As you know, our long-time Head of School, Karen Wilson, announced that she will be departing at the end of the school year. The Board has been diligently working since we made the announcement to the community to find a remarkable leader to assume the role of Head of School effective July 1, 2019. As we indicated to you in our letter, our decision was to evaluate internal candidates first. The day after our announcement was sent out, Julie Smith quickly presented herself as an interested candidate. Her role as Co-Founder of SMS, former teacher, and Board Member made it easy to consider her an internal candidate. We consulted with the other candidate and with Karen and all were supportive of this choice to interview Julie.

It is with great excitement that we announce that the Head of School, effective July 1st, will be Julie Smith. Julie currently serves as the Director of the Lower School at Summit and the Director of Parent Learning, and she will remain in that role through the end of this school year. We are equally as excited to announce that Catherine Greene will remain as the Assistant Head of School and Lead Toddler Teacher. Julie and Catherine are an incredible duo with complementary skillsets, and we could not be more delighted to have them combining forces to lead Salem Montessori School. Karen Wilson will be missed, but she has expressed her delight and full confidence in the administrative leadership team that SMS will have going forward.

Many in our community may be familiar with Julie, but for those who are not, here is some background information on her: Montessori Philosophy has played an important role in Julie’s life. At the age of 16, she began working at a Montessori school in New Orleans. This is when she knew she wanted to become a Montessori teacher. The simplicity and beauty of the environment and the way adults honored and respected children captivated her. Building meaningful relationships with very young children is one of the greatest joys of her life. Julie earned her BA in Early Childhood & Elementary Education with a minor in English from Furman University and her M.Ed in Counseling from UNC-Charlotte where her research centered on parent education. She also earned her certificate in Montessori Education from the Montessori Center of New England and began her career teaching in early childhood in Charlotte, North Carolina at Countryside Montessori. She worked at three other Montessori schools where she served in roles from classroom teacher, explorers teacher, curriculum coordinator, admissions director, and director of parent learning. In 1999, Julie opened a tiny Montessori co-op in her basement and named it Salem Montessori. In 2001, Karen took the courageous step of moving Salem Montessori to Highland Presbyterian. Under Karen’s thoughtful leadership and with her relentless energy, the school has grown to what it is today. Julie taught at SMS for six years and served on the board for seven years.

Julie is currently the Director of Lower School at Summit School, working with students age three through ten. This role has given her invaluable training in what it means to lead a school community. Julie serves on the board of Kaleideum where she chairs the sub-committee on diversity and inclusion and is a sustainer in the Junior League of Winston-Salem. Recently she served a 4 year term on the READW/S board. She is an active member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, serving on the adult education committee, teaching adult Sunday School, anhelping with the children’s ministry.

When she has free time Julie loves to practice yoga and is close to competing her 200 hour teacher training, and has studied meditation. She has also taken classes through Mindful Schools to learn how to apply this work in a school setting. Currently she is working on becoming a certified teacher of the Enneagram, a tool that reveals personality types. She loves nature and taking long walks. She also likes to travel, cook, entertain and read. A lifelong learner, Julie likes to find out anything and everything about the world.

Julie is married to Tim Smith, a pediatric anesthesiologist at Brenner Children’s Hospital and they have three children. Carolyn teaches English at Forsyth Country Day, Timothy is training to be a nuclear submarine officer after graduating from the United States Naval Academy, and David is a junior at the University of Chapel Hill. All three attended Montessori schools and consider themselves to be “Montessori children.” In fact, all five Smiths refer to themselves as a “Montessori family.” Additionally, Julie has a wonderful son-in-law, Cameron, who is doing his residency in anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Hospital.

Julie says that returning to Salem Montessori is exciting. Being able to collaborate and carry on Karen’s legacy is a dream come true. Julie looks forward to getting to know the families, teachers and students at SMS. One of her favorite quotes from Maria Montessori says, “Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole, which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future.” The important work of Salem Montessori is creating this kind of future filled with possibilities.

In many ways this transition could not be more of a complete circle for Karen, who also had some sentiments to share about Julie re-joining the Salem Montessori Community: While living in Charlotte in 1985, I met Julie Smith. She was a Montessori teacher and I was the Director of Outreach at a local church. I was intrigued by her descriptions of her classroom and asked if I could visit. What I observed that day changed my life. Because of Julie’s inspiration, several years later I decided to get my Montessori teacher training. She was instrumental in helping me through the training and served as a mentor in my early years of teaching. Together we laid the foundation for Salem Montessori School. Through the years she has been a great support for SMS, as a teacher and board member. I am overjoyed that she will be stepping into the Head of School position and it makes me exceedingly glad that she will be bringing her talents and energy to our school. I know that her leadership will greatly benefit the children, families, staff, and board.

We hope that you will join us in extending a warm welcome to Julie Smith and in celebrating Karen Wilson as she relishes her last few months at Salem Montessori School. It is truly a beautiful situation to be bringing back one of our co-founders to SMS.

JoAnn White
SMS Board Chair