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1110 College NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Big Goals


Big Goals

Elizabeth Topliffe


“I only see my goals, I don't believe in failure
'Cause I know the smallest voices, they can make it major”

--Lukas Graham

by Elizabeth Topliffe, Head of School

We talk about our goals often here. We encourage students to talk about the pictures in their minds. At Stepping Stones, rather than telling students what to do and how to do it, our guides are trained facilitators. Our job is to help students share their mental pictures, build those pictures into reality, and help students understand the practical realities that go into the work of achieving their goals.

With the approval of our Strategic Plan on March 16, the entire Stepping Stones community is now working from a shared picture. We are clear about where we are going. We have specific strategies to get us there.

With these goals and strategies, we are ready to take on the difficult work of making our picture a reality. We know how to work hard, and we relish both the work and the success. Let’s face it, we’re good at that.

So, let’s celebrate both! Please join us on Thursday, April 27 at 7 PM for a celebration of the final Strategic Plan. We’ll gather at the Downtown Market for beverages and light hors d'oeuvres. There will be conversation about the Strategic Plan and opportunities to help us achieve our goals. Please plan to attend this event!

If you’re wondering about that shared picture, here is a pretty broad overview. As our strategic planning process moved forward, we determined four areas for focus in the Plan. They are:

  • Governance & Financial Model
  • Supporting a Vibrant Montessori Experience
  • Harnessing Our Community's Passion
  • Becoming the Voice of Montessori in West Michigan

I want you to know the purpose of and highlights from each of these goal areas because they encompass a lot of work and initiatives.

Governance & Financial Model—As we worked on the Strategic Plan, our committees continuously looped back to our need for a professional governance model, solid financial processes, and operational strength. Stepping Stones was founded as a parent-run school, and we honor that history. At the same time, our school is in transition to a mature and effectively run school. With an eye toward long-term sustainability, Stepping Stones will work in the following areas to build a strong operational structure: board policies that support strategic board governance, leadership development, creating a budgeting and tuition model, and ensuring the administrative structure to support that. We will also review salary structures and planning for contingencies.

Supporting a Vibrant Montessori Experience—As I mentioned in my last note, the strategic planning process revealed that Stepping Stones is Montessori to the core. Our school has consistently provided excellent, authentic Montessori education in Grand Rapids. The experience of our students is at the heart of who we are. We will continue to build on this strength by: reviewing our scope and sequence, ensuring that our programs reflect our key values, developing our program into the adolescent years (junior high), and ensuring that our facilities support our programs.

Harnessing our Community’s Passion—Our parents, alumni, and community are strong, generous, and loyal to our school. I’m astounded how often an alumna speaks highly and passionately about their school experience at Stepping Stones. They remember materials and work. Former students laugh about their musicals and operas with comical stories and occasionally photos. To equip the school for its future, Stepping Stones will develop an advancement office to employ proven, professional processes to engage and involve a wide range of people.

Becoming the Voice of Montessori in West Michigan—The Grand Rapids community enjoys a rich commitment to schools of choice and alternative education.  Stepping Stones enjoys a niche in the community as the only secular private school that holds high levels of Montessori excellence. To continue our growth, ensure the future success of the school, and to enrich our community’s understanding, Stepping Stones will become a resource for families and West Michigan seeking Montessori expertise.

These goals are big, and our future depends on our entire community’s focus on them. Our picture of the school’s future was built  by many community members—current parents, former parents, alumni, staff, and board members. The picture we drew together is better than any single picture we could have created. I’m excited to share more with you!

Stepping Stones Montessori School nurtures global citizens and guides each child to realize their unique potential.

This mission is carried out in through our core values and our community identity. Stepping Stones Montessori is:

  • Established in Partnership 
  • Rooted in Montessori, and
  • Focused on the Child.