About Us

Our Teachers & staff

At Fountainhead Montessori we have high expectations of our staff. Seventy percent of our caring and excellent head teachers have over 10 years of Montessori classroom experience. They are loving, creative, respectful, supportive educators who know the potential and needs of the age groups they work with. Seventy-five percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and many hold advanced degrees.

Most of our assistant teachers have gone above and beyond the minimum educational requirements for their position. Many hold degrees, Montessori certifications, assistant teacher credentials, or have long-standing careers in early childhood education.

For other Fountainhead staff without a credential, we pay for them to pursue their fully accredited Montessori teaching credential through our own accredited teacher training program (Fountainhead Montessori Adult Education) and the California State University system. This ensures that we maintain a highly qualified staff.

Staff And Campus Support

Fountainhead has more than just committed teachers; we also have committed administrative personnel. Our administrative office is open every day from 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m. We encourage both staff and families to contact us with any questions or concerns.

Overview Of Staff

Fountainhead reviews all teachers on an annual basis. All teachers are constantly monitored to ensure quality interactions with children and staff, curriculum standards, and quality of the environment. In addition, each campus has a site director who oversees day-to-day operations.

After Hours And Emergency Support

If you need to reach us in case of emergency please call our main office number 925-820-1343 and follow the prompts. If you have a life threatening emergency do not call Fountainhead, call 911.

Memberships & Accreditations

Fountainhead Montessori is a member of the American Montessori Society (AMS). A membership with the American Montessori Society enables our school to participate in a vital, international professional organization that is dedicated to the assurance of quality Montessori programs for children and families, and the continuing development of Montessori teachers.

About Our Founder Sarah Zimmerman

In 1972, Sarah Zimmerman, the founder of Fountainhead Montessori, lived in Libertyville, Illinois. It was there that she began dreaming of leaving her career in public-school special education and starting a Montessori school. Fountainhead was born that year in a remodeled barn, the Quaker Oats Farm Hour broadcasting studio, with six children. It took a lot of elbow grease and her entire public-school teacher pension.

During that time Sarah was under the tutelage of Miss Domicele Petrutis. Miss Petrutis, a native Lithuanian, had been a student of Dr. Maria Montessori in Nice, France (1934). Miss Petrutis led Sarah and Fountainhead to a special understanding of the philosophy of Montessori. In 1972, Sarah moved to California, where the school was re-established at the old Orinda Union School, now the Orinda Community Center. It was at this time that Sarah met John Lindl and George Zimmerman, who became the pillars of Fountainhead along with all the other invaluable participants who have joined us along the way.

Sarah’s background includes an AMS credential earned at MECA-Seton in Clarendon Hills, IL, BA in Education earned at Drake University, MA in Special Education earned at Northeastern Illinois. During her career she was a university college instructor at Contra Costa College, UC Berkeley, Cal State Hayward, Cal State Fresno, Head Start, NAEYC, and national AMS seminar presenter, AMS school consultant, Fountainhead Montessori School founder, administrator, president, and teacher since 1972.

Contact our board of directors by email: directors@fms.org

Pressroom Page

Fact Sheet

PDF Version

Overview,

Fountainhead Montessori School focuses on nurturing the skills that power successful lives, and by doing so, attracts parents who want their kids to be independent, and independent thinkers. This allure is the direct result of founder Sarah Cole Zimmerman’s extensive work in special education, unwavering focus on maintaining the high standards of true Montessori education, and her personal, real-life parent quest to find a preschool program that would meet the advanced needs of her daughter.

Ms. Zimmerman founded Fountainhead in 1972 (starting with six children), while under the tutelage of Miss Domicele Petrutis — a student of Dr. Maria Montessori’s in Nice, France (1934). Fountainhead (a member in good standing of the American Montessori Society) now has four campuses in the San Francisco Bay Area (Dublin, Danville, Livermore and Orinda), offering a wide variety of programs encompassing the needs of children from 18-months to 12 years. In addition, Fountainhead provides a level of convenience for parents almost unheard of among private schools — including full transparency of costs (no nickel-and-diming, and no hidden costs) and customization of fees and scheduling to fit a family’s needs.

A closely held nonprofit organization, overseen by a Board of Directors, Fountainhead avoids active fundraising — to keep its independence and avoid conflicts of interest. Since 2003 the school has been run by its first pupil, Executive Director Shandy Cole (Ms. Zimmerman’s daughter), whose deep exposure to Montessori education, as well as an architectural, business administration and tech background, allows her to guide Fountainhead’s strategic direction; ensuring the school maintains its reputation as being different and independent, as well as at the forefront of Montessori education.

Programs & Educational Environment

Fountainhead provides an environment that can challenge a huge range of students, in an individualized manner. The main, age-based, year-round programs focus on each child’s individual development: Toddler (18 Mo-2yrs), Prep (2-3.5yrs), Primary (3-6yrs), Extended Primary (4-6yrs), Transitional Kindergarten/Kindergarten (4.5-6yrs), Lower Elementary (6-9yrs), and Upper Elementary (9-12yrs).

Besides these programs, academic offerings also include Spanish/Mandarin Immersion and other enrichment programs, as well as Summer Camps and Discovery Camps, and artistic, cultural and self-exploratory activities tailored to the individual needs of students, as well as before- and after-school care. In these programs, a child can make guided, but self-oriented, choices that: 1) develop the whole person, as well as intellectual and academic aptitude, 2) safeguard their ability to be independent and think independently, and 3) ensure that their schooling also prepares them for life.

To strengthen this supportive environment, each of the campuses is a dedicated facility set up to promote a child’s well-being and enhance the Montessori methodology. Also, ninety percent of head teachers — educators qualified to know the potential and needs of the age groups with whom they work — have over ten years of Montessori classroom experience. And, seventy-five percent have a bachelor's degree or higher, with many holding advanced degrees.

Montessori Teacher Training Program

To further spread the true Montessori philosophy and method, Fountainhead also developed a dedicated, accredited Teacher Training Program (Fountainhead Montessori Adult Education, or FMAE) — providing college credit, granted in cooperation with California State University, East Bay Continuing Education. Attuned to the scheduling and financial needs of teachers et al. unable to attend or carry a full-time course load, FMAE makes accessible to these educational professionals an American Montessori Society Early Childhood Credential.

Headquarters

Fountainhead Montessori School is a private, non-denominational, fully licensed nonprofit school headquartered in Dublin, CA.

Contact Information

For media queries and more in-depth information, please contact  Maria Gonzalez, Gonzberg Agency (maria.gonzalez@gonzbergagency.com, direct line: 415.930.9103), or Karen Kinney, Fountainhead Montessori School Director of Admissions (main line: 925.820.1343). For more information, please visit: www.fountainheadmontessori.org

Organizational Backgrounder

Overview,

Headquartered in Dublin, California, Fountainhead Montessori School is the embodiment of a direct educational lineage to Dr. Maria Montessori. The school was founded in 1972, by Sarah Cole Zimmerman in Libertyville, Illinois, while under the tutelage of Miss Domicele Petrutis — a student of Dr. Montessori’s in Nice, France (1934) — who, herself, had experienced, first-hand, the dangers of intellectual repression; escaping the Nazis in fascist Italy in the late 1930s.The school was born out of Ms. Zimmerman’s desire to maintain the high standards of the Montessori philosophy and method and her personal, real-life parent quest to find a preschool program that would meet the advanced needs of her daughter

The willingness to take a different tack, and the high standards, continue to this day, as does the focus on nurturing the skills that power successful lives. Now with four campuses located in the San Francisco Bay Area (Dublin, Danville, Livermore and Orinda), Fountainhead attracts parents who want their kids to be independent, and independent thinkers, as well as capable of excelling at life, on their terms.

Besides growing the number of campuses, Fountainhead has expanded its programs to encompass the needs of children from 18-months to 12 years, as well as providing a level of convenience for parents that is almost unheard of among private schools: There are no toilet-training requirements, hidden costs, forced parent work commitments or required fund-raising, and schedules are flexible to ensure they can be tailored to individual parent needs and budgets.

Staffed by some of the most experienced Montessori educators in Northern California, Fountainhead is known for its low-turnover, highly-engaged population of professionally qualified Montessori-trained teachers, as well as other educational and support staff with extensive child development backgrounds and qualifications (E.g., most of Fountainhead’s trained assistants have Montessori training above and beyond the required early childhood education classes.).

In short, the special understanding of the Montessori philosophy that underpins Fountainhead laid the groundwork for an educational environment that provides age-based programs and before- and after-school care, year-round, where a child can make guided, self-oriented choices that: 1) develop the whole person, as well as intellectual and academic aptitude, 2) safeguard their ability to be independent and think independently, and 3) ensures that their schooling also prepares them for the real world.

Besides this type of leadership ensuring that the school maintains its reputation as being different and independent, it also allows the teachers and other educational professionals to focus on doing what they do best, as well as keeping Fountainhead at the forefront of Montessori education.

Vision & Mission

Fountainhead Montessori School’s core principle: "The child’s developmental needs come first.” Ms. Zimmerman staked her entire public school teacher’s pension on effecting that goal with her dream of creating a true Montessori-based school — starting the school in a remodeled barn (the former Quaker Oats Farm Hour broadcasting studio), with six children, and lots of elbow grease.

Derived from a plethora of experience working in the public school system as a special needs teacher, Ms. Zimmerman’s wanted to enable parents to have a real academic alternative for their children outside of the rigidness of traditional US schools, or the “free-for-all environment” espoused by non-academic-based (experimental or pseudo-Montessori) schools, as well as spread the true Montessori philosophy and method, beyond the limits of preschool.

After moving the school to California the following year, Ms. Zimmerman created Fountainhead’s Board — the other two members are technology pioneers and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientists, George Zimmerman (her partner) and John Lindl. To ensure the school’s governance would maintain its mission and independence (and avoid the growing pains and conflicts of interest many private schools encounter when expanding their programs), Ms. Zimmerman and the Board chose to keep the school as a closely held nonprofit organization that does not actively engage in fundraising.

Along with convincing its first pupil, Shandy Cole (Ms. Zimmerman’s daughter), to become Executive Director in 2003, these formative decisions have resulted in the expansion of an institution that continues to provide the means for guiding children to become self-realized human beings and stimulating their inherent lifelong love of learning — in other words, nurturing the skills that power successful lives.

Stemming from a deep personal history with the school, and the fact that she too is a mother, Ms. Cole ensures that the school continues to fulfill its original goals. She guides Fountainhead’s strategic direction, as well as the details of its daily operations — dual abilities that are products of her Montessori education, as well as her architectural, business administration and tech background.

Besides this type of leadership ensuring that the school maintains its reputation as being different and independent, it also allows the teachers and other educational professionals to focus on doing what they do best, as well as keeping Fountainhead at the forefront of Montessori education.

Programs & Educational Environment

Each of the campuses is a dedicated facility that promotes a child’s well-being and the Montessori methodology, and provides a wide variety of stimulating programs as part of the overall curriculum, in addition to before and after care. Potential student families are encouraged to observe a class prior to enrollment, to see how well a fit a class is for their child.

The main age-based, year-round programs, that focus on each child’s development are: Toddler (18 Mo-2yrs), Prep (2-3.5yrs), Primary (3-6yrs), Kindergarten (4.9-6yrs), Lower Elementary (6-9yrs), and Upper Elementary (9-12yrs). In addition other academic offerings include Spanish/Mandarin Immersion and other enrichment programs, as well as Summer Camps and Discovery Camps, and artistic, cultural and self-exploratory activities attuned to the individual needs of students.

Classes are mixed age (based on developmental stage), and well supplied with Montessori and support materials. The teacher/child ratio is kept low — varies based on the age of child, toileting needs and other factors, as well as other assistance the head teacher feels is necessary. The curriculum is inclusive, nondenominational, and reality based, and school sites are updated to meet the highest standards. Fountainhead does not discriminate on the basis of religion, marital status, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity, and has a successful history of providing an environment that can challenge a wide range of students, in an individualized and tailored manner.

Educational, Administrative & Regulatory Infrastructure

Fountainhead is a member in good standing of the American Montessori Society. All teachers are reviewed on an annual basis, and are regularly monitored throughout the day to ensure quality interactions with children and staff, curriculum standards, and quality of the environment. A site director at each campus also oversees day-to-day operations. In addition, Fountainhead provides “floater” staff members who work in any class that needs additional support on a given day.

Fountainhead has a lower number of administrative personnel than is typical for a private school this size. Because of the collaborative child-focused environment, it is not unusual for the administrative staff to wear many hats, and help each other at Fountainhead. While the lack of fundraising has required the Board to step in many times over the years to support the school, Ms. Cole and the Board, as well as the rest of the administration, take pride in that Fountainhead dedicates its resources to classroom, teacher and infrastructure efforts.

Fountainhead is a rarity among schools in the Bay Area, as it provides a dedicated school nurse at the Preschool level (at the Dublin campus). There is also a full time, on-site Compliance Officer who covers, and follows up, on licensing and health department regulations compliance, and monitors all trainings and changes in the law to ensure compliance. As a licensed childcare provider, Fountainhead adheres to the regulations and requirements set by Community Care Licensing (a division of California’s Department of Social Services).

Teacher Training & Credentialing

In the continued pursuit of promulgating true Montessori schooling, Fountainhead has a dedicated, accredited Teacher Training Program (Fountainhead Montessori Adult Education, or FMAE): The FMAE program was developed with the scheduling and financial needs of teachers and others who would otherwise be unable to attend more rigidly scheduled courses or carry a full-time course load; making accessible an American Montessori Society Early Childhood Credential.

FMAE offers evening courses – in Montessori philosophy and curriculum in a classroom setting, as well as supervised field experience for student teachers in an approved practicum site — that provide college credits, granted in cooperation with California State University, East Bay Continuing Education.

For Fountainhead staff without a credential, Fountainhead pays for them to earn a fully accredited Montessori teaching credential through FMAE and the California State University system. In addition, FMAE provides additional educational resources for those seeking a greater understanding of the Montessori philosophy overall.

History & Timeline

2018:

Fountainhead implements Upper Elementary (9 — 12 years) as a new program

2018:

Fountainhead expands summer programs by offering Full Summer Immersion Camps for students ages 5 — 12 seeking an authentic summer immersion program in Spanish or Mandarin

2017:

Fountainhead programs expanded with development of new Upper Elementary program (for ages 9 — 12)

2017:

Fountainhead adds Discovery Camps (all age groups) as a new program

2017:

Fountainhead re-introduces Lower Elementary (6 — 9 years) to its line up

Management Bios

Shandy Cole, Executive Director

Stemming from a deep personal history with the school, Ms. Cole, who joined Fountainhead as its Executive Director in 2003, ensures that the school continues to fulfill the goals set at its founding. She guides Fountainhead’s strategic direction, as well as the details of its daily operations – dual abilities that are products of her Montessori education, as well as her architectural, business administration and tech background — to ensure that the school maintains its reputation as being different and independent, as well as at the forefront of Montessori education.

Ms. Cole’s original history with Fountainhead Montessori School began in 1972 — as its first pupil. So, when the founder (her mother, Sarah Cole Zimmerman) wanted to step out of the day-to-day operations to focus full-time on expanding Fountainhead’s accredited, college-level Montessori Teacher Training program, Ms. Cole needed little convincing to take up the reins. Besides this type of diverse, yet holistic, leadership experience ensuring that the school maintains its reputation for high standards, distinctiveness and independence, it also allows the teachers and other educational professionals to focus on doing what they do best, as well as keeping Fountainhead at the forefront of Montessori education.

Making greater her commitment to Fountainhead in this leadership role is the fact that Ms. Cole is also a mother. In addition she worked in architecture, was a Business Analyst at NetZero, Inc., and earned her Bachelor of Architecture from the California College of the Arts (1996), and her Masters of Business Administration from Santa Clara University (2004).

Debra Molloy, Director of Admissions

Debra began her journey in childcare in 1983 student teaching in her high school preschool program and had been working with children and families ever since. Debra studied Child Development at DeAnza and West Valley College, where she received her Teacher Center Permit Credential in 1994. Her career consists of positions that include Site Supervisor and Program Director at various locations throughout the Bay Area. Before the last 23 years, where she was the owner/operator of Kids N’ Art, San Ramon, Debra worked at the Belvedere Tiburon CDC in Tiburon, Child Development Inc. in San Jose.

Debra enjoys spending time as a family with her two adult children and loving husband, weekends camping, and staying active. She has been fortunate to be a John Knox co-op board member, CYO basketball coach, PTA board member, Reflections Art instructor, Raptors Lacrosse Asst. Coach and Girl Scout leader, allowing her to have many opportunities to enjoy her community.

Debra comes to Fountainhead Montessori School, ready to assist families in the admissions process.

Board of Directors Bios

Sarah Cole Zimmerman

Daughter and granddaughter of teachers, Ms. Zimmerman, the founder of Fountainhead Montessori School, never thought about any career other than teaching. This drive led her to earn a Bachelor of Education from Drake University (1962) and a Master of Special Education from Northwestern Illinois University (1970), as well as the Montessori Primary Diploma from the American Montessori Society (AMS), at MECA-Seton in Clarendon Hills, Illinois (1972).

Prior to opening her own Montessori, Ms. Zimmerman taught special needs children, over the course of ten years, in Des Moines (IA), Hartford (CT), Gurnee (IL), and Los Angeles County (CA). Given her experience in the public school system, she dreamed of starting her own Montessori school, and came under the tutelage of Miss Domicele Petrutis — a student of Dr. Maria Montessori in Nice, France (1934) — who led Ms. Zimmerman to a special understanding of the Montessori philosophy.

With this mindset, the desire to provide a preschool that would meet the advanced needs of her own daughter, and with the guidance of Ms Petrutis, she staked her entire public school teacher pension on achieving this dream. In 1972, she opened the original Fountainhead campus in Libertyville, Illinois.

After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area, she re-opened Fountainhead as a closely held nonprofit organization (Fountainhead, Inc.), to ensure it maintained the high standards of true Montessori education and its independence, forming the Board with her partner, George Zimmerman, and John Lindl.

Ms. Zimmerman also conceived of the Fountainhead Montessori Adult Education (FMAE) program. Her goal for this program was to create the means to reach those interested in Montessori adult education and/or an AMS (American Montessori Society) credential, but who could not partake in a full-time course. After many years as an active faculty member, she continues to play a role in its administration, currently as an Instructor Emeritus.

Although not part of day-to-day operations, Ms. Zimmerman remains involved with Fountainhead Montessori. She has worked as an AMS Consultant and national seminar presenter, worked with the North American Montessori Teacher Association, and the National Association of the Education of Young Children (Head Start), and been a college instructor at Contra Costa College, UC Berkeley, Cal State East Bay and Cal State Fresno.

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman received a BS in physics from Harvey Mudd College (1969) and an MA in astronomy from University of California, Berkeley (1972).

Since 1969 his career at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has centered on developing computational physics models of high energy density applications such as inertial confinement fusion. He was the inaugural leader of LLNL's Computational Physics Division and oversaw the development and integration into multidimensional computer codes of models to simulate laser transport, plasma and atomic physics, magnetohydrodynamics, thermonuclear reactions and the transport of photons, neutrons and charged particles. Since 2007 he has also consulted for TerraPower, LLC, enabling supercomputer simulations of traveling wave fission reactors.

He received the 1983 E.O. Lawrence Award in National Security and the 1997 Edward Teller Medal for contributions to inertial fusion science and applications. In 2002 and 2005 he earned the National Nuclear Security Administration/Defense Programs' Weapons Award of Excellence in Code Development. He received the Harvey Mudd College Outstanding Alumni Award in 2014 and is a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Away from science George has run ultramarathons, cycled SF to LA and devoted decades of service to the youth non-profits Fountainhead Montessori School (founded by Sarah Zimmerman) and Belasco Theatre Company.

John Lindl, Ph.D.

Dr. Lindl earned his Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from Cornell University (1968) and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Princeton University (1972).

Currently a Senior Scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) for the NIF and Photon Sciences Directorate, Dr. Lindl began his tenure at LLNL in 1972, concentrating on fluid instabilities and high gain inertial confinement fusion (ICF) targets. His ICF work includes: high gain target designs for lasers and particle beams, hydrodynamic instabilities in ICF, implosion symmetry and hohlraum design, high energy electron production and plasma evolution in hohlraums, and the physics of compression and ignition.

He is the recipient of the Edward Teller Medal (1993), E.O. Lawrence Award for work in Inertial Fusion (1994), Fusion Power Associates Leadership Award (2000), and James Clerk Maxwell Prize for Plasma Physics (2007).

Dr. Lindl is also the author of the book, Inertial Confinement Fusion (Springer-Verlag, 1998), a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and is relied upon worldwide as a resource for the science of inertial fusion.

Danville Campus

939 EI Pintado Road Danville,CA 94526

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DUBLIN CAMPUS

6665 Amador Plaza Rd. Dublin, CA 94568

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LIVERMORE CAMPUS

949 Central Ave. Livermore, CA 94551

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ORINDA CAMPUS

30 Santa Maria Way Orinda, CA 94563

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PLEASANT HILL CAMPUS

1715 Oak Park Blvd. Pleasant Hill, CA 94523

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Is Montessori right for my child?

Observe a class and see if Fountainhead is the best placement for your family. By observing a class, you will get a feel for the environment and curriculum. Feel free to observe multiple classrooms to make sure you have the best fit possible for your child.

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