Jill Harkaway 

Director and Lead Teacher at the Peninsula Preschool in Ephraim, Wisconsin 

I began my career as an Orff Shulwerk-trained early childhood music educator in 1990. Inspired by the Montessori school my children attended, I realized that I had found a home and purpose within the Montessori philosophy. In 1999, I completed Montessori primary training and worked as a Directress of 3-6-year-old children for the next 20 years.  

In 2018, I began work at the Peninsula Preschool and found new inspiration as an educator. By bringing together the free play curriculum already in place at the school with the carefully prepared environment of a Montessori classroom we created a free choice, creative classroom which respects each child as an individual and builds confidence and skills through the joy of play. Loose parts play, process art, and practical life skills proved to be perfect additions to the play-based classroom. By establishing partnerships with extraordinary non-profit groups in our rural community, we extended our reach through hands-on instruction with experts, on-site in the forest and the art studio. We enjoy regular visits to a nature sanctuary where we learn about the local plants and animals across the changing seasons through immersion in the forest with an early childhood environmental educator, thereby developing stewardship and joy in the natural beauty. Monthly visits to the Peninsula School of Art give the children the opportunity to work in a professional art studio using the highest quality media and instruction for exploration and self-discovery.  

Respect is the foundation of my work with children. I believe all children are gifted, and it is my goal to encourage and allow these gifts to be revealed and developed. The Montessori Directress, who was my mentor, worked every day to be a better teacher than the day before. I am most proud of continuing to search for new information and opportunities to help me grow and better serve the children. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks! 

I would like to see the spirit of the preschool child protected through respect, play, and free choice. Childhood is so brief that the greatest gift we can give is patience, the joy of discovery, and to nurture a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.