Longview Independent School District opens the largest Montessori school in America giving every student opportunity for success
by Joycelyne Fadojutimi
“It is not true that I invented what is called the Montessori Method. I have studied the child. I have taken what the child has given me and expressed it, and that is what is called the Montessori Method.”–Dr. Marie Montessori.
With a new school year approaching, there will be something fresh and exciting in the Longview Independent School District (LISD) This will be the first semester for the new East Texas Montessori Prep Academy (ETMPA.) Even more thrilling, it will be the largest Montessori school in the country, with a 149,581-square foot building. An enrollment of approximately 1100 students is anticipated. The ribbon cutting brought together LISD officials, state, county and local elected dignitaries. They were on hand to witness the opening of this massive, state-of-the-art establishment. The implications are promising and prodigious.
The LISD will use Montessori education for Head Start, pre-K and kindergarten pupils from throughout the school district except for those enrolled in Hudson PEP and Johnston-McQueen elementary schools. Children in the Montessori program work and learn at whatever pace best suits them, and emphasis is on individual instruction. This pre-K Montessori campus is located at the intersection of U.S. highways 259 and 80. LISD Superintendent Dr. James Wilcox can hardly wait to get started.
“This is a dream of quality education for all students come true for parents and our community,” he said. “We always talk about doing what is best for students, however, often we do what’s best for adults, but not this time.”
Wilcox hopes to see additional Texas school districts follow the LISD example of striving to meet the needs of all their students. ETMPA may be the Genesis for a statewide overhaul in preparatory education. This is part of Wilcox’s vision of continuously improving student instruction, college and workforce readiness.
“Our students deserve the best opportunities. We just have to get our government leaders to lift up every student the best way they can,” he said. “But they consistently refuse to do so.”
Another perk is that all East Texans are invited to enroll at ETMPA. Wilcox points out that decades of research shows Montessori is the fastest method to accelerated academic excellence for all students, especially low-performing ones.
Moreover, Montessori method gives students access to and the ability to complete the international baccalaureate program.
ETMPA Principal Dr. Jacqueline Burnett gave tours of the campus to attendees. In addition, she described her journey to her new position and facility.
“When Superintendent Culver gave me the opportunity to teach elementary school, my mother Jackie Burnett, said, ‘When you have a sapling you can mold it. When it is a tree you have to uproot it.'” Dr. Burnett chose to mold saplings and is certain to be doing plenty of positive molding in her new capacity.
Furthermore, District 7 State Representative Jay Dean can see this coming, and has no doubts as to the future scholastic success and how many more educational successes can originate in the state capital.
“I am very proud of our Lobo family and what they are doing for education,” he said. “Dr. Wilcox did a fabulous job helping me in Austin. My Lobo family was there lending their help as we were crafting the legislation on how to properly fund education. We are not done yet. We hope to find the answers to school finance reform. I appreciate all their help.”
The plaudits just kept coming from all the highest places.
“I cannot think of a better program and state-of-the-art structure to have than this one in Gregg County,” said the Honorable Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt. “This is phenomenal. I appreciate the school district, Dr. Wilcox and his team.”
Hardcore Lobo, Mayor Andy Mack repeated Wilcox’s declaration that this school will give every student an excellent chance to succeed.
“I am so proud of this momentous occasion and so proud to be a Lobo,” he said. “I am thankful for this forward-thinking school. This is a piece of the education puzzle we need.”
LISD Board of Trustees member Virgina Northcutt is herself a Montessori graduate, and delighted to be a part of the ETMPA grand opening.
“Montessori education teaches peace, self-control, love, patience and task completion,” she said. “Best of all, students become lifelong learners.”
Another LISD trustee, Dr. Troy Simmons, called the new school, “The best thing that has happened in public education for 25 years.”
Burnett pointed out that pre-K admission is decided by income and language. She can hardly wait to get started. The role of teacher is unique and priceless.
In Montessori method, teachers are mainly overseers and supervisors as their students learn via a natural process that develops spontaneously in every young scholar. It does not include listening to lectures, but educates with experiences every child has in reaction to the surrounding environment. Teachers are tasked with presenting and arranging for cultural activity and interaction in a learning atmosphere tailored for each child.
“A room in which all the children move about usefully, intelligently and voluntarily, without committing any rough or rude act, would seem to me a classroom very well disciplined indeed,” said Dr. Montessori.
For this reason, teachers gently steer their students in the right direction. From their learning processes develop on their own. Teachers cannot prepare themselves for such a procedure through mere study. They must unlearn any preconceptions based on convention, and resolve to adapt to this novel mode of learning. Teachers must realize and accept that pupils will reveal themselves through work. In this scenario, children achieve classroom success through the fruition of their own natural gifts.
By removing all obstacles to learning, teachers will uncover the true nature of every child prior to assisting student to achieve normal development. This low-pressure, non-time-oriented approach will convince children to cry out, “I want to do it” while also revealing children’s inner needs. There is a new definition of what is normal. The normal, well-adjusted child is one who precociously intelligent, who has overcome himself, lives in contentment and leans toward an industrious, fruitful life rather than unrewarding, non-fulfilling sloth. In this capacity, a child’s positive development via the Montessori system is more accurately called “normalization,” not “conversion.”
Students can achieve stunning achievements through their frenetic absorption of information from their environments, even though they are still incapable of putting this constantly accumulating data to significant good use. By age three, a child will have perceived numerous concepts by exploring his surroundings. His activities and investigations have enabled him to mentally assimilate numerous facts and concepts. The Montessori method maintains that to merely dictate details is confusing to developing young minds. Establishing relationships between things, however, brings knowledge and comprehension.
There is also however, a further point to be considered. Montessori concept teaches there is no limit to learning. The entire universe is available for exploration. The volume of universal knowledge is imposing, but investigating it provides access to information on everything. The truth is out there, and every question can be answered.
As a result, by walking the path provided with proper teaching methods, there is nothing that cannot be learned. Wandering aimlessly in response to the universal need to know is like searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
This is the reason why, this quest to learn gives access to laws governing the universe, and these truths are fascinating and delightful to a child. Even as he drinks in information, his thirst does not slacken as he asks, “What am I? What is the task of humanity in this wonderful universe? Do we merely live here for ourselves, or is there something more for us to do? Why do we struggle and fight? What is good and evil? Where will it all end?”
Contemporary education is a field whose importance has never been so great and vital. Its significance can be summed up in one sobering statement–Education is the best weapon for peace.
To this end, Dr. Montessori said it best, “An education capable of saving humanity is no small undertaking. It involves the spiritual development of man, the enhancement of his value as an individual and the preparation of young people in times in which they live. Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.”
Dr. Maria Montessori was an Italian physician and educator. She is the architect of the Montessori method, a scientific pedagogy that is named after her.