Member Spotlight Series: Northern Kentucky Montessori Academy

Member Spotlight Series: Northern Kentucky Montessori Academy

August, 2020

Member Spotlight

Julia Preziosi, Northern Kentucky Montessori Academy Head of School

Provided by NKMA

In our Member Spotlight Series, we interviewed Northern Kentucky Montessori Academy’s Head of School, Julia Preziosi. The mission of Northern Kentucky Montessori Academy is to educate children to become respected citizens of the global community by providing a Montessori education of unparalleled quality. In the interview, she gave us the background on the Montessori Academy curriculum, their experiences during COVID-19, and their plans for the future.

You are head of the Northern Kentucky Montessori Academy. What does Montessori mean?

Well, it’s Maria Montessori. It’s her last name. [Maria Montessori] was the first woman in Italy to earn a medical degree in the late 1800s. And because she was a woman in a very traditional society, the only people that she was able to see as a physician were children, and she started the first “care center,” so to speak, in the ghettos of Rome at the time. That’s how Montessori education was born, actually.

Is there a specific curriculum for the Montessori Academy?

Yes, there’s the Montessori Institute. It’s one of the Montessori training institutes in the country that you can either get a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in Montessori.

Would you have to have a major in education, or would it be a major in Montessori education?

Well, it’s interesting. So, if you have a degree in something else but you are looking to change your career, or you’ve been involved in Montessori in some other capacity, and suddenly you’ve developed this great interest, then you can actually go to Xavier and then get a master’s degree in [Montessori education].

With no educational background, like if you had a completely different major from the start?

Yes, that’s true. Now, you might have to take some coursework. But [for] the most part, you can teach Montessori. There are also non-university training programs at our school. It’s the only one in the state of Kentucky that’s accredited, currently.

Elementary School, Northern Kentucky Montessori Academy

Provided by NKMA

What’s it called?  

It’s called the Greater Cincinnati Center for Montessori Education. Sort of grabbed it up about a year-and-a-half ago. It had been a part of Children, Inc. in Covington for a number of years, and their focus is to do something different. We now run not just a school for children, but the school for adults as well.

Are you able to work from home, or did you have to completely shut down your school with no more classes?

It has been such an interesting challenge, and I am so incredibly proud of my faculty and what they have done to bring Montessori education into a virtual setting. It’s really astounding because one of the primary distinctions between Montessori education and other kinds of more traditional education is that it’s fun. Through the years, there’ve just been an enormous amount of materials created. We have always stressed the importance of hands-on activity and limiting the number of children. And then, all of a sudden, we were faced with, “What do we do?”

We’re a tight-knit community and a very family-oriented kind of school.

Yeah, when screen time is all you can do.

It’s all you can do. And so, our faculty has just been unbelievable. We’re using classrooms. We are using Zoom for meetings, classroom meetings, storytime for children. We are using Instagram. Each classroom set up a private Instagram group that families can join. And we’ve been doing that, actually, [before] the COVID-19 closure, just for the fun of it.

That’s a really neat idea, to have each class have their own Instagram to display their work.

Yes. A game that we’ve implemented for COVID-19, which has been a favorite of the children, is called Marco Polo. One person does a recording, and then another person looks at the recording and responds to the recording by making their own recording. And the children have just loved it because they’re recording messages to their friends. They’re singing happy birthday to each other. They’re showing things that they’ve been doing in their neighborhoods, taking hikes in the woods. It’s really been unbelievable.

Students practicing meditation during covid-19

Provided by NKMA

It seems like your students are really connected with each other.

We’re a tight-knit community and a very family-oriented kind of school. We have a little over 90 students, ages two to 12.

The other thing that makes it that way is it’s a non-graded program. This allows for a lot of individualized work. For instance, we’ve had three-year-olds who come in really interested in reading. If that’s what a child is interested in doing, in Montessori, you don’t say, “Well, you’re not old enough to do that yet.” Same with math.

They’ll go through what Maria Montessori called sensitive periods, and it’s a time of heightening opportunity within a child’s innate drive to learn something. You follow their interests and you take advantage of them. When their interest is high in language, you do a lot of language with them. When their interest is high in math, you do that. This allows for a lot of individualized work, and also a high mastery over a three-year period.

You also have children in preschool who are in the same classroom with the same teachers for three years. Now, the toddlers (2 years old) are set up a little differently. But the preschool is a three-year program and then elementary is divided into lower elementary and upper elementary. So, your first, second, and third graders are grouped together; your fourth, fifth, and sixth graders are grouped together.

This grouping also gives those older children a real sense of what it’s like to be a leader, and they also develop an unusual sense of empathy and compassion for others because they develop this layer of social sophistication that’s unique. Because they’re in a room with three-year-olds, four-year-olds, five-year-olds, they start to sort of innately understand the developmental differences.

That’s really interesting. You also said that the grading system is different than other schools. So, what would happen if your child attended a Montessori school, but then you had to move because of a job? How would you be able to put your child in the correct grade?

Well, that’s a very good question and one we get frequently. Just because we don’t grade children doesn’t mean that we don’t do evaluations. Our report cards are just long, detailed, usually the description of each [student’s] learning in certain areas, and they’re social, emotional [development]. It’s sort of like reading a mini “biography” report card. We just don’t do letter grades. The only testing we do is in the elementary program. We do a norm-referenced for elementary students. We have the knowledge and we want them to have it. It also gives us a way of looking at our children against other children the same age across the country.

It makes me think about when I was in elementary school and how I would prefer the library and reading over anything else.

You would be amazed at how many people say that. It’s what has attracted them to become Montessori teachers, or you’re a parent, and they’re looking for something different than a daycare center. They find us and they get completely captivated by our curriculum. They often say, “I wish I could go back to school and be a Montessori student.”

So, people may have misconceptions about Montessori schools. One example I read was, many people believe that Montessori schools are only available to rich people.

That’s an unfortunate [misconception]. Actually, Cincinnati uses Montessori education in some of the most popular magnet schools. I think probably one of the [reasons] is because many Montessori schools are tuition-based. You rely on your tuition income. But we also have a tuition assistance program that allows us to provide aid for any child.

Students cleaning a graffiti wall

Provided by NKMA


What led you to become head of the school?

The founding head of Northern Kentucky Montessori reached out to me when she was ready to retire in 2003 and asked me if I would help her find someone for the school. We tried to find someone. The problem was it was in her home, and she and her husband wanted to sell their home to move into a smaller place. After considering for months it was decided that I couldn’t let the school close. It had a great reputation. It was one of the few Montessori schools in Northern Kentucky. And for some strange reason, I could do it.

What do you wish you had known when you started being head of the school?

It’s been an enormous amount of work. I think, had I realized how difficult it would be at times, I probably would have been scared off. To be perfectly candid, there’s nothing easy about running a small nonprofit private school. It’s very challenging.

What are your reasons for wanting to join the Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati?

Oh, that’s really kind of an interesting story too. So, we are hoping to one day have our own campus out of the rented property. We were introduced to Andrew Lautz, and he is a member of the Japan America [Society of Greater Cincinnati]. He encouraged me to come to a meeting.
My goal being, we have as our mission for the school to educate children to be respected members of the global society. But it’s really hard to be global in Northern Kentucky if you don’t make a concerted effort to connect the community. So, I went to a meeting and met so many interesting people. So, that’s how that happened.

How would you like to engage in the Japanese community? Do you have any ideas, or is that still in process? Are you wanting Japanese children to join the school, or are you interested in more culture-related activities?

Okay. Well, we had scheduled a time for Saeki-sensei (Principal of the local Japanese Language School) to come to my school. And we actually, before this happened with COVID-19, we had a flu epidemic and we had to close. And one of those days was the day he was supposed to come. So, we had to postpone it, to have him come over. But we will definitely do it.

I hope he does get to visit the school sometime in the future. Is there anything we should be looking out for in the future, or is it just, we have to wait for the crisis to slow down, and then see where we go from there?

Well, I think concretely, what we hope to get back to, other than just getting back to school and working with the children again and, you know, we miss them terribly, will be to try to relaunch our main efforts and find a piece of property and be able to raise enough money to really plant the school permanently.

Well, thank you, Julia, for taking time out of your day to be interviewed for our Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati’s community spotlight. I really enjoyed learning about you and the Montessori schools.

Well, thank you for inviting me, Anna. It was really a pleasure to talk to you.


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Member Spotlight Series: Xavier Leadership Center

Member Spotlight Series: Xavier Leadership Center


JULY, 2020

Member Spotlight

 In our first Member Spotlight Series, we interviewed Xavier Leadership Center’s Director, Carol Turchick. She gave us the background on what they do including their popular programs Six Sigma, Lean Certificate, and Project Management.  

What is your position at the Xavier Leadership Center? 

I’m the Director of the Xavier Leadership Center. I’ve been at Xavier for just over five years. 

When was this Leadership Center established? How long has it been around? 

The Xavier Leadership Center has been around for over 50 years. The business community used to come to the business school at Xavier and asked for expertise from the faculty, marketing, econ, finance. A lot of times they would say, “Do you have anyone at Xavier that can help us do process improvement? Or look at our marketing strategy?” 

So, businesses in the area will come to you for help on marketing and business strategies and such, correct? 

I would say in our current form, the majority of the services that we provide our professional development, coaching, and consulting.

Is there a difference between the Leadership Center mission and Xavier’s? 

The only difference is that we focus on professionals that are not undergraduate or graduate students. They are already in the workforce. We help continue that lifelong learning and developing them as professionals. 

We have a very experiential format. It is not just content-driven. They do interact with people from other companies or in a private setting with one organization. They would do activities within that learning to have that experience to take back to make an immediate impact. 

Carol Turchick, Executive Director of Xavier Leadership Center

Photo provided by XLC

That’s interesting. What kind of students or clients do you get in the Leadership Center?  

We do professional development in two ways:

We have what we call our Corporate University. We have a schedule of classes in the Fall and the Spring. Anyone from any organization can sign up and take a class with people from other organizations. The benefit is you do learn from others outside of your organization, how they handle problems, how they do process improvement, what’s worked, what doesn’t. It is also a very, very strong network. 

We also deliver those same programs privately for an organization. The benefit is to take the individuals within your organization and focus very specifically on what’s happening within your organization or looking at how do you develop your managers, your leaders, based on what your core culture might be. Then try to figure out the best way forward. 

Why would a company look to you for help? They can always hire a consultant, they could go a different route; so why would you be the best option? 

I think we are a good fit for organizations and individuals because we are experiential, I believe. And also, two things. I think for individuals that come to us and want to take our Corporate University, they are getting a certificate and education from Xavier. And I do believe that it has a status to it. 

Our facilitators are looking at the organization from a cultural standpoint. We ask the deeper questions of why we are doing things and why the organization needs that intervention or support. Where do they want to be when we’re finished with that engagement? I think it is looking at the whole person, and you can also transform that into the whole organization. What are you trying to accomplish? And then, how can we take that business acumen, leadership skills, and process improvement that we provide and make it right for that person or organization?

We ask the deeper questions of why we are doing things why the organization needs that intervention or support and  where do they want to be when we’re finished with that engagement.

Minus COVID-19, we’ll have that question in a moment, in a typical day, what’s a challenge that you’re running into often involving either training, consulting, or any challenge in general? 

A challenge for us is people knowing about the Xavier Leadership Center. We have many clients and we engage with many individuals. We often hear, “Wow, I didn’t even realize that you did this.” Or, “I didn’t realize how flexible your group is.” Or, “I didn’t understand how flexible you were with providing what it is that we need.” 

I would say also, the challenges that we’re hearing, and that we’re commonly asked to help with, is that we’re in a unique time. There are multi-generations in the workforce. People are being asked to be in management roles sooner than in the past. So, that creates a situation where they have had less experience. Maybe not as much leadership development in the necessary skills.

We are asked, “How do we develop our managers? How do we have them manage others and be successful in doing that?” So, a lot of our focus is on that soon-to-be-manager up to that executive level. That’s where we find that we can bring these people together and have them experience the skills and the learning; these organizations feel that immediate impact. 

Xavier Leadership Center Team

Provided by XLC staff

What have you been doing while this pandemic has been happening? Have you been doing things online? 

We moved our Spring Corporate University to an online format. And we are so grateful to our facilitators for sticking with us and helping us. They are a part of our team. I will say, I feel like, for our participants, for them to be able to continue with that professional development during this time has been invaluable. 

I was thinking that it’s a really good time to ask for help. Because many people don’t know what to do, especially without the experience of being a manager. They might not know how to handle the situation. 

There is a lot of managing virtually and emotional intelligence skills needed. I would say thank you to our participants because they also have been super flexible and understanding that we also don’t have control. And this is not the way we would want to be. But they have also very much leaned into the programs, been online, and been very engaged in the program.

Having the transition from being in person, inside a building, to online. What are some things you’ve learned or struggled with doing things virtually?

We have always prided ourselves on engagement. So, having people in the classroom or a room together sitting and doing activities is something that has always set us apart. It’s the mind shift to say, “Can we still do that in a virtual format?” Because that is who we are and that is our brand. We have had to be creative and understand that we can do that in a virtual environment. And I feel very comfortable that we’ve been able to replicate that the most we possibly could in a virtual format. 

The feedback that we’ve heard is, “Wow, I didn’t know that it could be that engaging online.” But our facilitators have done a great job. We have breakout rooms. We have breaks during that time where they go do something on their own to kind of think about stuff, and then bring that back to the group.

We have no idea what’s going to happen in the next couple of months with the pandemic, but would you continue the virtual training even if the pandemic suddenly just disappeared, all back to normal? Would you continue using some aspects of virtual learning? 

Yeah, that’s a great question. We already had talked to our customers and knew based on the customer feedback that we did need to have some virtual components. From a time standpoint, does it make sense to do certain things virtually? I think the pandemic just propelled us a few years ahead. 

I do see the benefits of online and virtual experience. We found one of the greatest opportunities that we have is that Xavier alumni across the county can now participate in our programs. Their staff, teams and their company can also participate in the Xavier Leadership center to develop their employees and themselves. They could not do that before.

A deeper look into Xavier Leadership Center

Photo provided by XLC

Are there any new programs, popular programs, that you’d like to talk about moving forward? 

Sure. Pre-COVID, we did a very large assessment of what we were offering and then working with the business community to see what was needed. We worked with the business community, our partners, and we kind of shifted some of our certificates. We are offering what’s called a Manager Development Certificate. It is really for those pre-managers, soon to be managers, to prepare them to step into that role and be successful from day one.

We also have a Leader’s Voice. It’s a Leadership Certificate for those mid-level managers that are kind of moving into more senior-level positions, to understand the authentic leadership piece, and to make a big impact as they start to move up.

We have also revamped the public sector program which focuses on government, police, fire, agencies within the government. We had one prior, but now we have one that is separated from the business certificate and focused on the needs of the public sector.

We have a Women’s Business Leadership Certificate. Last year was our first year. It was 50 Years of Women at Xavier so that’s why we launched the certificate. We had 24 women in that program. It was a huge success. It focuses on mid-level managers and people who are moving up in their careers. It is a group of women who come together.

We have and have had for a long time more technical certificates. We have a Six Sigma Program. Six Sigma is a Process Improvement Program, very common to manufacturing and businesses looking at their processes and applying principles to make them more efficient.

We have a Green Belt, which is the precursor to Six Sigma, which is the principles of efficiency as well. We also have a Lean Certificate which looks at business processes and weeds out any duplication and makes that process more efficient. We have Project Management, which is one of our best-selling programs.

I would say, where our program stands apart is that for people who are not planning on taking that exam but just want to be a really good project manager, it is a perfect program for people to develop their project management skills, even if they are not going to be a project management professional.


I am curious when you say “facilitators”. What does that entail? Are they professors? Are they who that retired from companies that have experience? Who can be a facilitator?

It is all of that. The Xavier Leadership Center facilitators are a combination of business practitioners, people who have retired from companies, and have a subject matter expertise, and then in a few cases, we do have faculty that will teach in our programs. I would say we do want to work with people who have that subject matter expertise and have practiced that in the world. So, most of the faculty that are part of our program also have been in roles for which they are teaching.


So, Carol, being the Director, what are some challenges for you in your position?

Currently, in the normal, no matter what, the challenges are communicating how helpful, how engaging, and how much the Xavier Leadership Center can make a difference. That is getting to the right people, helping people understand. You know, you struggle with problems so much and we’re so passionate about what we do. We’re just like, you know, “Let us help.” We love it when we can be the solution to what companies are struggling with.

We are a very lean team as well. So, we’re very efficient, but small. We appreciate partnerships, as we have with you, to get that word out. I would say in the now, my biggest challenge is really how do we move forward in a way where we’ve had to learn a lot of technology which we did not use before. How do we communicate that this will be a very good experience that you should invest in at this time?

We have found that in this virtual format, people have to engage differently because you’re there. If you are in a classroom, you don’t necessarily have to show up.


Well, I think that being in their environment, at home, is probably making them feel more relaxed too. So, they feel like they can engage more. Even though they are with people virtually, in a virtual room, they are not necessarily in person so they feel more comfortable speaking up, saying things, or typing things, for example.

I think that is true. I think people are much more used to being online now than if we would have said, “Hey, we’re going to have a class online.” People wouldn’t understand what that can do. But I think now because everyone has been online. They do understand the power of that connection. And then you know, we struggled with what they were calling online fatigue, right? Where people are just online all day. And it’s exhausting. You are in a square online all day long. It’s a different type of tired.


Thank you for this interview. This is my last question: What made you decide to join the Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati?

We see the value of partnering with organizations that also have a mission to support the business community. We did have a relationship with Anne Golden. In conversations with her, we understood the value of an extension of what you are doing to bring to your membership what we are trying to do with those same companies, same organizations.

We know that they have similar needs and your members have a focus on, how do they lead? How do they become successful organizations? Also, with a caveat that they have different cultures that they are incorporating, they are focused in a very particular way on how they drive business, profits, and those types of things within their organizations. It’s a community, and we feel we have a product that can benefit them as well.


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”Senior Nihongo Conversation Table” enjoyed an ”Online Senior Meeting” for the first time. The Next Meeting: May 20 (Wed) 7:30 pm @ Your Home. Anyone 50+years young who speaks Nihongo (Japanese language) is welcome.

シニア会(日本語シニアカンバセーションテーブル)では、初オンラインシニア会を楽しまれたとのこと。次回のオンラインシニア会は、5月20日㈬ 午後7:30からを予定。50歳以上の方歓迎。会話は日本語。お申し込みは日米協会HP掲載の連絡先、佐藤さんまでメールでお問い合わせください。

日本語 シニア カンバセーション テーブル   
Senior Nihongo Conversation Table

次回オンラインシニア会 (The Next Meeting): May 20 (Wed) 7:30 pm @ Your Home

50歳以上の方歓迎。月に一度 話に花を咲かせ、若さを保つ集いです。


Let’s get together once a month. Anyone 50+years young who speaks Nihongo (Japanese language) is welcome.  Email Kaz Sato to join.

Senior Nihongo Conversation Table

Senior Nihongo Conversation Table

As getting used to joining a “Web meeting,” we had a 1 and half hour long enjoyable chatting last night. Most of our talk naturally surrounded the Corona pandemic status, how each member had been coping with the situation, reopening of businesses in Cincy and NKY, Japan’s travel restrictions, etc.
As for our main subject, Nishiyama san shared with us the story and her impressions of “KAIREI” by Ayako Miura. It’s a historical drama based on the facts in late Edo(early 1800’s) about three young sailors of a wrecked Kaisen (small cargo vessel) who washed up on the shores of North American Island after drifting for more than 10 years at sea. Captured by and forced to live as lave by Indian tribe there, then rescued and brought to London by the British commercial ship, they encountered with the generous Western society and the Christian love. It’s strict isolation policy never let them tread on the land of Japan.

足達(Hiro Adachi)


昨夕(5/27)、第55回シニア会を再びOnlineで行いました。Screenshotを添付します。(”Print Screen”が上手くいかず iPhoneで撮影)“在宅Dinner”に慣れて、1時間半にわたるおしゃべりを楽しむことができました。

時節柄、話題はCorona Pandemicを巡る情報交換など(各メンバーの生活対応、CincyやNKYのReopening状況、日本への渡航問題など)が続いた後、今回の主要話題として、西山さんから、江戸後期の史実に基づいて書かれた歴史小説「海嶺」(三浦綾子著)の内容紹介がありました。
(江戸後期に起きたある廻船の遭難、生き残った3人の乗組員が1年以上漂流の末漂着した来た北アメリカでインディアンの奴隷となるが、英国商船に救われロンドンへ、厳しい鎖国下の日本への帰国を試みるが日本の地を踏むこと叶わず。数奇な運命を辿るなか、若者が体験する寛大な西欧社会, キリスト教との出会いなどが描かれた感動的な小説。)