The Earth Tortoise School

  A Montessori Community for Infants through Preschoolers

Community is very important to us. We hope to create a place for families that feels like an extension of their home, a network of support that begins during pregnancy and extends out until your child is ready to move into the larger world. We are an intimate for children 3 months to 6 years old. The infant and toddler ages are a time for free exploration and developing a sense of self. Infants are just learning about their own bodies and developing the abilities they will need for all later learning. Toddlers are coming into their own. They are learning their place in the world, developing and refining their skills, and asserting their independence. Preschool aged children are looking outside of their immediate community to understand their larger world, refine the skills they developed in the previous years, and challenge themselves as they move from the concrete to the abstract. The classroom is the children's space - child-sized, beautiful, and completely accessible to their need for doing things on their own. It is a peaceful place that gives them the chance to choose what they want to work on within a routine that is predictable and limits that help them feel secure. Learning develops the whole child - physically, cognitively, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. There are no "right" answers but only more exciting questions. And we love to share their enthusiasm with them in an attitude of acceptance, patience, and love.

"To aid life, leaving it free, is the basic task of the educator."

- Maria Montessori

Maya Rutkowski:

When I was nine years old my two sisters were born and I, of course, became their "little mama". Watching them play, interact, and grow definitely contributed to my overall interest in human behavior. So I got my B.A. in Psychology and Child Development in 2000. I discovered Montessori as I was looking for my first professional experiences with children. I fell in love immediately. Here was an approach that truly valued these first years of life and saw children as capable and intelligent. I received my Montessori Infant and Toddler accreditation in 2002 and worked in a Montessori school in California and then Portland for 9 years. The last 4 of these years I also worked in an administrative capacity, learning the importance of community, support, and a respect for one another. Because of my own growing family and my relationships with families at the school I worked in, I began to envision an environment that was a strong network of support for children and their families – a community that valued the same things, cared about one another, and worked towards the well-being of all. This was my basis for founding the Earth Tortoise School and I have been so appreciative of the families who have become an integral part of my daily life since.

Erin Tooze:

After working for 10 years in early childhood education, from your typical childcare setting to special needs classrooms, I finally found Montessori! This is when I realized the empowerment it gave to raising the self-esteem of the youngest children.  I quickly adopted a love for the method because it felt so much like the home I grew up in. I worked at a Montessori School for the next 5 years as a lead guide before opening the Earth Tortoise School with Maya in 2009. We have grown from a small community in the back of my home, to having its own space for 16 infants and toddlers and now expanding to include a preschool program from 3 to 6 years of age.

Miranda Helm:

When I was growing up I always had younger cousins living with my parents and I. This started my child care practice when I was just a child myself. As I got older these skills adapted from family to babysitting after school to doing volunteer work at a preschool located inside David Douglas High School. When I first joined David Douglas Preschool I thought it would just be a fun elective to get away from the more traditional classroom setting. Then, as I was finishing my second year as a preschool assistant and getting ready to graduate I realized it was more than a fun little class, it was preparation for what I wanted to do professionally. I was so excited to hear about The Earth Tortoise School and to be offered a job right out of high school. Every day here is a new opportunity for adventure and to not only teach, but to learn from these growing individuals as well

Jessica Parrish:

I moved to Oregon in 2005 and quickly grew to love living in the Pacific Northwest. I approach each day as a new beginning loaded with possibilities. Every person and every child is unique and I embrace the variety. All people, big and small, should be treated with warmth, acceptance, respect and love.

At fourteen in high school I had my first introduction to Early Childhood Education by enrolling in a Child Development class. It wasn’t long after that I realized working with children was my true calling. I continued in Child Development classes through all four years of high school and through community college. During my senior years in high school and first year of community college I volunteered with Boy Scouts of America and took on leadership of an incoming den of five year olds. I enjoyed working with school age children, especially the lesson and field trip planning, but my heart missed the younger ages. In the last five years I’ve had the opportunity to work in several childcare settings, each one bringing something different to my growth as a teacher. One of my previous positions was with The Children’s Garden in Portland. Although their method of teaching isn’t 100% Montessori, it gave me an introduction and I quickly knew this was my preferred method of teaching. Working here at The Earth Tortoise School is the perfect fit for me. I’ve continued to expand my education through the Oregon Registry Step Program and am currently enrolled in the Heart and Hand Montessori Teacher Education Program to obtain my Montessori credential. I look forward building relationships with our young toddlers and infants in addition to assisting them as they grow and learn how they can too can play an important role in their community.


Nena Dudley:

Howdy! My name is Nena and I’m studying elementary education at Oregon State. Prior to Oregon State I was playing softball at University of Mary in North Dakota— a career ending injury sent me home (Oregon) and I continue my love of softball through different avenues; coaching my niece and playing slow pitch during the summer months. My passion to pursue elementary education blossomed after I completed my internship working in Wilderness Therapy with kids. That experience along with ten years of coaching, five years nannying, and four nieces and nephews has proven to be the most rewarding. I’m a huge advocate of the outdoors and what they offer us so I spend my free time outside, backpacking and rafting/kayaking mostly. I’m excited for my time at the Earth Tortoise School and look forward to the many smiles ahead!