What is HGI?
Higher Ground International is a global organization consisting of a network of high-fidelity Montessori entrepreneurs and educators focused on opening schools within their communities, and working together to support and accelerate the network’s success. Through its global network of schools, HGI partners and their teachers, parents, and students share ideas across borders and adapt promising innovations in their own countries.
In entering a new market, HGI focuses on identifying local education entrepreneurs seeking a broader platform, and sourcing local capital to empower those entrepreneurs as they:
Open HGI offices that support the local Montessori school movement and provide thought leadership on Montessori;
Enhance local Montessori human capital by participating in HGI’s global recruitment, training, and leadership development resources via The Prepared Montessorian; and
Provide ancillary services for the efficient launch and management of a local network of high-fidelity Montessori schools.
Our International Network
Higher Ground International is a team of experts from around the world who are dedicated to the creation of a global network of entrepreneurial Montessori leaders. Our team is united by a common desire to mainstream and modernize the Montessori movement in every corner of the globe.
Austria & Hungary: Monika Kosa and Alexander Mingst
Monika Kosa is a lawyer with a deep commitment to learning and education in the 21st century as well as a strong interest in educational leadership and entrepreneurship. She previously worked for leading international law firms in Budapest and Vienna, where she gained experience in the fields of corporate M&A, contract law, civil law, immigration law, and employment law.
A couple of years ago, she was inspired by the HarvardX-course “Leaders of Learning” to take action in the field of education. She is currently professionalizing her Montessori knowledge through a 3-year diploma course (for the elementary age group 6-12 years) at the Vienna training center of the Montessori Academy (montessori.at, run by AMI-trained directors of training). Prior to embarking on Montessori teacher training, she attended various events and workshops with educators on the reinvention of education and delved deeper into literature (i.e. developmental psychology, educational neuroscience). Having experienced the need for high-quality childcare and primary education in Vienna, she became committed to launching an outstanding Montessori school (for the age group 0-12 y).
Monika boasts a diverse range of experiences at the intersection of law and education, including providing legal aspects and insights in a special advocacy group representing the alliance of Viennese private kindergartens towards the municipal council, participating in Legal Literacy Project (an Austrian NGO with the intention of making law simple and understandable for high school students), and talking with headmasters, teachers, and students while visiting various middle and high schools as a school profiler (for clients relocating to Austria). As a certified trainer for stress management, Monika also promotes the importance of a healthy work culture and balanced life for lawyers and educators while advocating the adaptation of Austrian employment law in this regard. Prior to her commitment to the Montessori pedagogy, Monika had already volunteered in education as a mentor for an NGO supporting first-generation students.
Having studied law in Germany, Austria, France and Hungary, Monika holds Master´s degrees in Hungarian and Austrian laws and is admitted to practice both in Austria and Hungary. She obtained her LL.M. from the German-speaking Andrássy University Budapest.
Alexander Mingst is an in-house HR consultant (training & development) for WU Vienna University of Economics and Business (Austria), part-time lecturer (strategic management, project management) for the International University Bad Honeff (Germany), and an external member of the Learning Innovation Unit of IESE Business School Barcelona (Spain). He previously worked for consulting companies, a major transportation company, and a university.
Alexander’s signature characteristic is his love of learning, and he built his professional career around the facilitation of development processes. Before going to university, he had already worked as a basketball coach and in a kindergarten for children with special needs (age 3-6). He holds degrees in business (University of Marburg, Germany) and international relations (Andrássy University Budapest, Hungary) and successfully completed training as a systemic coach (systworks, Austria) and speaker (isimind Academy, Germany).
Bulgaria: Rumiana Ilieva and Tsvetomir Iliev
Rumiana Ilieva is an Industrial Projects Manager at the largest marine company in Bulgaria. She holds an MBA in International Economic Relations from the Varna University of Economics and holds a certificate in International Finance from the Institute of Finance Services, UK. Rumiana is a member of AMI, ME and the Bulgarian Montessori Association, attending various AMI Montessori trainings since 2011.
Dr. Maria Montessori's education methods were forbidden in Bulgaria by the communist regime from 1945 to 1990. Only in 2009 did a Montessori primary school first open in Bulgaria. 7 years later, Rumiana opened the first Montessori Educational Center in her country for children ages six through twelve. And now, we're honored to have her and Tsvetomir lead our first European Guidepost Montessori Network schoo, now open in Varna, Bulgaria, and serving children ages six through twelve.
In her spare time, Rumiana enjoys being a yoga trainer to help "promote the spiritual part of humanity in daily life.
Tsvetomir Iliev is a CEO of a paper converting company in Bulgaria and runs a trading office in Romania. He holds an MBA degree in International Business and has much experience in various business projects in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, the UK and Italy. He is the chairman of the official supporters club of Tottenham Hotspur, London.
His devotion to the Montessori method started with his son's birth in 2009. And in 2016, Tsvetomir invested in the first Montessori Educational Club in Bulgaria which has proven to be a great step towards building a stronger community of parents, teachers and children. He is eager to continue the educational development of local children and fully support our first European Guidepost Montessori Network School in Varna, Bulgaria.
Tsvetomir is also passionate about organizing different charity events for special needs children in Varna.
Middle East & North Africa: Hany Syed
Mr. Syed received his bachelor’s degree in History form the University of California Berkeley and his M.B.A. from Columbia University. Mr. Syed was part of the founding team of a Dubai-based investment management firm established in 2007 that focused on social infrastructure sectors (education, healthcare, TMT, transportation and logistics, power and energy, security and defense). He was operationally active in transactions from Board participation to interim CEO and Executive Director roles. Prior to his international finance experience, he worked in technology and investment banking roles in Palo Alto and Southern California.
Over the past several years, Mr. Syed has developed an expertise in the global education industry as a subject matter expert for The Boston Consulting Group, an advisor and investor in leading global K-12 private school groups, and as a participant in and moderator for panel discussions at international education conferences. Additionally, Mr. Syed co-founded a college in Dubai, partnering with the owners of GEMS Education and the prominent U.A.E. government and business leaders.
Mr. Syed joined the founding team of Higher Ground to help grow it into the largest school management company in the U.S. and one of the largest in the world. His primary focus is on advising and leading the execution of expansion strategies in the U.S. and internationally as well as other strategic initiatives.
China: Tommy Zheng
Tommy is a proven business leader with over 20 years of experience across sales, marketing, operations, and service delivery across industries—from education to enterprise technology. With a solid track record in building, developing, and motivating a champion team to achieving measurable results, Tommy is committed to a close partnership with HGE USA to modernize and mainstream the international Montessori movement in China.
In 2011, Tommy joined EF China and quickly grew student volume and revenue for five centers of the East region. Within one year, Tommy became the National Director of Customer Service at EF with the responsibility of providing world class service to over 50k students and significantly growing student revenue.
Tommy specializes in new business set up and development, general management of sales with a focus on customer experience development, and team development. His expertise in managing operations performance, teams, recruiting, and training and development of staff will be invaluable to inspiring top talent to help build world-class Montessori schools across China and Greater China.
Russia: Irina Isaeva
Irina is a serial entrepreneur who has started multiple companies, including preschools, an online learning community, and a consulting practice. She is especially passionate about and experienced in launching educational institutions, particularly Montessori and Early Childhood schools. Irina has launched her own schools and now helps others to navigate the many aspects of launching a new institution including everything from conceptualization to construction management to hiring talent. Irina strongly believes that children who are nurtured and supported in their early years grow into their best selves as adults. Irina sits on multiple boards, is an avid supporter of the Montessori community, and looks forward to bringing this expertise to the Higher Ground team.
Panama & Latin America: Jose Goldner
Jose is currently the President of Leaders of the Future. Jose previously built and acquired a wide variety of businesses ranging from technology and tourism companies to real estate investment firms. Jose Goldner began his career as an English literature professor, teaching at Panama Canal College, The International School of Panama, Universidad Latina, and the Oxford International School. Jose is certified to instruct students in International Baccalaureate Degree programs and has published poetry in various journals in the United States such as The New England Review, The Comstock Review, The Georgia Review, and Dream International Quarterly.
In January 2010, Goldner was appointed Managing Director of Briggs Capital, a Boston -based investment bank focused on international Mergers & Acquisitions and real estate. Over the last seven years, Jose Goldner has aimed the majority of his efforts at the development of the Azuero Peninsula, a region located on the southwestern coast of the Republic of Panama. Jose Goldner holds a Literature degree from Miami Ohio University in Oxford, Ohio and a Master of Education degree from Framingham State College.
Tunisia & North Africa: Julien Lamorte
Julien worked as an Urban Planner and Project Manager for more than 20 years and then as a volunteer in Montessori educational organizations for more than 12 years. He soon decided that going forward his focus would be on expanding the Montessori community. He is skilled in bridging cultural gaps and inspiring a diverse team of people to join forces to bring innovative, sometimes seemingly impossible, projects come to life. He is passionately convinced that what Maria Montessori created is so valuable that we ought to share it with as many people as possible and plans to help the Montessori community grow stronger and larger to do just that.
Mexico & Latin America: Agustín Paulín
Agustín Paulín is the General Director of HUMA Foundation and CEO of GEMIINI Learning Systems. He is an expert in Education and Technology, with more than 20 years of experience in strategic planning, change management, and high impact project execution. He is an Industrial Engineer from the National University (UNAM) and holds a Master’s degree in educational policy from Stanford University.
Agustín has experience in the public and private sector. Prior to his current positions, he was the CIO of the Ministry of Education in Mexico and Business Development Director at JP-IUSA. He has also taught graduate courses such as Business Strategy at ITAM and Learning How To Learn at Collective Academy. He lectures on the future of education and on how to improve the quality of education through technology. Agustin is currently an Endeavor Mentor and a member of the boards of various companies from the EdTech sector.
International Growth Driven by Local Leadership
Our strategy is to recognize and systematically leverage the widespread international availability of local talent and capital, as well as the growing demand for quality Montessori education around the world, by offering local teams the support and training they need to succeed. Our value proposition is in our ability to empower and amplify the ability of local Montessori entrepreneurs and educators to create profound and lasting value for the children in their communities.
Given the mission and vision of HGI, we seek to empower leaders around the world to fulfill their potential as Montessori entrepreneurs.
Local Education Entrepreneurs: What we are looking for?
We are seeking people with the skills needed to seed and grow Montessori:
Exceptional leadership skills
Pre-existing understanding of and commitment to Montessori
Demonstrated alignment with HGI Mission, Vision, and Purpose
Commitment to balancing the needs of a commercial education enterprise with a devotion to uncompromising, high-fidelity Montessori pedagogy
In addition to the essential skills above, it also helps to have on-the-ground familiarity with a locale:
Government connections for school licensure
Real Estate acquisition and/or new build
Knowledge of education consumption market knowledge/trends
Understanding of local parent concerns
Understanding of local school market; specifically relating to early childhood and/or Montessori
Local Capital Partners: What are we looking for?
Alignment on dual strategy to support local montessori growth in country in parallel with building the international movement
Expertise and relationships in the local market
Capital investment at the local HGI country level and at the local school level
If you're interested in becoming an HGI partner, please connect with us.