn’t be here to see this.” Roy responded, “He did see this, and that is why you can see it today.”
What is seen today, Montessori Tides, an authentic Montessori School, was once only a dream. Retaining small beginnings is hard to fathom, especially in a place where the tide has been turning for 25 years and only began with four students.
In 1986 Kathy Graham embraced Maria Montessori’s vision for Jacksonville Beach, Florida. She created the first “Casa Dei Bambini” or “House of Children”, as we would call it, defining the classroom setting like that of a home.
Her first challenge in creating this vision was finding the right place. “It wasn’t easy,” said Graham, “I was unable to find a place to lease that fit specifications in recreating the typical model.” Graham is a woman who refused to settle for anything less than the vision. At this point, she was going to have to buy, which lead to the next hurdle. How to finance her vision?
After discussing with her husband, she proceeded against all odds and decided to meet with a real estate agent. Upon meeting with an agent, he shared with Graham how his parents planned on selling their home off 2nd Avenue to move into a nearby retirement home. All of a sudden, her affliction was eclipsed by glory when she heard the words, “I know my parents will hold the mortgage.”
This blog carries the title, “Humble Beginnings” for out of her own selflessness Graham sacrificed her paycheck for an entire year for this small brick bungalow. “I was happy to just pay the bills and put snacks on the table,” Kathy Graham shared, “The potential of this school was huge. It took much energy, faith and trust, but it was going to unfold.”
As the 25th Anniversary Celebration quickly approaches, we set aside time to reflect and honor one of Jacksonville Beach’s greatest Imagineers, Ms. Kathy Graham.