An Expanding Circle of Love: Sarojani Rohan Faculty Spotlight

I am finishing my 36th year this June as a part of the Mount Madonna School community. The years have gone by quickly.

Born on the front seat of a 1951 Studebaker, on the way to the hospital, I find life very precious and every second a miracle. My parents, Janice and Norman Dubin, instilled in my older brother and I, a strong sense of family and a love for music and being out in nature. I remember my dad knew the words to most songs from the then-current musicals and sang them around the house and while we were driving in our car on family vacations. My mom whistled along beautifully!

Music became a very significant part of my life from an early age and has proven to be a through-line in my life. I took up clarinet in elementary school and continued with it through college, receiving a partial scholarship to participate in the University of Miami’s concert and marching bands.

I lived in New Hyde Park, New York, for my first eighteen years before going to the University of Miami School of Music. There I received a Bachelor’s of Music Degree in theory and composition. I had it all planned out. I wanted to do film scoring specifically for National Geographic. I would move to, yes, California, knock on Quincy Jones’ door, and offer to do all his music copying for arrangements and scores for free, so as to continue my apprenticeship in film scoring – at which Jones had quickly become a master.

Then, just as I had all these plans worked out quite clearly in my head, the day after my graduation I was offered a position as a booking manager for a Miami dance company. Could I turn down my first professional job title? At the time, I decided no. That kept me there. While I had performed in marching bands, orchestras, bands, jazz vocal classes, studied composition and arranging and created two-part inventions in the style of Bach, I now found myself a booking manager by day and a musical director by night for Actors’ Classic Theater which performed beloved musicals for the retirement communities in northern Florida. Life was good, just not very predictable!

After that job ended I took a turn at working in a macrobiotic health food store as the vitamin and cosmetic specialist, where I learned enormous information regarding the labeling of product ingredients in our world. I was becoming a vegetarian and happy to be surrounded by like-minded, health-conscious people.

A surprise change in direction toward teaching came while I was living in Miami and visited an open house at a Montessori school my friend’s child was attending. There I witnessed a room full of three to five-year-olds working independently and happily engaged in a variety of self-directed learning experiences. I marveled at this seeming phenomenon and, on the spot, realized that I wanted to become part of that magic. That day I was offered a paid internship and teacher assistant’s job to earn as I learned. What an incredible threshold I had crossed; NEVER having given a thought to teaching as a career!

It was there that I met my husband, Premdas, who lived at the Coconut Grove Temple of Yoga. He was a student of Baba Hari Dass (or “Babaji” as he is affectionately called by his students) and we were married at Mount Madonna Center (MMC) after a yoga teacher training class we took there during a 1979 summer vacation.

We were both working as Montessori pre-primary teachers at the Alexander Montessori School in Miami when we received a call from Kalpana Kachuck, MMS’ first principal. She told us that MMC had begun a school and that they would like us to come out and establish the preschool/kindergarten program as each year the school was adding grades. We thought (for about a second) and wholeheartedly agreed to uproot our lives and job in Miami to come out to California.

Although Babaji was the inspiration for both the center and the school and I had a different teacher and spiritual path, I deeply respected the shared aim of the Mount Madonna community for living a peaceful life and dedicating oneself in the service of others. I fell immediately in love with the mountain and all her beauties and started a brand new chapter of life here with “PD” (Premdas) in 1981.

When we arrived I distinctly remember turning to PD and exclaiming joyfully, “Honey! It’s like being at summer camp!” It was everything we had hoped for in a school: a place where children could have direct experiences with the natural world as part of their school studies, a place with personal growth and good values at its core, and an administration who were wise enough to encourage teachers to follow their training while trying new things all aimed at offering the best to their students.

The school, then, was in its most formative state and the enthusiasm and optimism were sky high. The original teachers, who were also students of Babaji, held California state teaching credentials and were guiding mixed-age classes amidst an incredibly exquisite environment, through a state-standard based curriculum, enriched by community life and fueled by idealism and youthful vitality!

I spent my first year at MMS assisting Purnanand Cheney in the first through third grade classroom. Kindergarten enrollment that year called for just one teacher, and that was PD. The following year I had my first preschool classroom in the MMC Log Building; a VERY primitive building back then, with no indoor plumbing and spotty electrical capacity. I was given a small horn in case I needed assistance! The outhouse was about 50 feet away – often just far enough to inspire my many extra “unscheduled hygiene lessons” for our youngest students!

Community life was rich and rewarding and everyone helped – from the dads and moms coming up to insulate the building, floor installations, outdoor sandboxes and mini chairs and tables being built. It felt like being part of the “pioneer” movement. We learned a lot from each other about education and parenting and school community life. Deep and lasting friendships formed and students, parents, teachers thrived in an environment set up for personal growth and transformation.

Within three years a generous donation had been made by one of MMC’s residents, Aparna Dorsey, to build a preschool/kindergarten building and then the new magic began! I always tell our son, Dov, that he was so special that he got a new school for his birthday as the building was finished in 1983, the year he was born!

After taking two years off when Dov was born, we both returned to the classroom which, for him, having both his mom and dad as teachers, was like being homeschooled with a bunch of other kids around!


I am so grateful that he had the opportunity to go to MMS from preschool all the way through his high school graduation! It was the best educational experience that I could have hoped for him.

PD and I, with the assistance of several changing staff through the years, team taught and developed the Pre/K program. He planted all the fruit trees there, and together we made the furniture and shelving for the classroom, along with many of the specially designed Montessori learning materials. Ultimately his math and science expertise was needed in our middle school so I then became the Pre/K program director.

I am so grateful that I was given the trust and freedom through the years to explore what I felt to be the best educational practices for my students, both at the Pre/K and in my music classes. After Dov’s birth, I became increasingly interested and intrigued with learning different aspects of children’s growth and development. I pursued training at the Waldorf college up in Sacramento to incorporate the principles I felt would enhance our Montessori classroom. Taking the Orff music training and receiving my Orff Music Certification was another highlight in being able to offer music to children in age-appropriate ways, while building community and having fun together.

My travels over the past decade have included explorations in Scotland, solo backpacking through New Zealand and three separate poetry and hiking tours through Ireland, as well as a hiking trip through Italy and The Lake District of northwest England. I formed a Celtic band upon my return from Ireland, having been inspired by the down-to-earth music-making that was going on everywhere along Ireland’s west coast where traditional music is still prevalent and honored. I named the band, Innisfree (after Irish poet, W.B. Yeats’ famous poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree) and have been performing with it for over 10 years! I am also part of an ongoing writing circle and am currently working on a memoir. Watch out for it; you may be in it!

As I look back I see how inspired I was by Kirpal Singh’s perspective on education. He said, “The goal of education is service.” I took that wisdom to heart, realizing that the path of service I had chosen was to work with children and their families. I had so many questions along the way: How do we make things better for ourselves and each other? What is worth knowing? What makes for an educated human? What are the right things to be taught at the various ages? Maria Montessori reminded me of the importance of humility in working with children to make sure that their innate wisdom was being acknowledged and respected.

Working side by side with my husband and all of the other amazing educators who were and are passionate about their subjects and their lives, and the educational lives of their students, has been an incredible honor, privilege and blessing. Watching Mount Madonna School grow and change over the years, I have been very heartened to see all the new and gifted staff, students and families that have been attracted to our school and its desire to educate children in a wholesome and inspiring setting.

My favorite parts of my job were sharing in the awe, magic, wonder and delight of being with children every day; and honoring time in nature as an important part of daily living with them as, together, we explored the incredible beauty of our mountain and forests, and for the expanding circle of love that grew with each family who joined our school community.

It was most meaningful to me to reflect back to my students a bigger version of themselves than they might have imagined. I wanted them to know they were all scientists and artists, musicians and poets, athletes and mathematicians and, most importantly, people who were part of a global family. I wanted them to know that all their choices do matter and that they can make a difference in the world. In music classes I found great joy in sharing music from other cultures and teaching songs with positive messages worthy of the students’ consciousness; hopefully planting seeds of love, peace, friendship, kindness and environmental awareness and stewardship.

Although I am looking forward to new adventures inside and out, I’ll miss the sparkling eyes and hearts of all the people that have been part of everyday here. I continue to aspire to meditate every day and still find ways to be of service and add to the peace and beauty of the world. I am so deeply grateful for all the exquisite blessings of love, kindness and joy that are in my life and I will always believe in Magic and Mystery and Fairies!

I was shown the keys to happiness from my parents, my teachers, my family and through all my years at Mount Madonna School. Would you like to know what they are?

Wake up in the morning grateful for all the blessings you’ve been given.
Love the people you work with, the work you’ve been called to do, the place you do your work.
At the end of the day, give thanks for all the blessings you’ve been given.

–  By Sarojani Rohan


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, Director of Marketing & Communciations,

Nestled among the redwoods on 355 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a community of learners dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believe a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville.

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