Archive for Thursday, January 19, 2006

Colorful education alternative

January 19, 2006

Students enrolled in the Sancta Maria Montessori School, 1623 Elm St., are learning the colors of verbs and what subtraction feels like in their hands.

School president Roger Fulks said the teaching method at the school was developed about 100 years ago and features sensorial learning.

Student Sean Toplikar reads a book to teacher Marilee Quinn.
Because of the small class sizes, Quinn is able to give each
student individual attention and teach the students in a way that
works best for them.

Student Sean Toplikar reads a book to teacher Marilee Quinn. Because of the small class sizes, Quinn is able to give each student individual attention and teach the students in a way that works best for them.

"Maria Montessori started working with orphan children in the streets of Rome," Fulks said. "They work with concrete materials so they can learn through all of their senses."

Fulks said the school also has two more goals -- to bring God and spirituality back into the classroom and to allow parents to be the students' main educators.

"Montessori also emphasizes that parents are the primary educators of the children -- it is a combined effort," Fulks said.

Montessori guide Marilee Quinn, who has taught at Sancta Maria for 20 years, said the school also teaches a myriad of other subjects.

"We teach life skills, and we teach language, math, cultural subjects. And we have an area called sensorial, which educates the senses," Quinn said.

Student Laura Heschmeyer, 6, who has attended the school for two years, said she likes learning with her senses.

"I like speech, because you get to color in things," Laura said.

Quinn said because the teaching was sensorial -- not just visual -- students were able to read at an earlier age than normal.

A four-year attendee, Jonathan Bock, 6, was one such student and said he enjoyed reading at Sancta Maria.

"I like to read about the underwater sea and all the stuff it talks about," Jonathan said.

The Christian private school, which has 42 students, offers a complete and continuous education for children through the age of 18, but most of its students are between the ages of four and 12.

Quinn said the greatest aspect of the school was working in small class sizes with the same students. She said the teachers didn't change every year and work with the same students for about five years, creating a way for students to bond with the teachers.

"We can work through the complete development of the child, and you can't get that anywhere else," Quinn said.

Betty Thoennes has sent all four of her children through the Montessori school, two of which are still in attendance. She said she sent her children to the school because public schools had omitted teaching religion.

"I sent them there because of the high moral character and high moral standard of the school," Thoennes said. "The integration of the learning with the spiritual side and the individual attention is important."

Thoennes said there was one small drawback to Sancta Maria -- the lack of a sports program.

"It particularly affects the upper grades," Thoennes said. "But that's easy to overcome because we can get involved in other soccer and basketball programs. It's not really a big deal."

Fulks said the most rewarding aspect of his job was watching the children develop.

"We've graduated 15 from the high school, and they've gone into all walks," Fulks said. "They are doing what they want to do, and they are happy."

Fulks said despite monetary limitations, the school was doing well and would be around for the foreseeable future.

"It has been rewarding work," Fulks said. "It's been hard work. It's difficult to keep the funds up, but the fruits outweigh the negatives."

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