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Elevating the Montessori experience

New SUIMA Principal- Shawna Steffler
Photo Credit: McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

Steffler takes the lead as school’s new principal

Shawna Steffler, steps into the role as the new Southern Ute Indian Montessori Academy (SUIMA) Principal at the start of the 2018-2019 school year. Steffler began her career at the Academy as a lower elementary teacher in 2005 after graduating from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colo. with her Bachelor of Arts in teaching.

“I decided to get my Montessori training in lower elementary and from there I went to get my masters in philosophy and theory of Montessori,” Steffler said about her time spent learning and understanding the Montessori impression.

The current mission, vision and concept statements of SUIMA highlights the importance of an educational foundation that each Southern Ute Indian Tribal child needs, while also providing a culturally aware and driven environment for the enrichment and promotion of lifelong learners.

Steffler believes in order to have grace and courtesy in a Montessori setting there must first be an understanding of the Montessori philosophy.

Taking a break from the Academy, Steffler moved to Denver and started teaching at the Monarch Montessori of Denver. When teaching there, Steffler expressed that, “everything came together because I just dedicated myself to Montessori.”

After spending three years away from the Southern Ute Reservation, Steffler felt that it was a good time to return. “We came back to Durango and I got my same job back, but now I was in the Ute language department,” Steffler felt that this position brought out the tie that culture and Montessori share. “Like a snowball effect, everything kept getting better and better,” Steffler explained excitedly.

Taking the next step in her career, she applied for the Curriculum Coordinator position that pushed her into an administrative position.

“I still get to go into all the classrooms and see all the babies and all the learning,” Steffler said about her position as the Curriculum Coordinator at SUIMA.

“When I heard that the principal position was opening up, I had so many people from the membership and close friends and family encouraging me to apply,” Steffler stated, while remembering how she began her journey to become the new SUIMA principal. “I’m really happy I did it, I feel like I can really make a difference here,” Steffler proclaimed. “With everything, I want the children to be taken care of, I want this to be a safe environment and I want more parental involvement,” but her main goal is, “for everyone to work in excellence.”


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