Home Local News Lisa Berry named head of school for Woodland Montessori

Lisa Berry named head of school for Woodland Montessori


Lisa Berry has been named the permanent head of school for Woodland Montessori in Madison.  

Berry, who was the first-ever Black lead teacher at the school, is now the first Black leader of the school in its more than 50-year history.

“One of the things that was exciting for me about being in the position of head of school was the representation — for all children but especially Black and brown children because representation is important,” Berry tells Madison365. Berry had been serving as interim head of school. “For them to see that a Black woman is running a school gives them great pride. One of the children said to me, ‘You used to be my teacher, but now you’re running the whole school!’

“So I’m an educator that stands for all children and loves all children, especially the early childhood age group. But more importantly, when I stand in this position, all children are seeing the representation of a person of color in a higher position,” she adds.

Woodland Montessori School, founded in 1970, is a non-profit corporation governed by a board of directors consisting of parents, staff, and community representatives who partner with families to form a caring community to best support every child enrolled. Families and staff work together, according to the mission of the school, with the child as the center of all decisions and aspects of the school operation. 

Berry has been with Woodland since 2012.

“I was teaching at Crestwood [Elementary School on Madison’s west side] in their after-school program and a parent in that particular program said, ‘I feel like there’s a better fit for you.’  I had just recently moved here from Germantown, Tennessee, to Madison,” Berry recalls. “The parent said that they thought there was a better fit here for me in the community and they recommended me to come to Woodland because at the time the former head of school and her were good friends.”

Berry arrived for a working interview and says that she instantly fell in love.

“I first fell in love with the children because Montessori is different from public schools in the sense of the children having the independence to enjoy the room and so that just attracted me to see children just so engaged in work during this working interview,” Berry says.

“I knew when I came to Madison that they were having some racial issues, especially in education, and I started forming the diversity and equity committee here at Woodland in 2012 along with a group of teachers, admin, and parents,” she adds. “Now for 10 years, we’ve been going strong in this diversity and equity committee. I then went on to become the diversity and equity specialist for Woodland and then got my Montessori certification.”

Berry would then become a lead teacher before becoming the interim head of school and now the permanent head of school. “I have had quite a journey here,” she says. “And I love it.

We’re looking to continue our campaign in raising funds to build onto our school so that the three-to-six program could be extended a little and that the toddler program could be expanded … that’s my biggest goal,” she adds. “Also, 10 years ago when I first came here, we created a diversity and equity statement. We’re going to relook at that and add the word ‘belonging.’  It is a goal to create an atmosphere that is welcoming. We want folks to feel welcome, but we also want them to feel like they belong within such a beautiful environment of caring, love and family. We will continue focusing on that as well as bringing in that word ‘belonging.'”