Season 7, Episode 2

The Science of Reading in the Montessori classroom, with Susan Zoll, Natasha Feinberg, Laura Saylor

For the second episode in our new season focused on tackling the hard stuff, we’re taking on a question that listeners have asked: how can we apply the Science of Reading in a Montessori setting? To help explore that question, we’re joined by the three authors of the recent book Powerful Literacy in the Montessori Classroom: Aligning Reading Research and Practice. Listen to Dr. Susan Zoll, Dr. Natasha Feinberg, and Dr. Laura Saylor as they explore the shared qualities between the Science of Reading and Montessori approach. They share tips and guidance for literacy instruction both inside and outside a Montessori setting and end with an impassioned call to educators from all approaches to come together and learn from each other for the benefit of students everywhere.

Meet our guest(s):

Dr. Natasha Feinberg

Natasha Feinberg, Ed.D. is an assistant professor at Rhode Island College in the elementary education department. She instructs preservice teachers in the areas of reading and writing as well as directs the Master’s of Education in Reading program. Dr. Feinberg has 17 years of experience as a reading specialist/literacy coach in the R.I. public school system. With an Ed.D. in curriculum leadership from Northeastern University, Dr. Feinberg’s area of expertise lies in the Science of Reading and teaching reading to all types of learners. She has worked extensively with Tier 2 and 3 literacy interventions identifying specific student literacy needs and matching evidence-based interventions and specific progress monitoring tools that address those needs. Her work focuses on supporting data-based individualization and data-based decision making.

Dr. Laura Saylor

Dr. Laura Saylor is dean of the school of education at Mount St. Joseph University. She earned her Ph.D. in educational studies with a concentration in educational policy and higher education with a focus in STEM education from The University of Cincinnati. Previously, she earned her Master of Education from Xavier University with a concentration  in Montessori Education.

Her 25 years of practical experience include teaching in inclusive and multi-age settings and serving as the head of school for an independent Montessori school. Laura is a frequent presenter at national conferences. Her research focuses include the importance of learning and reading science in teacher preparation as well as assessing performance of pre-service teachers in clinical experiences. Dr. Saylor’s interests also extend to best practices in educational assessment and collaborative work between P-12 and educator preparation. Her recently published research includes mathematics discourse with pre-service teachers and the effects of teacher-centered mentorship.

Dr. Susan Zoll

Susan Zoll, Ph.D., specializes in early childhood education serving in leadership roles on several U.S. Department of Education-funded early literacy initiatives (Early Reading First 2004, 2006, 2009; Early Childhood Education Professional Development grant 2006); Director of the Institute for Early Childhood Teaching and Learning (Race To The Top – Early Learning Challenge, 2014); and her current role as Associate Professor in teacher preparation coaching preservice educators at Rhode Island College.

Dr. Zoll holds a Montessori primary credential (AMS 3-6) having served as a Montessori classroom teacher, teacher trainer for the language curriculum, and a head of school. Currently, she serves as the co-chair of the American Montessori Society’s (AMS) Research Committee.

Publications include: Powerful Literacy in the Montessori Classroom: Aligning Reading Research and Practice (Teachers College Press, 2023); Designing a Logic Model to Inform Montessori Research (2019); The Montessori Experiment in Rhode Island (1913-1949): Tracing Theory to Implementation over 25 Years (2017); Towards Social Justice: A Needs Assessment of Early Childhood Development In South Africa (2013); From “at risk” to “at promise”: An Evaluation of an Early Reading First Project (2012); and Sustainable Practices in Mentoring: Tools to Support Child Outcomes and a Mentoring Protocol (2011). Her work in the development of an assessment protocol has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education’s Doing What Works initiative.

Meet our host, Susan Lambert

Susan Lambert is the Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Humanities at Amplify, and the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast. Her career has been focused on creating high-quality learning environments using evidence-based practices. Susan is a mom of four, a grandma of four, a world traveler, and a collector of stories.

As the host of Science of Reading: The Podcast, Susan explores the increasing body of scientific research around how reading is best taught. As a former classroom teacher, administrator, and curriculum developer, Susan is dedicated to turning theory into best practices that educators can put right to use in the classroom, and to showcasing national models of reading instruction excellence.


“Maria Montessori was a scientist first. She developed her methods based on science.” — Laura Saylor
“Reading is the human rights issue of our era in education and we want all children to be successful.” —Susan Zoll
“I encourage everyone, get together with your colleagues, talk about the different pedagogy, talk about the different strategies that are out there, because that is what is going to help us become better in the field of education.” —Natasha Feinberg

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