People In The Community You Should Know: Damarys Zarling – Educator
(Le Petit Papillon Montessori School)
Who are you?
I’m a mother of two beautiful children and educator of wonderful students. That’s what comes to mind when I first read this question. While I was born in Cuba, my family came to the States when I was only eleven months old. We first moved to Michigan, but I’ve lived most of my life in Miami Beach. I consider myself a native of Miami Beach. So, besides being a proud mother and educator, I’m a beach girl at heart with a deep love of the ocean, learning, and spending time with friends and family.
What do you do in real life?
As opposed to a virtual life? As a single mother of two beautiful children, who also runs her own school, my grounding in real life begins early with the sunrise every day.
What do you like most about what you do?
Waking up everyday knowing that I’m making a positive difference in the lives of my children, my students and their families, and my co-workers at Le Petit Papillon makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. The old saying that it’s not work if you love what you do rings so true in my life.
What sets Le Petit Papillon apart from other Beach schools?
Le Petit Papillon not only offers our students an exceptional Montessori education, but also incorporates cultural enrichments to stimulate our students’ natural analytical and critical thinking. Enrichment programs include our Art program, Chess club, Language Workshops, and various after-school sports. We believe in the complete intellectual development of our students and are proud of our enrichment programs which support that.
Five words that describe Le Petit Papillon would be:
Prestigious, Caring, Nurturing, Diverse and Engaging.
Le Petit Papillon was designed with a singular idea in mind, to create a dynamic environment that allows it’s students to feel safe within our campus grounds, while discovering the magic of the environment around them. The campus grounds are a quiet, contemplative space complete with meandering walkways, native vegetation, a tranquil Koi pond, a sports court, outdoor entertainment area, exotic birds, and other native wildlife. The buildings around the campus house the classrooms, a gathering room, an Art Studio, even a state-of-the-art Science Laboratory built just this year. Our campus is located on the culturally vibrant community of Normandy Isle in Miami Beach.
Le Petit Papillon Montessori School stands head and shoulders above other Montessori schools in the area in that its primary focus is the complete development of the student. We focus our attention entirely on the environment and programs that serve to directly benefit the learning experience of the child. Our staff is completely dedicated to the students and have extensive certifications, and training in the Montessori philosophy. We truly embody the vision and principles set forth by our founder Maria Montessori decades ago.
Our staff is comprised of quality individuals, whom all have demonstrated their unequalled commitment to the development and advancement of our students. The staff members have both AMS and AMI certifications in all areas of Montessori as well as advanced degrees.
Because our staff here at Le Petit Papillon is so diverse, encompassing several nationalities and languages, we encourage our teachers and assistants to draw on persona experiences to educate our students about different cultures and customs in the classroom environment.
What I value most about Dr. Maria Montessori’s method of education is its grounding in the belief that education is a natural process of growth in an individual. Her vision of education had its basis in the development stages of growth of the child. This means that as the child’s needs change, program changes should reflect and meet those needs. The teachers at Le Petit, including myself, have fine-tuned their skills in the Montessori method in order to meet the important and ever-changing needs of the child.
What should a parent know about Le Petit Papillon?
That our sincerest pleasure and mission at Le Petit Papillon is to guide their child toward greater independence strengthened on the proven foundations set by Dr. Maria Montessori.
Where you’ll find me on a Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m?
With family and friends at the beach.
Who are your current icons or muses?
I love learning from different types of people so the list changes often. Recently I watched a documentary on the Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna. He’s my most recent icon-my muse of grace under pressure. He had his own special way of doing things and this caused some controversy in his life. But he seemed to always meet these pressures with grace and a deep spirituality that expressed itself so naturally. He is also quoted as saying “I have no idols. I admire work, dedication and competence.” This quote really resonates with me; while I love learning from others, I’m not sure if I could say I have idols. It’s the work, dedication, and competence of others that inspires me.
What books do you have on your bedside table?
This is funny because my bedside tables are actually composed of stacks of books! Here’s a list of a few of my recent favorites:
The Desert Fathers: Sayings of the Early Christian Monks
Yoga and the Spiritual Life
The Teachings of the Buddha
Art in History: Teaching Art History to Elementary School Children
Legends: Women Who Have Changed the World Through the Eyes of Great Women Writers
Florida’s Fabulous Canoe and Kayak Trail Guide
The New York Times Ultimate Crossword Omnibus
The Changing World of Bali: Religion, Society, and Tourism (I’m currently planning a trip to Bali with my daughter)
Lies Chelsea Handler Told Me (I love to laugh and to keep it real—this satisfies two birds with one book)
What do you do now, that you did not do 5 years ago?
C.S. Lewis once said “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes but when you look back everything is different.” I couldn’t agree more. I’ve been practicing Ashtanga yoga ever since I opened Le Petit Papillon, but recently I’ve reconnected with my love of physically challenging outdoor sports. Due to my never-ending busy schedule these last few years, I haven’t had the time to do something like this in a while.
If you could have lunch with anyone who is famous who would it be?
This is easy, though it requires I have powers to resurrect my lunch companion! I would be honored and overjoyed to have lunch with Maria Montessori. Her vision for children and her philosophy of education were the original motivating force behind my quest for opening a school in Miami Beach. I’d probe her brilliant mind and seek her counsel for ways to strengthen my programs at Le Petit Papillon. And of course, I would take Dr. Montessori to Barton G’s!
If not an educator you would have been?
This question is more difficult as I’ve always been drawn toward education. So, the question challenges me to dig deep behind my natural inclination to teach in some form. I would have done something with my hands. A sculptor or perhaps a painter. Art for me is the sine qua non of a full, blessed, and humane life. That’s one of the reasons why we put such a high premium on our students experiencing art at Le Petit Papillon. Making and experiencing art, in whatever form, brings one out of oneself and connects one to greater human spirit.
Something new that you have just discovered about yourself?
I’ve always believed that one never stops learning, but recently I’ve picked up the hobby of doing crossword puzzles while I take my afternoon coffee break. At first, I had a sneaking doubt that I may not be that good at them, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was actually pretty good. I look forward to developing even greater word puzzle skills in the future.
What are your guilty pleasures?
My days and nights are so focused on other people that when I do get free time for myself it’s a bit overwhelming at first. But, my go-to guilty pleasure (which I don’t feel guilty about, by the way) is to grab a burger from Five Guys, fill a big glass with ice cold Coke, and watch foreign films. There’s something indescribably pleasing about eating my delicious American burger while being transported into another world!
One luxury that you cannot live without?
Easy-peasy: Travel, Travel, Travel! I love everything about traveling. From researching the place I want to visit, to the excitement and buzz around airports, to finally arriving in a totally different culture than my own. I enjoy traveling so much that sometimes I forgo the research and just spontaneously choose a place to visit, even if only for a weekend. Learning about other cultures and experiencing them first hand is a luxury I can’t live without.