Focus on Leadership

Cheryll Ruszat grew up with a very clear mission - to teach - and she has been doing just that for more than 4 decades. Her passion? Montessori education! Cheryll found Montessori education for her own two children when they were preschoolers and, as she says, "My children grew up but I stayed behind!"

Cheryll has been a national and local presenter and enthusiastically explains why the early childhood years are the most significant and why they make such and impact on lifelong learning. Cheryll doesn’t just talk; she is the Executive Director of the Montessori Schools of Irvine, one of the largest private early childhood education programs in California. Her mission: Montessori Schools of Irvine exists to provide the highest quality of early childhood education and care available - anywhere.

All four of her schools are nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and affiliated with the American Montessori Society. One of the schools, the University Montessori School of Irvine, right on the UCI campus, was the first public- private partnership in the Nation. This Montessori School has won two architectural awards and serves the child care needs of University staff and faculty.

Cheryll finds her greatest rewards come from the many families who return to tell her how well their children are doing both academically and in life or when former students actually return and enroll their own children in her schools. Not only has she watched children grow up and return, but recently two previous students became engaged at one of her schools after rediscovering each other in law school.

Cheryll is very cognizant of the fact that it takes a well-trained as well as talented teacher to provide a quality educational experience. Rather than leave anything to chance, Cheryll created the University Montessori Teacher Education Program at UC Irvine to train Montessori teachers in this extraordinary method. Her efforts won her the Instructor of Excellence award from UC Irvine Extension. This training program has run annually since 1991!

Cheryll’s dedication to education doesn't end with early childhood education. She and her husband Richard are avid supporters the Taco Bell Children’s Discovery Science Center with Cheryll being on the Board and Richard on their campaign committee as well as co-chairing their 2013 Gala.

Cheryll and Richard are also long-time supporters of UC Irvine across many disciplines. Both Cheryll and Richard are on the UC Irvine Foundation Board of Trustees. They have been Co-Presidents of the UC Irvine Chancellor’s club for numerous years, raising unrestricted funds for the Chancellor as well as scholarships and fellowships for UC Irvine students. They are on several leadership councils including the UCI School of Education and the New Swan theater, have contributed to the UC Irvine-Douglas hospital, the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, and other campus enterprises. Cheryll and Richard not only co-chaired the UC Irvine Medal, a major annual event on the campus raising scholarships but in 2013 they were the recipients of this prestigious award.