Twenty-five years and counting

For the past 25 years children have been entering the doors of the Foothill Progressive Montessori School and embarking on an academic adventure that promotes learning in a kind and calming environment, with an international flair.

“We started with kindergarten through sixth grade,” said principal and founder Padmini Joseph.

Joseph had taught in La Cañada when she decided to open the school after several parents approached her with the idea.

“I was going to open the school in Redondo Beach, but so many parents said they could not travel that far,” she said.

Joseph found a property at 4526 Indianola Way and opened the school in January 1984, with 12 students ranging in ages from 5 to 12. Later that summer she partnered with Kanthi Desilva to open a preschool at the same Indianola Way location.

“In my wildest dreams I never thought I could have a school and that it would go for 25 years,” she said.

Joseph said she moved to La Cañada because her brother, a doctor at Huntington Memorial Hospital, lived in the community. She was happy to find a place for her school so close to her La Cañada home.

The school has grown and changed throughout its quarter century. It now has an enrollment of 80 students and includes seventh and eighth grades. The preschool was moved to a separate location, at 827 Houseman St.

Joseph said that she has seen many changes throughout her years at the school.

“When we first opened we used to take the students on [many field trips],” she said. “But now with the traffic I think 100 times before I take them out.”

The students do go on field trips throughout the year, but Joseph tries to bring in guest speakers more to cut down on traveling.

Another change, Joseph said, is the relationship between the student and parent.

“Discipline has changed,” she said.

In the past, the parent was not afraid to discipline their child. “I am not saying [physically] discipline,” she said.

But now Joseph said that some parents seem afraid to set boundaries and children, being children, know how to take advantage. She added that at her school the students are taught respect, not just for others in the classroom, but others in the world.

The school has many international events including a International Feast, and celebrates the art and dance of other cultures.

The students also learn the art of philanthropy by helping those less fortunate.

Joseph started a fund for the victims of the 2004 tsunami in Sri Lanka. One of her friends and her friend’s daughter, who were in Sri Lanka on vacation at the time, perished in that tragedy.

Joseph let her students and parents know that she wanted to do something to help the victims of Sri Lanka. The response was overwhelming and in a short time they had collected enough money to build ten homes. Joseph traveled to the area to see first-hand the devastation. She said while she was there she was shown more homes that were being held up by rotting wood.

Her school chose to continue to raise money for Sri Lanka and to date have built a total of 26 homes. “We also collected for the victims of [Hurricane] Katrina,” she said.

To Joseph it is important for her students to understand the outside world. She believes that every child can learn, just at different paces. Some of her students stay in touch, many have gone on to professional careers.

“And they are all over the world,” she said.

Her students have won many awards throughout her 25 years in business and continue to test high in their state’s SAT testing.

When asked if she is ready for another 25 years she laughed and said, “I don’t know. I am 68 now.” She added that she will continue at the school as long as she can.

“I enjoy doing what I do,” she said.

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