As a stay-at-home mom finishing her Psychology degree online, Nichelle Tanner Stephens (BS ’13) wasn’t sure why she felt prompted to add a minor in Business Management to her studies. Not long after, however, Stephens discovered the Montessori Method of education and saw the impact it had on her 2-year old son. At this point, Stephens began to understand the divine calling Heavenly Father had planned for her life.
“I fell in love with this method that allowed my son to learn at his own pace and that would teach without an external reward system,” Stephens explains. “This method would allow him to excel and move faster than his peers or slower than his peers. He would be free to be himself.”
When the owner of her son’s preschool moved away, Stephens felt prompted to purchase the school. She took a leap of faith and re-opened the school as LDS-based Montessori Early Childhood Environment.
“It was a stressful and faith-building experience,” she explains. “We have been successfully teaching since March of 2015 and have a classroom of 10 students. I now work 20 hours a week where I get to teach my own children in a classroom that feels as though I just walked into the temple.”
In her classroom, Stephens finds opportunities to incorporate gospel principles into her lessons each day.
“One morning, as we walked to class,” she relates, “we found a bird outside our door who had passed on during the night. The children asked to bury it and hold a proper funeral, so we did. While we dug a hole, we taught about the Savior and his Atonement—about how this little bird’s life was significant and how this bird would be resurrected again. We talked about our family members who had passed on and how we would one day see them again. How wonderful it was to include the Savior in this lesson and to remember where life and death fit in the plan of salvation.”
“For those who struggle to know of their significance, I assure you, Heavenly Father hears your prayers and knows you personally,” Stephens says. “He knows you and your life’s mission and He is always there to help whenever you ask for Him. When you step back and allow God to direct you toward your highest good, He will bring you only the best He has to offer. I’m thankful that I listened and trusted when I needed to. I’m thankful that I heard the still small voice at times when I needed it most. I’m grateful to hear it daily and to receive inspiration for the children in my classroom. I’m thankful to be part of the movement to bring Christ back into the classroom in ways that are most beneficial for a child’s individual education. Mostly, I’m thankful to know that we are all children of God, and that He loves us all.”