The History of Brooksfield School
On November 2, 1987 Brooksfield School opened its doors with only five children. Today Brooksfield enrolls over 90 children and has a continuous wait list.
Mary Anne Duffus, founder of Brooksfield, began her educational journey more than three decades ago. As a college senior honors student, she helped to start a traditional preschool with a focus on intergenerational work in Richmond. Following college she knew that she wanted to combine her love of kids with creativity in teaching. She immediately took the Montessori International course and pursued a Masters’ Degree in curriculum development from Catholic University. Building on her educational experiences and after several years of teaching and administrative work she developed a clear vision of her dream- to open a Montessori-based school that would provide children with a safe place to express themselves creatively while being exposed to a dynamic, exciting and challenging academic curriculum. Mary Anne wanted to, “promote Montessori as the basic philosophy of instruction, but allow for a more eclectic approach with room for imaginative play and creativity developed from other educators.”
In addition, Mary Anne wanted children with different learning styles and challenges to be able to thrive at Brooksfield. When she started the school, the idea of bringing in specialists to address children with special needs at an early age was not commonplace; in 1987 it was cutting edge.
As a teacher, Mary Anne recognized the importance of treating each faculty member with respect and dignity. She also knew it was imperative to support teachers in their professional development, thus providing a highly-trained Montessori staff that would become the very fabric of the school.
In assembling an educational team, she reached out to fellow teachers and friends whom she knew to be respected and skilled. Hilary Gleason Scott, a long-time family friend, was the first to join the crew. Hilary brought with her, a knowledge of public school education, an expansively creative spirit and an abounding love for children. She dedicated herself to the success of the school on every level and truly put her heart and soul into helping Brooksfield grow.
Next on board, Maria Van Order, a talented Montessori-trained Spanish teacher who was fluent in several languages helped to extend our school into the international world. Maria developed a superior Spanish program for Brooksfield and spent twenty years providing a richly creative foreign language experience for the children. Mary Anne recalls the opening of the school and how she and her team wished to, “celebrate life and learning in a FUN way!”
In 1991, Mary Anne's close friend and fellow educator, Anita Labetti, joined the Brooksfield faculty. Anita eagerly agreed to lead the elementary program. Combining an academic curriculum with her flair for art and drama (she directed the children in wonderful plays and musicals) and her love of innovative and creative teaching methods, she developed an unparralleled Upper School Program.
As Brooksfield evolved so did an urge to look beyond the classroom walls for instruction. Thus, in 1996, the Outdoors Adventure program was born. “ODA”, as the students quickly named it, took children outside in nature to engage in activities that challenged them in ways that couldn’t be addressed indoors. Over the years, children have engaged in activities such as horseback riding, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing, camping, orienteering, sailing and more. Through this program, upper school children and their families participate in problem solving, teamwork and cooperation through fun, collaborative activities. Today, the Outdoor Adventure program, along with our Brooksfield Summer Camp, continue to be valued extensions of the school.
Brooksfield School was founded on the principles of excellence in education, shared experiences and a joy for life and learning. We continue to employ outstanding teachers, specialists, administrators and assistants who dedicate themselves to inspiring and nurturing the children every single day. We strive to maintain wonderful relationships with both current and former students, families and faculty members and are thrilled to have so many alumni still involved in the inner-workings of the school as board members, consultants, camp counselors, chaperones, advisors, and general school supporters. Although we have come a long way since 1987, our original philosophy of excellence in learning in a safe, fun and creative environment is still paramount at Brooksfield.
Brooksfield leadership through the years:
Mary Anne Duffus - 1987 to 1997, Director; 1997 to Present , Founder & Executive Director
Anita Labetti - 1990 to 1997, Teacher, Head of Upper School 1997 to 2005, Director; 2005 to 2014, Brooksfield Governing Board member
Wendie Marsh - 1992-2005, Teacher; 2005 to 2016, School Director
Mary Anne Duffus- current Director