MARA YARBROUGH – Elementary Support Teacher

Every morning, when I awaken and peer out the window, I am met by the stunning and reassuring view of the mountains I’ve known my entire life, the Sangre de Cristos. Every day, I am blessed to travel between the Sangres and the Jemez Mountains to La Mariposa Montessori, an inspiring environment where children’s growth is lovingly and energetically nurtured. I first grew to know La Mariposa as stepmother of Finn in 1997, later as mother of Ulysses in 2005, and finally as a teacher starting in 2006. I have a secret to share: the Montessori energy of La Mariposa inspires me, grown-up that I am, as much as it does its students! 

I grew up in the rural Española Valley, my childhood influenced by the Sangres, the Jemez, the Rio Grande, Mesa Prieta, irrigated orchards and fields, chickens, and free-range dogs. My earliest petroglyphseeking, cactus-avoiding, and swimhole-plunging adventures were merely the first steps along my lifelong pathway of learning and physical activity. Taking an enormous cultural and geographical leap, I attended Harvard University, where I received my BA in Literature and Language and competed on the track and field team as a thrower of heavy metal objects, namely the shot put, discus, and hammer. 

From Massachusetts, I catapulted across the country to California, where I helped direct the Berkeley office of a consumer and environmental advocacy organization. Though I enjoyed the role of educating the public about political issues, I was thrilled to soon have the opportunity to work with children; through the Oakland Public Library, I coordinated a program that employed honors students from inner-city high schools to tutor at-risk school-age children in several library branches. It was in this capacity that a light bulb came on for me: “Hey! Libraries can be more than just quiet places with librarians shushing over-zealous patrons! They should embrace kids, support them, help them find information and magic!”

Riding on the wave created by my discovery of my love for supporting children in their own explorations, I headed to the University of Michigan to earn my Master’s degree in Library and Information Science, focusing on young adult and children’s literature and school and public librarianship. Finally tired of city life, flat landscapes, and fewer than 363 days of sun per year, I realized I needed Southwestern sun, air, sky, and mountains and began my professional library career back in my native New Mexico. I was a school librarian for 2 years in San Juan Pueblo while I was simultaneously a consultant to the community libraries of the Eight Northern Pueblos. Segueing from direct work in several Pueblo communities, I spent the next 8 years as a research librarian at the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology Library in Santa Fe, helping researchers, students, and authors find the resources they needed. Nurturing my need for physical well-being, I re-discovered my passion for Olympic-style weightlifting and athletic competition as well as the joy and labor of growing food on my family’s organic farm.

Re-enter La Mariposa: During this time, Finn grew up and went off to college; when Uly turned 3, he began attending La Mariposa. Drawn back into the magic of Montessori education, La Mariposa, and children, I began to work at La Mariposa the following year, subsequently earning my Montessori teaching certification in both Lower and Upper Elementary Montessori Education from the North American Montessori Center. As a teacher and parent, it thrills me to see children grow their own passions and curiosities, and I couldn’t be more lucky than to be in the role of helping guide them. While I may wear many hats and am able to apply my experiences to my work with students, it is the children’s ideas, questions, and burgeoning independence that enrich every day at La Mariposa.