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Goochland Montessori teacher also puts ‘life work’ on curriculum

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GOOCHLAND, Va. -- Tamra Adams is a mother of 12 who loves children; in fact, she will tell you she is the mother of 40 children.

She battled away cancer and opened the Adams International School, which is nestled in the rolling hills of Goochland.

“It was innate,” says Mrs. Adams. “I think I was born to do this.”

Tamra Adams founded the Adams International School.

Tamra Adams founded the Adams International School.

At Adams International, the three R's are getting a massive makeover in a renovated dairy barn on 131 lush acres.

“The math is very individualized and I can go at my own pace,” says 14-year old student Harrison Tomkins. “And so is the whole school,”.

“They learn all over the place,” says Mrs. Adams. ‘This is their classroom.”

The school is a year-round Montessori based curriculum based on core values.

“Here you learn etiquette and manners, so you’re not just learning school work you’re learning life work,” says 11-year old Cecilia Oseguera.

The curriculum includes more than school work.

The curriculum includes more than school work.

Mrs. Adams home-schooled all of her own children and had a vision of exposing other children to a well-rounded rich education.

“Once you’re immersed in the environment, most people wish that all schools were like this,” says Mrs. Adams.

In 2008, she realized her dream.

“The fun part is watching every child here succeed,” says Mrs. Adams. “That is a lot of fun.”

Students here work with the educators in a stress-free setting.

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“We flip a lot of things upside down,” says Mrs. Adams. “We’re more of a family. We make decisions together.”

For some students, Adams International is a welcome alternative to public schools.

“I think some tradition settings don’t work for some children,” says Mrs. Adams.

At lunchtime silence is golden. Students nourish their body and mind as Ms. Amanda teaches American Sign Language along with her baby daughter.

“At first, it was kind of hard. But it helps with multi-tasking,” says TJ Adams. “It is really great going at our own pace and being able to do what we need to do to be able to be better.”

Recess here is just as important as reading.

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“They have to take recess every day; even if it rains,” says Mrs. Adams. “If it snows they bring their sleds.”

Even the care of farm animals is encouraged as part of outdoor time.

One thing missing: cliques.

“We’re almost like family. We’re really close,” says Harrison Tomkins.

To Mrs. Adams, this way of teaching is not revolutionary.

“I think when you meet someone’s needs and you fulfill them emotionally and academically and give them the support they need they’ll thrive,” says Mrs. Adams.

Mrs. Adams truly is going old-school.

“A lot of people visit and say this is what school was like 100 years ago,” says Mrs. Adams.

Twelve years ago her dream of educating children was nearly derailed by one of life’s harshest lessons.

“Back in 2004 I was diagnosed with cancer. In 2008, contracted MRSA,” says Mrs. Adams.

Mrs. Adams never gave up hope.

“I felt like this school is something more than I had to do than what I had to do,” Mrs. Adams. “But it is something that had to be done.”

Now healthy, Mrs. Adams is embracing her second chance with vigor.

“You look at every minute as an opportunity to invest in your own life, and the lives of others,” says Mrs. Adams.

These days Mrs. Adams relishes the laughter on campus, and watching all of her children grow into young adults.

“I have never seen anyone more committed to education than her,” says fellow teacher Diane Hahn. “We’ve had different kind of kids who have come in from the public arena and they’ve come and excelled and flourished.”

Mrs. Adams does very little to advertise and has no plans to expand. Her family of 40 fits just right.

“It’s all I know; it’s what I do,” says a laughing Mrs. Adams. “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

If you know of someone you think should be featured in my “Heroes Among Us” segment email Greg McQuade at Heroes@wtvr.com.