Community Inquiry: Valley Montessori
for The Daily Record
Ellensburg parent Natalia Parker was so impressed with the social and academic experience her son received while attending the local Montessori (for children ages two-and-a-half through six), that she hopes to see similar instruction provided for older elementary children through opening a Montessori-inspired school in the fall of 2013.
For over 100 years now, the child-centered learning model developed by Italian scientist Maria Montessori has provided those ages two through 18 with an alternative learning approach that is widely praised. The American Montessori Society states that authentic Montessori classrooms include “multiage groupings that foster peer learning, uninterrupted blocks of work time, and guided choice of work activity.” Such an approach addresses the development of the whole child: the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive aspects.
“We are looking to create another learning environment in our community. We want to create a program that best meets the needs of children and their families. As this is still a developing project, we encourage and welcome feedback from parents and other interested community members. At this point, we are still trying to assess if Ellensburg would be able to support a Montessori-influenced private school,” Parker says.
Parker estimates that Monday through Friday education, which would operate on a similar calendar year to that of Ellensburg’s school district, would cost about $500 for the first childper month enrolled. There are about seven families who have already expressed interest, but at least 12 need to commit before they can contract one or two teachers.
While interested parents are exploring options for K-3 education first, Parker says they could add a second classroom if there’s enough interest sparked for grades 4-6 as well. Since the “money piece” might be the deciding factor for families who would otherwise enroll child, Parker points out that “fundraising opportunities are endless.”
Parker is more than willing to roll up her sleeves for a kick starter campaign, an auction, a benefit, or a combination of the above, but says she needs “more people who are willing to invest the same amount of time and energy.”
Though she holds a Psychology degree at Gonzaga University, focused on Special Education, and completed a Birth to Three Program through UW, Parker says that she approach this project as an interested parent, not as the “educator.” She will recruit teaching staff for the tentatively named Valley Montessori School.
The Parkers, who own and operate Iron Horse Brewery here in town, are impressed with the Montessori way of “instilling children with respect and believing they will learn given the support they need.” The family can’t say enough about the nurture and care their eight-year-old son received while attending Ellensburg Montessori. Their five-year-old will attend this coming September. Parker has also seen the benefits that come through more “manipulatives” and less worksheets, a low teacher to student ratio, and freedom from standardized tests.
Parker originally hoped the new school would open this coming fall, but she realized the importance of taking a step back and waiting to hear what those in the community would like to see. Her foremost questions for Ellensburg include: Do you want to see another private school? How much are you willing or able to pay? Is anyone interested in supporting the effort of this non-traditional school? If so, please email her with questions and/or suggestions at email@example.com