Kahn Mason Award

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Hilltop Montessori School honors outstanding contributions to the school with the Kahn Mason Award.

In 2017, Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason were the namesakes and first recipients of the award. This award is to honor those in our school community who truly leave their mark on our school as Wolf and Emily have done, not only with philanthropic contributions, but also gifts of talent and time.

2022 Recipient

Paul Dedell

Paul Dedell joined Hilltop Montessori School first as a parent volunteer when his daughter Sydney began as a middle school student. In 1998 he began to work more officially helping with the “performance” which has continued to be a spectacular component of the MS curriculum, enabling students to demonstrate their creative understanding of the full year’s curriculum through musical compositions, theatrics, and more. Paul soon took on the Humanities teacher role and by 2003 was the MS Director. Through his leadership, Hilltop’s Middle School became one of the first authentic, fully enrolled Montessori Middle Schools in the country, and has remained the bow on the package of a Hilltop Montessori School educational experience. 

Paul’s passion for the American Naturalists, the Civil Rights movement, singing, and composing, along with his high standards for student writing, have been mainstays of our program. In his more than 24 years with our school, he has been a steady hand directing the Middle School. 

The culminating event of the middle school’s Civil Rights Movement study was always a trip to Alabama – to meet the people who were part of the movement then and now.  Paul connected the class with amazing historical and contemporary figures – from Rev. Congressman John Lewis to Charlie Lucas (also known as “The Tin Man”). Paul was presented with a Charlie Lucas original work as part of the Khan Mason award this year.  This painting was acquired directly from The Tin Man himself at his amazingly eclectic studio in Pink Lily, Alabama. The Tin Man named this work “The Wheel of Time” which fits so well with Paul’s consistent message that the hope and responsibility to carry on this work resides in each one of us.

And, he has left with the program in good hands. He mentored and trained the team to continue and they will evolve the curriculum and the program further, as he always worked to do. 

2021 Recipient (retroactively awarded in 2022)

Lauren Campbell

Lauren became a part of Hilltop Montessori School when she and her family moved to Brattleboro in 1992. In 1995 she began working at the Front Desk and immediately became the central hub of the school when it was located on Maple Street. After Lauren’s first year in administration, Tonia Wheeler, founding Head of School, wrote, “I have been grateful, grateful for all the wondrous miracles Lauren has wrought at Hilltop this year. It is such a relief to have systems that actually work, to be able to find what I need – and better to know I can ask her for anything! . Above all it is simply a pleasurable experience to work with  Lauren .  . . a huge thanks for her presence!”

In 2001 Lauren began as the first Admissions Director and developed the department from the ground up. She analyzed every enrollment and class configuration with love and care, acknowledging the complexities of each class makeup and balancing the needs of the budget with a variety of educational considerations. 

When Tamara Mount started as Head of School in 2013, Lauren was invaluable in supporting her move into the role. Tamara remembers Lauren helping her get settled both personally and professionally, and is eternally grateful for all the support she provided. “Lauren is amazingly capable and humble, wanting to work behind the scenes and make the school shine. Though she was in the admissions role for 20 years, she continued to analyze the school’s position in the market with fresh eyes and was always on the lookout for more opportunities to reach additional families. She continually strove to determine how we as a school could welcome a broader spectrum of children. In 2018 she took on a complete reconfiguration of our financial support to families by developing our “Indexed Tuition” program. This was a reframing of our financial aid to acknowledge and better publicize the school and state funding that we were increasingly using to enable more families to access our authentic Montessori education.”

For years, Lauren has been the “institutional glue” and historical knowledge base for all things Hilltop. Her memory for alum families has been invaluable over the years, especially now as we embark on the preparations for our 50th Anniversary celebrations. 

Lauren segued out of her Admissions Director role during the 2020-21 school year, transitioning her responsibilities to Zoe Proctor. Lauren has known Zoe from her birth through graduating Hilltop, moving out in the world, and then returning and growing into the Admissions role. “I have known Lauren my entire life, and am grateful to have been able to build such a multifaceted relationship with her over the years. I so appreciate her unwavering and long-standing dedication to Hilltop and its community, and everything that comes along with that – much of which has been vital to the success of the school and gone unseen by most. I could not have asked for a better mentor during my transition to Admissions!” 

During COVID, Lauren snuck out without much of a retirement acknowledgement, and now we are stepping up to honor Lauren in this way. With deep appreciation for ALL Lauren has done for Hilltop, we thank Lauren Campbell! Hilltop would not be where or what it is today without her.

2019 Recipient

The Copper Beech Foundation, INC

A Hilltop family through their Copper Beech Foundation have been amazing supporters of Hilltop Montessori School. Beginning in 2011 with the donation and installation of sound proofing panels in the classrooms of our main building, Dave Snyder and his family have been transformative for our school. His parents visited the school in 2012 as we were embarking on the Arts Barn project. Their donation made the dream of a state-of-the-art theater, gymnasium, and music room possible. Through the Copper Beech Foundation the family also contributes annually to our operating budget. They have also given donations that enabled us to pay off our mortgage on the buildings and get a significant start on our goal of a $5M endowment. All of this financial support has a significant impact on our annual operating budget and enables us to help “level the playing field” and support an increased economic diversity in our student population.

Clearly these gifts have been transformative and we would not be able to provide our programs and facilities to our population of families without the support they have given and continue to give.
To honor them, we planted a copper beech tree that will grow to enhance the view from the Middle School and from the hill where we traditionally hold the Peace Day Ceremony in September, and the Bead Ceremony in June. In keeping with the Bead Ceremony, where we celebrate each group completing their three year program, we had the Olders from CH, LE, UE, and MS take part in planting the tree. The MS graduates dug the whole, the UE graduates placed the tree in the hole, the LE graduates filled in around the tree, and the CH graduates watered the newly planted tree. It was a community event in celebration and gratitude to all the Snyders have made possible here at Hilltop Montessori School.
2018 Recipient

Tonia Wheeler

In May of 2018, Hilltop celebrated our founding Head of School, Tonia Wheeler, with the Kahn Mason Award for Outstanding Contribution to Hilltop Montessori School. Tonia served as Head of School between 1984 and 2005. Tonia supported Hilltop through tremendous growth with humble beginnings. Tonia, along with a passionate group of parents, assisted to ensure the growth of Hilltop during these early days. She also raised our consciousness to realize that teachers and staff were the heart of what made Hilltop special. She continues to support our dedicated staff, through the Wheeler Fund, which financially supports teachers as they pursue a particular project, cause, or passion – a legacy that will endure far into the future. We appreciate and celebrate all Tonia has contributed throughout the years.
2017 Recipients

Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason

In 2008, the school was desperate to find a new location to set down roots. Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason donated the money to purchase the spectacular 43 acre parcel off of Guilford Street in Brattleboro. This donation jump started the capital campaign and building project that set the school off into a new era. With their generosity the school was able to fully embody the name “Hilltop”! The grounds and facilities grew to match the dedicated staffing and solid, authentic Montessori curriculum that had been hallmarks of HMS. We are so grateful for the campus that enable our prepared indoor and outdoor environments at each program level. 

In addition to the game changing gift that facilitated the move to the new home, the Kahn Mason Foundation has, over the years, granted significant funds to Hilltop for art education, programs, and supplies. An annual or bi-annual grant enables the school to provide trips to the Latchis, visiting artists working in residence, in addition to regular replenishment of printing supplies, painting materials, and more. 
In 2017, the first presentation of the Kahn Mason Award for Outstanding Contribution to Hilltop Montessori School was made to Wolf Kahn and Emily Mason. An award ceremony, complete with a show including puppets made in the likenesses of the recipients, acknowledged and celebrated our appreciation for the contributions of Wolf and Emily.