As a Montessori child myself and then a Montessori teacher, I combined my knowledge and love for Montessori education with my meditation practice and developed the Greenleaf Mindful Montessori approach.
As a teacher I was tired of kids always asking “is it time to play yet?” “Is it time to go outside yet?” “What should I do Ms. Vanessa?” I really wanted kids to be self-directed, and I wanted them to enjoy their time, feel challenged and inspired. I didn’t want to continue to look at the clock and think is it time for [fill in the blank] yet? I wanted to be in a beautiful environment that fostered happy, focused, and curious kiddos.
I created Greenleaf 5 years ago as a love project. I love to hear kids giggle in my backyard all day, find ladybugs in the garden, and discover how 3 is the age of a friend or the height of a table. I have learned to sit on my hands and bite my tongue as I watch two kids playing with blocks and work through the task of sharing or working together, or deciding to not work together.
I love working with a team of teachers that appreciate the small details and appreciate my “extra-ness” and I love that Greenleaf’s parents feel heard and have become my extended family.
Greenleaf has become my educational love brew and I invite you to explore it, come see it, or just keep coming back to this site to see how you can incorporate more magic and mindfulness in the classroom and at home!
Our philosophy is based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s teachings, especially focusing on the “Education of the Senses.” We offer a balance of age-appropriate open-ended exploration and more structured activity, always focusing on mindful and intentional learning.
We strive to cultivate mindful learners who are conscientious contributors to the world. Our focus is on educating the whole child, through a balance of cognitive, social, emotional, physical and holistic guidance. We value the individual and believe that all children deserve to be respected, seen, heard, and loved.
Using the Montessori materials and trained educators, we foster curiosity, a strong learning foundation where children build sensory and motor skills, lengthen concentration span, develop problem solving techniques, learn to care for themselves and to work with others, to name a few.
Dr. Montessori’s concept of “Cosmic Education” helps us understand our role within the universe in order to care for it and grow into kind, respectful and meaningful contributors to the world. We understand that each individual is unique and we embrace and celebrate the rich ways in which each individual contributes to the beautifully diverse world we live in.
Our mindful practice provides ample opportunities to improve attention span, awareness, emotional regulation and cognitive clarity.
“Free the child's potential, and you will transform him into the world” ~ Maria Montessori
Mindful Education incorporates an emotional, holistic instruction within all areas of learning that help form and develop the whole child. Having a Mindful preschool means that we are mindful in all that we do not just in an allotted time. By exercising the senses, the child will learn to remain present. By walking the maze, the child will learn to take mindful walks. By using “breath buttons” (little stickers we have all around our school,) the child is reminded to stop and take a breath and thus learning to pause and reduce reactivity. By exploring emotional regulation, the child will learn to recognize their emotions and welcome them without judgement.
The Greenleaf Mindful Montessori preschool approach recognizes and honors the natural gift of children to become fully present in each moment. When we feel the sun’s rays upon our cheeks or gaze upon the reflecting dust particles in our horizon, we become centered within our bodies and aware of our standing on the earth as self-sufficient and confident human beings, who are also part of a deeply interconnected world. Mindfulness for us, means to protect the child’s natural way to regulate , bring awareness to the emotional system , and pay great attention to the smallest of details, for in those lies the beauty of being human!
“The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn
The Role of the Teacher
“Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence" ~ Maria Montessori
The Montessori Teacher
The teachers’ role in the environment is to encourage children or “guide” them to explore with curiosity, by introducing them to new materials and activities. By allowing for self-directed study, children gain greater levels of interest and develop independent learning skills. In addition to the traditional Montessori materials and curriculum, the teachers develop projects that help children bring together individual talents to accomplish common goals. The Greenleaf teacher approaches all with curiosity and is flexible to make adjustments catered to each child's needs. They are here to make sure that each child feels respected, seen, heard, and loved
The Teacher’s Role in the Greenleaf Classroom is to:
Be a keen observer and help guide the child through the environment.
Model behavior and show the activities, rather than telling the kids what to do.
Protect the child’s natural process of exploration, by guarding their individual rhythms of work.
Be inquisitive and approach each child with openness and curiosity.
Help each child find their "voice" and celebrate each individual's unique place in the world.
Prepare an environment that is inviting + filled with age appropriate, challenging and intentional learning opportunities.
Highlight and focus on a mindful experience, with which they apply an extra layer of intricate awareness to details and the joys of the present moment.
"The instructions of the teacher consists then merely in a hint, a touch—enough to give a start to the child.
The rest develops of itself." ~ Maria Montessori
At Greenleaf, all of our teachers have received the Montessori Teacher Training and are also trained in Mindfulness.
We have a ratio of 1 adult for 7 kids in a small intimate setting.
Meet Our Team
Our loving team of educators focus on deep connections with the children. As a guiding principle, we practice observation in order to tend to each child’s unique needs. We guard the natural process of the child and focus on self-regulation and emotional awareness.
Vanessa Katz Raderman ~ Director
Daughter of a renowned pioneer of education in Caracas Venezuela, I was born into the first Montessori school in the nation and as such my love for Montessori is weaved into the core of who I am today. At 13, I began teaching ballet to the toddlers in one of my mom’s schools. By the time I was 19, I was running the theatre program at CEAMM, the Montessori Elementary school in Caracas. Soon after, I moved to the United States where I earned a BFA in Musical Theatre with a double minor in Education and Art history. Upon graduating, I moved to Southern California and studied Early Childhood Education and received my Montessori certification at The Santa Monica
Montessori Institute (MACTE accredited.) As an Elementary School teacher at the Santa Monica Montessori School, I also developed their theatre program and directed all of their musicals.When my children Luc and Abi were born, I searched for the right program for them and found EMM which at the time was a brand new Montessori school in the valley, a true jewel and magnificent hidden secret. It is there that I really found myself as a teacher and had the opportunity to collaborate with colleagues that influenced the educator that I am today. I became the staff and curriculum coordinator there and continued developing my theatre program. While my professional life was fulfilling and stable, I found myself in personal turmoil. In search to fill a spiritual void and find stability in my personal life, I came across Vedic Meditation and after practicing it for 5 years and having my life truly transformed, I became a meditation teacher under Jeff Kober.
After almost two decades in the Montessori classroom, a lifetime of teaching, and my love for meditation, Greenleaf Mindful Montessori, was born. I am beyond humbled and proud to share my labor of love and my own personal educational legacy.
Jenna Ballentine ~ Teacher AM Program and Pod
Growing up in Los Angeles, I was a Girl Scout for 12 years. From an early age, the importance of compassion and community was instilled in me. I spent much of my free time volunteering in projects around the community and spent my summers working as a camp counselor. Although I always knew I wanted to work with children, I was not sure in what capacity. As a student at Humboldt State University, I completed student teaching hours in the child development lab on campus and volunteered with the Y.E.S. (Youth Educational Services) House working with local children in foster care. Upon graduating from HSU with my Bachelor’s degree in Child Development, I became certified to teach children’s
yoga. In 2015 I became certified in Montessori through USMTT and have been teaching in a Montessori setting since. Additionally, in 2016 we took the Mindfulness training course atGLMM as a staff, through Mindful Schools and we have been practicing since. Although I honestly never imagined myself teaching in a classroom and I was originally hired at GLMM as an enrichment instructor teaching yoga, I truly I feel as though I have found my passion and my place in the world.
Personal Contributions to our GLMM way of life:
I am an avid reader and I am passionate about inspiring a love of reading and books in my students. I love to find new innovative ways to keep our language shelves updated. Some of my favorite moments as a teacher have been seeing my students put sounds together for the first time and the excitement they have when they build a word. It truly makes me proud to do what I do! Furthermore, I create a list of recommended books for our school’s monthly newsletter based on what we are studying that month (a continent, a type of animal, etc.) or just what the class has been loving to read.
Antonia Paniagua ~ Teacher AM Program
I was born and raised in the sunny state of California. I am the first generation of an immigrant family from El Salvador. At the age of 9, I started volunteering at my elementary school helping out kindergarten teachers and their students; it was one of my favorite things to do and to this day, are the warmest memories from my school years. Right out of high school, I started working in the food industry and stayed there for about six years while taking undergraduate credits in Psychology and earning my certification as a Montessori Teacher through USMTT. My mom was working at the time in a Montessori school and I would visit. Finally, when I had the opportunity, I decided to change my life and follow my dream to
work with children. I began my journey at Greenleaf Mindful Montessori as an intern in 2015 and ha found a home here since then. In 2016 we took the Mindfulness training course atGLMM as a staff, through Mindful Schools and have been practicing ever since.
Personal Contributions to our GLMM way of life:
I have always loved making art. The process of coloring, painting, cutting--making something I can be proud of. That is one of the best feeling anyone can have, and I want the kids to feel that as well. One of my favorite things about GLMM is that we have an art station. A place where the kids can come and express themselves artistically. Every week I put out new invitations to create. Seeing the kids so concentrated and working so hard on their art is great! Art is so important to me, and I am so glad I get to help all the kids find a way of expressing themselves through art.
Sarah Jett ~ Teacher AM Program, Pod, and Parent and Me
Being in the backyard at Greenleaf reinforces what I have known my whole life: I love being a part of helping children learn how to love learning. I was born in Los Angeles, California, but I have lived all over the United States. In New York, I first experienced learning from my peers and working together towards a common goal in a one-room schoolhouse. I have always loved to volunteer. I helped my aunt create her own program, Love on Paws. We brought rescue animals into Los Angeles schools to teach empathy and compassion with the students. I attended Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon for both undergraduate and graduate school, my majors were Psychology and then Elementary Education. I
was able to be in various classrooms ranging from kindergarten to third grade. I realized I really enjoyed seeing the children learn in small group settings, where I could see the spark of excitement and curiosity in each child. During the pandemic, I taught a small kindergarten learning pod in Los Angeles. In this environment, the students were able to learn and discover for themselves at their own pace. I came to Greenleaf as an intern while I was earning my certification from the North American Montessori Center. This is my second year at Greenleaf as a full-time teacher. I also work in the afternoon pod as well as Parent and Me. I am grateful to have found a truly magical place with great people while I continue to learn and grow with the kids.
Personal Contributions to our GLMM way of life:
I am still exploring all that Montessori has to offer. I feel my greatest strength is learning and jumping in wherever I am needed. I enjoy exploring all of the components of Montessori. I love the idea of the children being independent thinkers and see how the children interact with the materials. I also enjoy learning from the students how I can improve my own teaching to help them become curious and excited about their learning.
Maria Rivas ~ Teacher Aid, AM Program, Pod, and Parent and Me
I was born in El Salvador what seems like a lifetime ago. When I was a little girl, I would climb trees and pick fruits so that I can make a “pretend meal” for all of the little kids that lived in my “Canton” (village.) As the oldest, I took care of my five brothers and sisters from a very young age and ever since then I have been taking care of children. Life in El Salvador was very different than here in the States. I walked to school and played by the river. We made everything we had and sold tortillas from my parent’s outdoor brick kitchen. I came to Los Angeles as a refugee from the Guerrilla in 1990. I worked as a live-in nanny for about two years until I met my husband and we made our little nest for our 3 children. In 2005,
while still working as a nanny, I assisted Ms. Raderman at Innov8 in their after school Enrichment Center. It was there that I started working outside my home, assisting her with the kids and the theatre productions. In 2011, I was hired as a classroom aide at Exploring Minds Montessori School, Hazeltine and have been working in Montessori classrooms ever since. I love what I do and really enjoy all aspects of the care and implementation of the classroom in Early Childhood Education! There are times that I miss the simple life in my Canton by the river, however I have found a little piece of that joy and simplicity in the garden at Greenleaf.
Personal Contributions to our GLMM way of life:
The kids at school always know me as the snack maker and the Mamma Bear. I truly enjoy the creativity in finding new ways to serve healthy, balanced snacks and prepare them so that the kids can put them together themselves. I especially enjoy guiding the kids to be independent by showing them how to take care of their environment, serve themselves a snack, or garden with them. One of the things that I love about GLMM is how loving and warm the environment is. Here there is always a balance between comforting with a snuggle or with a job. Either way there is always lots of love and respect going around.
Sophie Timpers ~ French and Music Teacher
I was born and raised in France and moved to the U.S about 20 years ago. I have been teaching French to adults and children ever since. I fell upon the Montessori by accident when my first child enrolled in a Montessori preschool in Sherman Oaks. Soon after, I started teaching in the same school and eventually trained as a Montessori teacher. After having taught French in preschool for a few years, I decided to create my own program of learning French through music and composed and recorded my 1st album. Sophie & Les Petits has now released 3 albums. I am now teaching French and music enrichment programs in several preschools and parent & me settings in the LA area.
I love coming to Greenleaf Mindful Montessori to teach French and music and hearing the children greet me in French with such enthusiasm when I enter: “Bonjour!!!” Greenleaf is such a beautiful school - you can see the love of teaching, the passion for true Montessori education and the care for the child in everything they do.
Rebecca Stanley Train ~ Yoga Teacher
I was trained in Vinyasa, Tibetan Heart, Hot, and Kids Yoga, taking over 700 hours combined of training. I have been teaching adults since 2009 and kids since 2011. My passion has always been to inspire others to open their hearts and minds to their ‘svarupa’ or true nature—one of compassion and kindness. Through all my training and experience, the best teacher of these truths has been the journey of motherhood that came with the birth of my son Jack in January 2018.
“It is vital that when educating our children’s brains, we do not neglect to educate their hearts” His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.