A Mesa charter school has been nationally recognized for its quality of education and compassion for its students.
The U.S. Department of Education named the Montessori Education Centre Charter School at 2834 E Southern Ave. of 362 National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019.
The prestigious title is given to private or public schools that demonstrate “outstanding academic excellence” or progress in closing opportunity gaps.
More than 8,000 schools across the country have been presented with the coveted award since 1982.
“We are so proud,” said Principal Cassi Mackey. “It validates and affirms the hard work that our students, faculty and family have put into creating an environment where our kids will grow and transform.”
Every year the federal department seeks out elementary, middle and high schools that demonstrate that all students can achieve to high levels, according to its website.
The two award categories include “exemplary high performing” and “exemplary achievement gap closing.”
The high performing category is for schools that have their state’s highest high school graduation rates and the highest achieving students – the top 15 percent – in English and mathematics.
Non-public schools are recognized if their student achievement in English and mathematics is among the highest in the country, which is measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests.
The latter category is for schools that have made the greatest advances in closing “subgroup achievement gaps” in English and mathematics over the past five years.
Public schools are nominated by the chief state school officer in each state, and at least one-third of schools nominated in each state must have at least 40 percent of its student population coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Montessori Education Centre, which has around 200 students in grades kindergarten to sixth, was awarded for its academic excellence.
“We are devoted to nurturing the whole child’s growth,” said Mackey. “And guiding the transformation of each student while modeling a love of learning.”
The charter school has a population breakdown of 3 percent African American students; 88 percent white and 9 percent Hispanic.
The Montessori Method of Education, which was developed by Maria Montessori over 100 years ago, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children.
Individualized education, investigative exploration, interactive experiences and inclusive community development are among the guiding principles of learning at the school, according to Mackey.
The school’s logo, she continued, is a seedling and a butterfly. Its imagery speaks to the essence of Montessori and represents the impact every developmental stage has on an individual, Mackey said.
Of all the charter schools in the country, Mackey said she believes its Montessori Education Centre’s collaborative culture sets it apart.
“We have a culture of community that is pretty strong and powerful,” said the principal. “We are trying to develop children who serve others, who achieve academically, who respectfully challenge the norm and who operate with grace and courtesy.”
One of the school’s main priorities is teaching students how to respectfully disagree while still staying true to their own beliefs.
Because of the Montessori structure, the school dynamic allows teachers to have more personalized one-on-one time when teaching these lessons.
“We sit down and have conversations with our kids,” said Mackey. “If there are disagreements on the playground, we have coaching sessions with our students for how to manage themselves in relationship to others.”
“Our number one concern is emotional health,” she added. “We want them to go out into the world and challenge their teachers and authority adults in a way that shows respect but is also very mindful of what they believe while having facts and examples to help back it up.”
Mackey said emotional health is crucial for academic success, and she believes the two go hand-in-hand.
Blue Ribbon recognition aside, Mackey said the school will continue to strive to develop citizens of the world” in a nurturing and loving environment.
“Although we love being recognized, it’s not what drives us or motivates us,” she said. “It’s the children. We will continue doing what we feel is a really great pedagogy, which is Montessori and developing citizens of the world.”