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Teaching preschoolers progressively

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Education > Montessori teachers work to shape young minds

By Gina Schultz

Construction underway on various road projects across virtually all of Los Alamos can cause quite a headache. Children’s Montessori Preschool is amidst the roadblock and detour signs.

“We want people to know that we have open enrollment for the entire year,” Melanie Romero said.

Mother-daughter team Shelli Petty and Melanie Romero are certified Montessori instructors. The school has been operating for 7 years at its current location at 1060 Nugget St.

Director Shelli Petty takes pride in saying that the preschool program is progressive. “Kids these days need preschool to go onto kindergarten,” she said. “We teach children to be self motivated.”

The age ranges of the children are 2 ½ to 5 years old.

The school is open 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. and follows a structured schedule consisting of outdoor time and snacking time. There are clocks on the wall that illustrate the rigid structure that formats each day.

The philosophy of Children’s Montessori was founded by Dr. Maria Montessori. Three major points are for a child to develop his or her physical, intellectual and spiritual powers and achieve freedom through order and self discipline; to never risk failure of a child and recognize self-motivation as the only valid impulse to learning.

The focus on play and games helps the child have fun while they learn and Romero and Petty agree it works toward developing a child’s willingness to be taught.

Both Petty and Romero try to teach all aspects of the basics of learning and allow the children to play while they learn. There are several teaching “stations” the children can choose to learn any particular day.

The curriculum is approved through the National Association for the Education of Young Children and follows state guidelines.

The teaching stations are designed to give the beginning students a well-rounded educational start.
Practical Life: Teaches activities such pouring liqids, dressing one’s self and washing dishes to increase concentration and attention span.

Sensorial: Using the senses to teach comparative skills.
Language: Teaches pre-reading basics such as building on words and making sentences.
Math: Use basic materials and games to teach the four basic math operations.
Science: Simple experiments and long term projects introduce the world of science.
Foreign Language: Teaching kids words and phrases in Spanish, German and Sign Language (Petty and Romero also teach sign language — in English and Spanish. Romero is working on getting a certificate to teach English as a second language.)
Socialization: Social skills are taught to provide a loving, caring and respectable atmosphere. As expected sometimes the kids just don’t get along and the teachers make sure they show the kids how to handle conflict and learn how to apologize appropriately. “We don’t use time outs,” Romero said. Both agree that the school follows the Golden Rule: “Treat others are you would want to be treated.”
Geography: Globes assist the students in distinguishing land and water forms.
History: The child creates his or her own personal time line. Understanding a time line aids the child in gaining an understanding of history.
Art: To teach self expression.
Zoology and Botany: Teaches students to classify the plant and animal kingdoms.
Music: Group music includes music appreciation, songs, dancing and rhythm. Petty said she has a song to get kids to line up to go outside.

The student to teacher ratio is 9-1 and all age groups are welcome in one classroom. “It benefits the younger students to be with older children,” Petty said.

The school has no dress code and follows the Los Alamos Public Schools calendar for all holidays. Monthly activities encourage parent and family involvement, such as a Halloween Parade, Easter Egg Hunt, Mother’s Tea, Daddy’s Picnic and even Dr. Seuss Day.

To enroll, an initial meeting at the school is crucial. “It is easier for the child to meet the teacher, before leaving them alone,” Romero said.

For enrollment forms, tuition information and payment procedures visit the website at childrensmontessorila.com.
Petty and Romero hope to extend hours and offer a drop-in service.

Among the easiest ways to get to the school — until construction is finished — is from Trinity Drive, take 15th Street to Myrtle St. then turn right. Take a left on 11th Street, then a right on Nugget Street. The school is on the left, last building on the block.