National School Walk Out


Virgin Islands Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy (VIIMSIA) took part in the National Student Walk Out on Wednesday, March 14, 2018.  ABC’s Good Morning America has confirmed that out of the 2,500 school participating, VIMSIA would be one of five schools streaming a live feed in Mountain and Central time zones. 

The #NationalSchoolWalkout, spearheaded by EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women’s March group that organized women’s marches against President Donald Trump across the country, calls for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. across every time zone on March 14, 2018 “to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods,” according to EMPOWER.

Peter Gruber International Academy (PGIA) students had the choice to participate in this movement or sit out - as it was a student drive initiative. "As a school that values peace, we felt the need to support our students and provide them a platform to voice their concerns - if they so choose" commented VIMSIA's Dean of Students, Michele Weichman. With the support of faculty, teachers and administrators, PGIA students coordinated a peaceful ceremony to pay their respects for the Marjory Stoneman Douglass victims. Almost each student took time to create posters with demands and messages of hope. Seventeen students volunteered to create posters for the 14 students and 3 staff members that were killed during the brutal mass shooting. Throughout the 17 minutes of silence, students called out the name of each victim on the top of every minute and displayed their posters to their peers - many of them mentioned what each student did such as: soccer player, loved the arts, etc. It was a touching way to commemorate the lives of all who passed, and it was evident by the tears and somber faces in the audience. 

“We commend our students’ desire to exercise their First Amendment right to protest as they stand in solidarity with the survivors of the Valentine’s Day massacre. The Department views this as an opportunity to teach valuable life lessons about government, citizenship, gun control and school safety,” Education Commissioner Sharon McCollum said in a statement Tuesday.  Mapp said he supported students who elect to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights on this issue.

“Sadly, gun violence has become a reality our young people, in particular, must face as victims and witnesses to tragic school shootings, whether in their neighborhoods or on their campuses,” Mapp said. “It’s important that we cultivate civic responsibility amongst our youth and an obligation to the common good is an important part of civic engagement" he continued. 

VIMSIA students would like to thanks Michele Weichman, Gloria Zakers, Michael Bornn, Pamela Engle, Dianne Love and all the faculty and staff for their support. 


National School Walk Out

The Story of A Dream

Students Marched on Washington while singing "We Shall Overcome." 

Virgin Islands Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy (VIMSIA) invited parents and community members to enjoy the Lower Elementary play "Martin Luther King, Jr.: Story of A Dream." Under the direction of Lower Elementary Teacher, Jess DiFrancesco, students not only studied the history and biography of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, but understood the significance of their actions and the ripple effect that it had throughout time. 

DiFrancesco explained how challenging it was for her students to understand the concept of segregation "especially the idea of separating everyone by skin color" she said. "Everyone in our class looks different, and if you divide them up by different colors, it's very hard. It was difficult for them to understand how to divide them up because of all the different shades. They understood what happened was wrong, and couldn't understand why people were treated that way, when they see that they are all great friends in class." Arielle Shackell, a seven year old student who played Rosa Parks, mentioned it was "fun and cool and amazing being her because of how she stuck up for herself."

Over fifty guests were present one of them being Dee Wilson, grandparent. Wilson mentioned "you sense that the children understood the importance of what they were reenacting and definitely got the significance across." With the help of Peter Gruber International Academy senior students behind the scenes, the play went off without a hitch! Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his speech, Rosa Parks was removed from the bus and a powerful reenaction of the March on Washington took place with xylophone accompaniment to the popular song "We Shall Overcome." 

Alumna Spotlight On Leah Trotman

PGIA alumna and former MLK, Jr. Award recipient, Leah Trotman, is continuing to make a difference in her collegiate life. She is currently a freshman at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, GA where she was the only freshman to serve on the President's Committee for Puerto Rico and USVI Hurricane Relief. It was Leah that contacted the President and Dean of Campus Life after these events to see how Agnes Scott could mobilize their efforts to help. She also is a member of several campus clubs and organizations and already holds leadership roles as a freshman. Recently, she was accepted and given a full scholarship to attend the 2018 Institute on Philanthropy and Voluntary Service as a participant in the Leadership Scholars Program. 

"Leah Trotman continues to make us proud!" - Elizabeth Elger


Leah Trotman

“Unlike other college students around me, I don’t shy away from large workloads in college. Rather, because of the level of work given at VIMSIA, I jump feet first into the work and take it one step at a time. VIMSIA has also taught me how to be an internationally ready student. I am writing to you from a hotel in La Antigua, Guatemala on a class trip. These are things that are now normal to me because of my trips to Colombia and China. Thanks End Session! I am forever grateful for my education at VIMSIA. I wouldn’t change it for the world.” 

Girls On a Mission

March 15, 2018 - You've heard of girl power and independent young women, but we bet you haven't heard of Maya Livingston and Amalie Zucker. These two Upper Elementary students at Virgin Islands Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy decided they wanted to start up a cheerleading after school and made it happen!

After asking their teacher Caroline Morrison for guidance, 10 year old Maya and Amalie took it upon themselves to write a formal proposal for Business Director, Peggy Hunt and find volunteer coaches to get the program started. Determined to start an athletic after school program, both girls presented Hunt with a very detailed and well-written proposal specifying dates, times and practice locations. "I was beyond impressed by these two young ladies. They are the true definition of a Montessori child - independent, risk-taking and determined. The administration fully supports their idea - they've basically already done all the work” says Hunt. Maya and Amalie mentioned that this was their first time writing a proposal and "it required, a lot of changes.... a lot!"

After attending a cheerleading camp over the summer, Amalie told Maya all about how wonderful cheerleading is and how it requires various athletic abilities. "One day we were on the playground and we decided we wanted to do something fun for after school" said Maya.


The girls are thankful to have the help of coach Keri Landry, Lower Elementary Teaching Assistant, as their after school cheerleading coach! Besides being a well-rounded athlete, Landry strives to empower youth and support her local community. "Cheerleading was an activity I was involved with from junior high all through college. In college is where I actually started competing. I also got involved in an all-star team. Both teams traveled around the country to compete. I agreed to help the girls out because being part of an athletic team is important and anything I can do to support growth in the community.. I will do it" says Landry.

Both Maya and Amalie mentioned how impressed they were with their first practice and how much they were able to accomplish. The girls hope that this will make people aware that cheerleading is not just girls with pom-poms and big bows rooting on sports teams, but a highly athletic and physically demanding sport. 

Congratulations Maya and Amalie!


Stepping Into The Limelight with Dancing Classrooms VI

On Wednesday, March 14, 2018 Peter Gruber International Academy (PGIA) 8th grade students stepped into the limelight during Dancing Classrooms VI culminating event! PGIA Director, Gloria Zakers opened the event by thanking "Dancing Classrooms for supporting our school and keeping the program here even after the hurricanes when we weren't able to fund the program."

Dancing Classrooms started in only two schools in 1994 with Piere Dulaine a professional ball room dancer who as a young person, had moved from Palestine over to Birmingham, England and really struggled with self confidence and self esteem. It was through dancing that allowed him to stand a little taller and gain confidence. When he was older and a young professional, Dulaine wanted to give that back to the young people. Today, Dancing Classrooms is in over 30 locations nationally and internationally. Dancing Classrooms VI has been in the Virgin Islands since 2009 and last year served 1,000 student - 5,000 students have participated in program overall.

Dancing Classrooms VI's culminating event was a demonstration of a lectured lesson. It was the students' 19th lectured lesson - keep in mind four of those were before the hurricanes- and conducted under the direction of Mary Capella,  teaching artist.

MYP Interdisciplinary Art and PGIA Visual Art & Art Coordinator, Jana Ferguson has participated with Dancing Classrooms for four years. Eighth grade students use their art period to participate in the Dancing Classrooms VI program. "Dance is a form of Art and as a Interdisciplinary Art educator, I try to engage students in as many Art forms as possible! Dance and Visual Art are fused together by incorporating Dance inspired Artwork.  This enhances student learning by encouraging research, creation and a deeper understanding of the dance, where it originates and what it represents" says Ferguson. 

"Capella has been a wonderful leader for the 8th graders this year" says Ferguson, adding "she has been flexible, understanding and determined through hurricanes, schedule changes, student trips, you name it!  Mr. Passerella started Dancing Classrooms VI at the beginning of the year, but after the hurricanes the program was put on hold.  The three of us together, along with our unstoppable students, were a strong team!"

Aside from teaching our students ballroom dancing, the program challenges them to get out of their comfort zone, respect one another and respect themselves.  The younger students are excited to enter the program and the older students love to watch and dance along, reminiscing on their own experiences.  It has become a tradition at the PGIA.

SOULR CEO and Founder Tyler Norris Visits VIMSIA


Tyler Norris, CEO and Founder of SOULR visited with Virgin Islands Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy (VIMSIA) students yesterday to discuss his entrepreneurial journey and deliver four donated SOULR solar powered carts in partnership with Changing Tides Foundation.

It’s common to see students and sports team sell water on street intersections but it doesn’t necessary out pay the cost of time, labor and ice – a problem Norris is quite familiar with. While studying Business Administration at the University of San Diego, Norris had a deep desire to quit his job at the Apple Store and start his own off-the-gird food cart business. After purchasing his first cart he wanted to start selling the very popular Acai bowls but had to find a way to keep them cold. Purchasing ice would deplete his profits so he thought of a solution and came up with the solar powered cooler design. Three years later, he has pushed the concept and is now working with various schools nationwide encouraging entrepreneurship and fundraising opportunities while also supporting hurricane affected areas such as health clinics in Dominica.  Norris explained how part of his inspiration came from his family: “growing up in a close knit island community in Washington State had a huge influence on my life. I realized the importance of community values when I attended college, and sought out to create products/ideas that generate impact for those around me.”

Norris led a small group of seven students through a demonstration on the build, engineering and maintenance of the solar powered carts while emphasizing the importance of entrepreneurships and how “we need to retool the tools we have to create better communities.” Norris added “don't let anything/anyone hold you back from chasing your passion. Fear often hinders our internal desire to explore just beyond the edge of our comfort zone. Don't settle for surviving, aim to thrive!” Students spent an entire class period taking pieces apart, learning about the wiring and different solar components of the cart.

VIMSIA is a proud partner of SOULR carts and wishes Norris all the best as he continues to build out concepts and systems that will change the world.  SOULR is currently working on with the Global Resilience Alliance, and a number of global non-profit/health organizations to build out Resilience Hubs everywhere. These hubs will exist to educate, equip, and inspire communities globally.

International Women's Day Gender Role Exercise

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In eighth grade design class at Virgin Islands Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy, students celebrated International Women's Day by completing an exercise that explored gender roles. Prior to starting the exercise, Ms. Jamie Truax, Middle Years Program Math and Design teacher, made sure not to explain the purpose of the activity beforehand. “I told each student to get out a sheet of paper and divide it into 8 sections” Truax said, adding that students were told they would have 1 minute to draw a picture in each section. Truax then instructed her class to draw a nurse, doctor, firefighter, scientist, astronaut, politician, gardener, and artist.

Afterwards, Truax explained that the purpose of the exercise was to explore gender roles in recognition of International Women's Day - a day intended to celebrate female achievements throughout history and across nations. At the conclusion of the exercise, data was tallied on the board. “We counted how many women, men, and gender neutral pictures were drawn for each occupation. We were surprised by some of our results!” said Truax.

Truax explained the results noting that she wasn’t surprised that most students drew a woman nurse and artist. They were however surprised and excited that most students drew women scientists, and were not so surprised to see that most students drew male politicians. The eighth grade class concluded that most people drew gender neutral firefighters and astronauts because they wear so much gear it's hard to tell if they're a woman or a man.

Truax added that “it's important to explore gender equality in schools and make it known that anyone has the potential to grow up and have any occupation. Doing this exercise was a fun way to explore how we stereotype without even knowing it.” One student said, "This was a fun activity to do on International Women's Day. I learned a lot about how we perceive different jobs".  

Happy International Women's Day!

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Seniors Invited to 11th Annual Peter GrubEr Awards

 Leah Gaskin, Kobe Potter, Ver'Nele Callwood, Vanshika Lulla, T'Leah Serieux, Nalani Figueroa. BACK ROW: Candace LaPlace, Silas Wisehart, Amoi Ottley

Leah Gaskin, Kobe Potter, Ver'Nele Callwood, Vanshika Lulla, T'Leah Serieux, Nalani Figueroa. BACK ROW: Candace LaPlace, Silas Wisehart, Amoi Ottley

RED HOOK, ST. THOMAS - March 7, 2018 - Senior students from Virgin Islands Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy (VIMSIA) had the great privilege of attending the twelfth annual Gruber Awards of Science honoring Dr. Elinat Segev.

Each year the Gruber Foundation awards scientists in the fields of Cosmology, Genetics, and Neuroscience, whose groundbreaking work provides new models that inspire and enable fundamental shifts in knowledge and culture. Additionally, one new scientist receives the Young Scientist Award – aimed to recognize brilliant early career scientist from around the world – which is given out by the foundation and supported by personal funds donated by Peter and Patricia Gruber. The award provides vital funding for gifted scientists at the beginning of their research activities, and helps enrich their work.

The ceremony began with opening remarks from VIMSIA Head of School, Michael Bornn who thanked colleagues from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel for being the first to reach out post hurricane and spoke about the undying personal connection between the Peter Gruber International Academy and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

With the use of real-time live streaming, Marshall S. Levin, Chief Executive Officer for the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science, welcomed this year’s award recipient Dr. Elinat Segev. Dr. Segev completed her BSc in Biology and Geology magna cum laude (2003), followed by a MSc in Earth Science (2005), and a PhD in Microbiology (2012) all from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She worked as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology and Immunobiology at Harvard Medical School from 2012 until joining the faculty of the Weizmann Institute in July 2017. Dr. Segev was accompanied by Prof. Israel Bar-Joseph, Vice President for Resource Development and Public Affairs, Weizmann Institute of Science through teleconference.

Levin highlighted the grand significance of this year’s Gruber Awards, since the original plan was not to host the awards due to hurricanes Irma and Maria. Additionally, Levin added that “although it’s the twelfth year for the award, it’s our tenth anniversary hosting the awards here” at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas.  “We talked about not doing it because the island is suffering so much" said Patricia Gruber, wife of the late Peter Gruber. Piggy-backing off of Bornn’s comments about strong relationships and continuity, Levin added that this was the ultimate sign of support to push forward with the awards, especially knowing what the entire islands sustained during two Category 5 hurricanes and mentioned "we didn't want to disrupt that continuity and connection” in spite of the devastatin impact of two Category 5 hurricanes.

The Weizmann Institute of Science is well known throughout the USA and the world; however, Levin touched upon the W.O.W’s “Wonders of Weizmann” educating guests that Weizmann has had two patents per week for the last ten years, has developed seven of the top twenty-five drugs in the world and is ranked number ten in the world (out of 750 institutions) based on citation index metrics. Levin stressed the uniqueness of the Weizmann Institute adding that "people are not told what to study or what to do... it's a research institute and graduate school where they work in teams."

Dr. Segev welcomed questions from the audience. The majority of the questions were asked by VIMSIA students, with the most significant question being “what advice do you have for females wanting to pursue a career in science?” Dr. Segev answered that there absolutely is a struggle and a significant difference between males and females in science – a male dominated field. She added that it wasn’t until her mid-forties that she realized the differences and how grateful she is to be working at an intuition that advocates for equal rights and provides various methods of support, such as forums and workshops. “Women in science do face challenges. When science is part of our identity, finding a balance is difficult. Getting advice from the right people, seeking supporters, working in an arena that provides funding and resources are all ways to find balance” said Segev, adding that it’s important to “find your mentors and do not give up. If done in the right environment, you can be very successful at science and at life.”

Patricia Gruber - a philanthropist with a forward-looking approach to improving the human condition - spoke of her late husband, Peter. Together they established the Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation in support of scientific research and human rights efforts, providing fellowships and scholarships. The prize program now resides at Yale University. Patricia mentioned “interactions with Weizmann are magic,” adding that while “working with a crew of creative people, anything can happen!” The common theme throughout the awards was that “Weizmann hires your brain and they want you to have fun” because no one is going to tell a Weizmann scientist what to study. Patricia added that “all of this, and all of us are a testament to resilience. Endurance is one thing, recharging is another.” The Weizmann Institute family cherishes Peter’s memory and his legacy of shared vision for the benefit of all humanity. The news of Levin’s retirement was made public by Gruber, adding how significant their work relationship has been. “He connects with people …. and wants to understand what’s important to you, and reaches deeper and deeper until he connects" says Gruber.

Given the close ties with the Weizmann Institute, VIMSIA seniors were invited to the private lunch following the awards at Grand Cru. PGIA Senior students in attendance: Leah Gaskin, Kobe Potter, Ver'Nele Callwood, Vanshika Lulla, T'Leah Serieux, Nalani Figueroa, Candace LaPlace, Silas Wisehart and Amoi Ottley

Lady Volts 2018 Co-Champions


The Virgin Islands Montessori School and Peter Gruber International Academy's (VIMSIA) JV Girls Basketball team finished the season as Co-Champions of the Interscholastic Athletic Association (IAA) league this season with a final record of 5-1.  
"This was a historic season as this is the first title captured by a basketball team here at VIMSIA" says Matthew Stocking, Head Coach. The lady Volts team practiced hard this year and their efforts paid off with tremendous season filled with great sportsmanship.

"This is only the second year many of the girls have played and their progress has been amazing to see. They’re a competitive group and always display good sportsmanship, even when things get heated and intense during game play. They were able to keep the intense situations light and fun with their positive mindset and ability to communicate effectively with each other" added coach Stocking.
Special mention: Adia Thomas and Chantel Carty for good leadership skilills and for their positive spirits that kept practices fun and energetic.  
"I look forward to watching this team grow!" - Coach Stocking