Jennifer Vanston is the business director for Far Horizons Montessori School.
From her earliest memories, Jennifer Vanston wanted to travel. Although she abandoned her dream of being a stewardess, her years in the Peace Corps and her marriage to a Marine allowed her to see the world in an even more interesting way.
Today, Vanston serves as the business director for Montessori School, where she helps facilitate the educational foundation of children in Albany, helping move the community forward, one child at a time.
Q: What was your first job?
A: I worked at an ice cream shop at Dunedin Marina in Florida. It was a great first job – I think I was 15 and loved being able to work and see the water and boats every day. My Dad was a Fisherman so it was great to be able to see him come in from work with the day’s catch. The only drawback I guess is now I’m not a big fan of ice cream.
NAME: Jennifer Vanston
JOB: Business Director, Far Horizons Montessori School
YEARS ON THE JOB: Six months
PERSONAL: Married to Major Alexander Vanston, USMC., with two children.
Q: What did you do with your first paycheck?
A: Not sure what I did actually. I do know my parents made me save half of it – was a requirement in our home that a certain amount of everything I made had to be saved.
Q:What principle have you tried to guide your professional life by?
A: You better love what you do. You spend more time at work than you do at anything else in your life so I believe — and it has changed through the years; obviously as you grow up — that its important to be true to do what makes you happy. I need to be a part of something that makes a difference for something bigger than me. Whether it be education or being in the Peace Corps. I need to be a part of something that makes a difference.
Q: If you were stranded on an island, what three things would you like to have with you?
A: Well, I’d like to have my family with me. I would assume the island has pretty much everything that I need, so I would say family. Having lived on a remote island I would definitely say a mosquito net and probably our pets.
Q: If you could have lunch with anyone, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
A: Without it sounding too historical and canned, honestly probably Eleanor Roosevelt. I think she’s an incredible role model for women of all ages today. She was a very educated and driven woman and I think she’s someone we could all look up to and not just because of who her husband was. I think she owned who she was; she commanded respect and was an inspiration in her own right.
Q: If you could offer advice to your younger self or someone who is following your path, what would it be?
A: I think I would tell my younger self to slow down a little bit and be appreciative for what’s around and being where I’m at and that goes for everybody. We’re so busy looking forward to the next thing that we forget how healthy and fortunate and lucky we are in the present. My guidance would be to learn to focus and live in the present. That’s all you have.
Q: On a day-to-day basis, what is the biggest challenge of your job?
A: Well, I love my job so I don’t really see a lot of challenges. Compared to the world of advertising that I came from, I guess I never considered teaching work. Even though I am not teaching now, being in the school environment is very positive. I don’t really see what I do for the school as a challenge. I love what I do. I love the environment, I love to be a part of something that I know is important and is good and makes a difference.
Q: What’s the highlight of your job?
A: Seeing the “ah-ha” moment from parents who are looking or struggling to find an educational solution for their children and they understand what Montessori is. I can tell that they understand the Montessori approach and I think that is coupled with seeing, from an outsider’s perspective, even with my own children, seeing kids just love what they’re doing and respect each other and have the most compassion and manners and be so caring with each other. Its amazing to see a child also get that “ah-ha!” moment with education when they’re “getting” things that are phenomenal for that age and see it as fun.
Q: What did you want to be when you were a little girl?
A: I wanted to be an airline stewardess because I wanted to travel more than anything. And then my band — I was in band for years — went to Scotland and we got stuck on an airplane and the air conditioning stopped working and I didn’t want to be an airline stewardess after that.
Q: At the end of your career what do you want people to be able to say about you and your work?
A: Honestly, I don’t want to be known for my work. I want to just have people say she was happy and a good mom and a good wife and hopefully made a difference in their lives and hopefully touched others. If there is anything I learned by doing my career first and my kids later it’s that I’ve already gotten all of the accolades as a teacher, I’ve gotten an Addy, I’ve gotten the awards and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter any more. I think that’s one reason I liked having kids later. I had to grow up a little bit to appreciate that. At the end of the day, I want my family to say that she was pretty cool.