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Dina Scarcelli

Dina Scarcelli: Nurturing Young Minds in Their Formative Years

The Montessori approach to education is progressive and child-centered, and it has withstood the test of time. The Montessori method emphasizes the importance of practical life skills, teaching children how to care for themselves and their surroundings.

Recognizing the significance of nurturing young minds in their formative years, Dina Scarcelli embarked on a journey into the field of early childhood education. Dina is the proud Owner and Director of two Montessori schools in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

One of these schools is DMS Montessori Preschool and Daycare Inc., which has grown from a home-based operation into a licensed center. The other is CT Family Learning Centre and Montessori School Inc., which she co-owns with a partner who was formerly her manager at DMS Montessori.

The success of these schools may be attributed in large part to Dina’s devotion to the Montessori method and her commitment to offering high-quality early childhood education. Her leadership and the distinctive educational programs she provides are evidence of her enthusiasm for children’s education and her spirit of entrepreneurship. We had the privilege of observing her inspiring work closely.

Below are the highlights from the interview:

Can you please introduce yourself and provide a brief overview of your professional background?

My name is Dina Scarcelli, and I am the proud owner and founder of two Montessori schools in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. I am the founder and sole owner of DMS Montessori Preschool and Daycare Inc., which I have single-handedly grown from one child to what it is today: a licensed center.

Last year, I opened my sibling location with a wonderful partner who used to be my manager at DMS Montessori and who I have helped grow to co-owner of CT Family Learning Centre and Montessori School Inc.

Having spent 15+ years in general management positions for various companies in the retail service sector, I changed my career path years ago to follow my dream of teaching and then opening my own Montessori school. And so, we are here today talking about my story: a true entrepreneur with a strong will, grit, and dedication to succeed, all stemming from a passion for the child and a genuine love for children and their education at the early childhood level.

Could you share some key milestones in your leadership journey and how they have shaped your approach to leadership?

I’ve been working with children my entire life in different capacities and with adults during my time in another industry. Having worked at corporations with many restrictions on creativity in the execution of personal choices in how I wanted to lead my team, I have learned that I get the best results from my team with my own uniqueness and personality.

My individuality is something irreplaceable, and who I am makes for a welcoming and warm environment. I felt unappreciated in the past for my style because it didn’t fit with their way of doing things, even though it would only improve their environment. I was restricted from giving back in ways most in touch with the needs of the employees.

I told myself then that once I am an owner, I will stay true to who I am and use my natural leadership abilities to make my employees happy and appreciated. I strive to maintain high morale through my warm and happy environment, coupled with giving back to them in many ways.

What have been some of the most significant challenges you’ve faced in your career, and how did you overcome them?

Hands down, finances have always been my biggest challenge along the way. I have had to work for every single penny since the moment I turned 16 and haven’t stopped working. Partially out of necessity, partially because I enjoy meaningful work, and partially because I grew up learning very early on about work ethics. I put myself through university while working three jobs and living on my own. I have learned a lot by being so self-sufficient.

That being said, I had to use the equity out of our home to finance my business start-up on a larger scale when I expanded from my home-based roots. Still today, and as other entrepreneurs may relate, it is not easy in the early stages of business financially. But I remain laser-focused on my end game, and I will make it happen! One day, I will be financially secure, but this is part of the journey to get there.

Nothing worth having comes easy. It takes endless effort and sometimes lots of struggle. Again, my positive attitude shapes my journey and ultimately brings me the success I will achieve.

How would you describe your leadership style, and what principles or values guide your leadership decisions?

My leadership style has always been firm, fun, and fair. I lead with open and honest communication at the forefront of everything. Who I am as a person, with my morals and values, drives my team leadership. Like in any relationship, communication, trust, and respect for all need to be present and agreed upon.

My teams know that we are always there for each other in a way that starts with the acknowledgment that we are all here for a common reason and with the understanding that I am here to help them grow professionally and personally.  It’s hard to describe why and how I drive team results because I lead with who I am at my core as a person. I speak with them with respect, and I equally feel respect in return. I feel that if you genuinely care about people, who you are will shine through, and people will want to work with you.

That, plus my absolutely positive outlook on life, positivity, leading with example and modeling expectations, and consistently providing opportunities for team involvement and contribution, are factors in my natural ability to lead. Leadership qualities and skills come innately from within. I really believe who you are at your core has a lot to do with how you associate with people in any context. It simply is, and you cannot really teach these things.

In male-dominated industries, how have you navigated challenges, and what advice would you give to aspiring women leaders in similar fields?

Never give up. Push through the struggles. It feels so difficult at the moment; emotions get in the way so easily, but never give up. With this mindset, you will learn from adversity, take every experience, unfavorable or not, as a learning opportunity, and coming out of that will be so much sweeter! Growth happens only in these moments. In my industry, there are many owners, male and female, who have no experience in the classroom. I have taught in the classroom myself and know the struggles that exist.

When leading in this industry, I feel strongly that the best school leaders are the ones who have taught in the classroom with the children and who know firsthand how incredibly challenging this field is. How can you preach what you have never practiced? It takes so much more to lead a school than simply the business side of the coin.

My advice to anyone looking to own or operate a childcare business is to get into it for passion first. Teach, do, mentor, and coach based on that raw experience. My advice to anyone in today’s world in any business, let alone in male-dominated industries, as I have experienced for many years prior to my current career, is to stay true to yourself no matter what.

Don’t let people shame you for showing emotion. That display of emotion takes strength. You are human with feelings, and no one should have to apologize for them. Always remain consistent with your performance, always do your best work, and never doubt yourself. Focus on doing the right thing, and you cannot go wrong.