DELRAN, New Jersey -- "I must admit, I've always been very high energy. And if there's something that I believe in, I'm driven," said Ellen Fox. "But I didn't set out necessarily to start a school."
Fox, the founder and Head of School Emeritus at Montessori Academy of New Jersey in Delran, started a study group in the early 1960s. She and other women in the neighborhood would brainstorm methods of education. One neighbor introduced her to the Montessori method.
"It's a very different approach," she said. "We provide the stimulus, we provide the guidance, but children, in the long run, educate themselves."
Fox recalls parents around the country starting their own Montessori schools at the time. She decided to jump on board and has never looked back.
"My own children attended. My grandchildren attended. I now have great grandchildren in the school," she said.
Over the years, Fox has seen children go onto successful careers. But one of the most pivotal transformations was that of her youngest child, Jennie Keith, into the new Head of School.
"She opened the school 10 days before I was born, and I'm the youngest of seven," said Keith.
Keith arranged a special night of celebration for her mother, featuring singing students, close-knit alumni, and a video detailing Fox's 56-year journey. Additionally, they dedicated the building in her honor.
"And I've always joked with her that we were going to have to carry her out of her office, that she wasn't just going to get up and leave willingly at retirement," said Keith. "But I see us just staying and growing, continuing on with what she sees happening here, which is just another 56 years."
And Fox has all the confidence in the world for her daughter's success.
"She'll be continuing with the same love for children and for Montessori as I experienced," she said. "And it shows."
To learn more about the Montessori Academy of New Jersey in Delran, visit their website.