Westhampton educator creates print and literacy materials that are used locally and around the world

WESTHAMPTON – While taking a break to adopt her son in 2007, Westhampton resident Julia Volkman began making her own teaching materials as she prepared to resume her job as a Montessori teacher.

When a friend suggested that he send the documents to a publishing house, Volkman was unsure of what to expect. But the results have been encouraging, to say the least.

“They bought everything I sent,” Volkman said. “All of a sudden, I had this accidental company.”

This business is now known as Maitri Learning. Fourteen years later, educators are using Volkman’s material from the local to the international level to involve Montessori students, homeschoolers, and mainstream students in their programs.

Volkman produces the Learning Resources with the aim of providing “materials that help children help themselves and (help) adults who care for children to help them grow and flourish”, she declared.

Volkman, who has a background in graphic design and medical communication, said she saw several shortcomings that she wanted to fill in existing learning materials.

Among the perceived obstacles that Volkman targets, all of the materials she had worked with previously had square corners.

“I once had a student… who just didn’t want to use the language cards,” Volkman said, “and I realized the point edges bothered her.

“I started going around the corner and she was using them all the time,” Volkman continued, “so my student taught me that.”

Some printing resources also used a laminate that peeled off quickly, so Volkman decided to try a slightly thicker material. She sent the material to 10 schools in the United States and one in France for a clinical study, and “there was a clear preference” among students and teachers for the thicker laminate, Volkman said.

Most of the material is based on print and literacy, with the company offering products such as maps, moving alphabets, and matching maps. Maitri also makes textile materials such as pouches for prints and aprons that students can wear during certain activities.

The resources offered are based on Montessori learning principles, such as teaching students about self-efficacy and allowing them to choose from a variety of learning options. The titles are inspired by different themes, such as transportation, dogs or butterflies, so students can work with materials that interest them.

“You follow the best interests of the child to want to do the job and kind of naturally be drawn to it,” Volkman said. “We give them a lot of options, and they can choose.

“The reason we do it is not only that it works with the child’s internal motivation, but it inspires him to do the job, and it inspires him to repeat the job,” she added. . “Repetition helps them learn the path to mastery.”

Aids such as vocabulary and reading sheets also come with a sheet showing the correct answers for an exercise, allowing students to judge their own work.

“This ability to judge one’s own skills is really important for developing self-efficacy,” Volkman said, “so most of the materials are self-correcting… kids find out for themselves how well they’ve done.”

Volkman was drawn to a career as a Montessori teacher based on her daughter’s experience at a school in eastern Massachusetts that followed the method.

“It was his school, and it was really meant for people his size and age,” Volkman said. “It blew me away that she was effortlessly happy there, learned incredibly well, and started reading on her third birthday.”

Maitri, which takes its name from a Buddhist term for kindness and friendliness, also produces its materials in an environmentally friendly manner, said Volkman, making its materials in-house from recycled or manufactured resources. in a way that mitigates ecological effects. impacts.

Maitri Learning currently employs four full-time and two part-time staff, and is currently recruiting for two additional positions in production and social media / marketing.

The company also has a new location on the horizon. Maitri will be moving from its current location in Westhampton to new office space in the former Strawbale Cafe & Gift Shop, which closed earlier this week due to the retirement of the owners. The larger office space will offer an upgrade from the currently “cramped” location, Volkman said, and provide more employee parking and easier access for shipment deliveries.

Dwight E. Schulz