A new Montessori school, one with a slightly different funding model than others, is set to open in Gilbert for the 2014-15 school year.
The new school, Smaller Scholars Montessori Academy, follows the traditional Montessori educational curriculum, said school director Teresa De Andrado. The model, created by the eponymous Italian Maria Montessori, emphasizes observation and guidance to breed critical thinking skills and mixes students by age range.
As De Andrado put it, instructors guide students on how to complete an activity and let them figure out the answer on their own as a means of increasing their independence.
“It truly is designed to meet the children’s need. In Montessori, it belongs to the children; it’s the children’s design,” she said.
The school, which is scheduled to open for the first day of class on Aug. 4, will contain 11 classrooms and can house up to 170 students at full capacity. Students can enroll at Smaller Scholars as infants and can matriculate up to sixth grade within the program.
Montessori programs have become quite popular in recent years across the country and in Arizona — the website privateschoolreview.com lists more than 40 in this state alone. One little quirk Smaller Scholars has though is the backing of a larger entity, which De Andrado said is uncommon in the state. Incoming toddler teacher Barbara Gonzalez, who is entering her 25th year as a Montessori instructor, concurred with De Andrado and said the Montessori schools she’s worked at before were owned by individuals.
“It’s like wow, a corporately owned school is a new experience,” Gonzalez said.
Smaller Scholars Montessori Academy, which first opened in 1985, actually has three other locations opened, although all three are located in Texas. The company also has a few faith-based and traditional schools as well, said Sharon Moran, vice president of corporate development.
The decision to go to Gilbert, she said, came from a bit of research that discovered a large demand for it in the Valley area, and the town appeared to be a prime place to set up shop.
Moran said the school has since remodeled its location — the site previously belonged to a different school — to provide a roomy space for the 24 students in each classroom with as much natural lighting as possible.
For Gonzalez, being able to renovate the facility is tied to one of the key advantages of having the corporate backing. The large-scale company provides a deeper pool of funding to pull from, meaning it’s easier to acquire educational material from the get-go.
“They want to do it right from the beginning,” she added.
Smaller Scholars is located at 1675 W. Guadalupe Road. Additional information about the school is available at SmallerScholars.com.
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