Alumni Spotlight: Alex Balle
How many years were you at OFMS? Seven years, from 2000 to 2007
What high school did you attend? Carroll High School
When did you graduate? June 2011
College? Albion College
Graduation Date? May 2015
What extracurricular activities did you participate in? Omicron Delta Kappa: National Leadership Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta: National Honor History Society, Alpha Psi Omega: National Honor Theatre Society, Senior Thesis: The Loss of Humanity: An Examination of the Precursers to The Holocaust and Rawandan Genocide, Campus Tour Guide 2012-2015, Dean Hall Co Op Secretary 2013-2015
Any additional education or training you would like to share? Holocaust Service Learning Project in Poland Summer 2013
What would you like to share about your time at Oak Farm Montessori? It feels that, in many aspects, Oak Farm Montessori School has always been a part of my life. I first came to OFMS as a second year student in the Fall of 2000 when the first Elementary classroom was opened. I stayed until eighth grade, as that was the highest grade offered at that time. My time as a student here includes some of my all time favorite memories, including: kayaking the Missouri River in South Dakota to retrace the path of Lewis and Clark, creating and running a full fledged restaurant for a day, hand raising a huge variety of baby farm animals, and forming friendships that endure to this day. I have to say, however, what I value the most about my time at OFMS was how much I was able to lay the foundation for who I am today.
How did traditional school differ from the Montessori philosophy? It was quite a shock when I went to a public traditional high school and suddenly adults did not trust me. I thrived in the Montessori environment where I was able to make choices and have input, and to have all that suddenly taken away was a bit jarring. Despite this, I did well in high school and I believe this was because I already had built a strong base for who I was.
The Montesssori structure is very similar to college; so, in that regard I felt very prepared for that big life transition of leaving home for the first time. By the time I graduated from high school I was so ready to once again have real input over my academic work. I attended Albion College, a small private liberal arts college in Michigan. There I majored in European History.
Why are you passionate about history? I have always loved history and chose to do many of my milestone projects at OFMS on history as well. To once again be able to concentrate my efforts on what I am passionate about was very freeing and it felt in many ways that I was returning to a Montessori way of thinking. During my time at Albion College I was able to experience one of the most moving experiences of my life. I spent time in Poland during the summer of 2013 where I participated in the Holocast Service Learning Project. We worked with a synagogue in Wrocław where efforts are being made to restore a massive Jewish cemetery. This cemetery was essentially abandoned after the Jewish population was all but eliminated after the events of the Holocast and then fall of the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. During my time there I spoke with survivors, uncovered graves that had not been seen in decades, and visited the concentration camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Plaszow. It was a life altering experience and eventually led to me writing my senior thies comparing events leading up to the Holocaust and the Rawandan Genocide and how terrifying similar the warning signs were.
How did you end up back on the OFMS campus? When I graduated from Albion I was not sure what I wanted to do. I had applied for a few different jobs but nothing had really spoken to me yet. It was only a few days after graduation, however, that the former head of school, Megan O’Sullivan, reached out to me about the library position. Although I do not have any formal library training, I spent much time in my college library being a history major and it sounded like this could be a good fit. I have also always been very passionate about books and exposing people to quality literature. When I came in for my interview it was like coming home. The campus had grown and changed much since my time here as a student but it instantly felt right. Luckily Megan felt the same way and I began the second part of my Oak Farm journey, this time as a faculty member, in August 2015 and I’ve been here ever since. I have once again felt supported by the school as in my pursuit to grow and develop the library spaces. I have loved being a part of the school again and helping preserve a lasting legacy.