In the Neighbourhood: Pathway Montessori Preschool

While Nancy Graham was looking for a location to open her own private Montessori preschool, she heard that Mrs. Suleman, owner of the Teaching Tree Montessori Preschool in the Woodlands Village Mall, was retiring. The opportunity to acquire an established school was “perfect.” In July of 2005, Nancy opened Pathway Montessori Preschool, after purchasing the Teaching Tree’s assets, which included it’s Montessori teaching materials. Re-enrolment of a small core group of children in the fall meant an easier adjustment period for the children, Nancy and her staff.

“We have ages from 2½ to kindergarten in one room, and that’s part of the beauty of the Montessori philosophy – the older one help the younger ones,” Nancy said. Most often, she and her assistant, Paula Kruger, “circulate” amongst their mixed-age group of preschoolers, watching and guiding each one in the Montessori “lesson” of his or her choice, rather than from the front of the classroom. Exceptions are weekly music and French classes, as well as specified “carpet times,” when students sit together on a large carpet in the centre of the classroom and face the teacher.

As part of learning “practical life” skills, the children made macaroons and served them to their parents at their spring tea on May 12. Students have considerable freedom within the classroom but follow strict rules about putting things away and cleaning up after themselves.

“I don’t think I really enjoyed school that much myself when I was growing up,” Nancy volunteered as a probable explanation for her long-time interest in alternative ways of learning and teaching, including the Montessori Method. Both her children, Eldon, 10, and Alyse, 8, are Montessori preschool graduates. There was a time when all three went off to school together – Eldon and Alyse attended one Montessori classroom, while Mom taught in the other next door.

Since completing her Early Childhood Education and Montessori training in Vancouver, on Vancouver Island and in Calgary, for a total of nearly 14 years.

The Graham family moved to Calgary from Nanaimo in 2012, when Nancy’s husband decided to relocate hi organic-food home-delivery business, Farm Fresh Organics, to our fair city. The family currently lives in a co-op housing complex near Mount Royal College.

Paula emigrated from South Africa and has worked previously with preschool and elementary-school children. She has been studying alongside Nancy since September, gaining practical Montessori experience, as well as leading their unique preschool music program. Recently, Paula began her online Montessori training coursework.

Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952) was an Italian physician, anthropologist, and educator who around 1906 developed the revolutionary Montessori Method of educating children. She never trademarked the term “Montessori,” and hence there is no single body of accreditation.

Presently, Pathway is accepting registration for its morning and afternoon fall sessions. A maximum of 24 spots are available in each session. Mornings are almost full, Nancy said.

As well, Pathway offers a five-week summer preschool program, through the month of July and the first week of August. Children attend between 9:00 and 11:30, from Monday to Friday. Parents have the option of enrolling their child for from one to five days per week, but must pre-register. Youngsters will still experience the Montessori environment, but there will be more crafts, a daily theme, and outdoor activities.

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