By Raquel Hendrickson
From Air Force brat to innovative educator, Judy Webster has been a life-long learner. She founded Camino Montessori in Maricopa in 2009. The school now serves pre-K through third grade.
Born in New York, Webster bounced around a bit as a child of the military. Her family moved to Arizona in 1969, and she lived in Litchfield Park until the late ‘70s when she moved to Tempe. She’s lived there ever since.
“I consider Tempe as my hometown, and Maricopa is within my circle of community,” she said.
Webster’s husband Kevin is an area manager for a local human services agency that provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities. Their only child, Alex, works at the University of Phoenix and is engaged to a teacher, Mindy, “whom we love and adore,” Webster said.
Judy estimated she is three-quarters of the way through a master’s degree in education, with the emphasis in Montessori. She also has “countless hours of training” from workshops, seminars and coursework, including Montessori whole-school management and Common Core Standards and Arizona Career and College Ready Standards.
She said choosing education as a career “was a natural outcome of my initial experience from becoming a parent myself. I was constantly in awe and intrigue watching my son grow and thrive. Eventually, this developed into my current passion and desire to do what I can to affect positive change in the field of education. The best way to do that was to become an educator, and go from there.”
Webster saw Maricopa as a diverse community in need of a Montessori option. She said “old teaching buddy” Carol Hoover and her husband of the Legacy Montessori preschool were instrumental in her decision to establish a school in town.
Camino Montessori was incorporated in November 2009 and had its first classes in 2013. It operates as a charter and is nearing its capacity of 80 students.
Executive director of Camino Montessori
Born: Glen Cove, New York
Education: Bachelor’s in psychology, post-baccalaureate in Education, Montessori teaching certificate, working toward master’s in Education
Family: Married to Kevin for 31 years; son Alex; mother and sister live nearby
Past teaching positions: Fifth grade at Osborn School District in Phoenix, Montessori classes at Mesa Public School District, Villa Montessori Charter School, private Montessori school in Ahwatukee
Years in education: 20
First job out of college: I was a ‘live in’ group home manager for a local nonprofit agency that provides services to people with developmental disabilities. I lived with six adults who had previously spent all or most of their lives in the state institution in Coolidge.
Hobbies: I love to read and have several books going at the same time. I also love hiking, gardening, photography and hanging out with my family.
Favorite subject when you were in elementary school? I always loved math (if teachers were supportive) and really enjoyed history and social studies.
What is your favorite part of being an educator? Easy! Any and all direct contact I have with the children.
What are the biggest challenges facing Maricopa students today? Maricopa was hit hard during the economic crisis that erupted in 2009. Because of this and the fast growth over the past decade, there remains a need to continue to develop a strong infrastructure and sense of community in Maricopa. Although improving, we still have work to do.
What was the best advice you received about your own education? My grandfather told me to always follow my passion in both education and career. I think he planted the seed of a “purpose-driven” life for me.
What advice do you give parents of elementary schoolchildren? To remember that from birth through the elementary years children need to be just that, children.