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When Kay Neff founded Dearborn Heights Montessori Center 47 years ago, she wanted it to be a place for children to learn through the authentic Montessori curriculum. Nearly five decades later, the school has grown exponentially, serving thousands of students throughout the years on three campuses located in southeast Michigan.
The three locations include Dearborn Heights Montessori Center, which serves toddlers age 18 months through middle school, Livonia Montessori School, which offers preschool and kindergarten classes, and Plymouth-Canton Montessori School, which provides toddler programs through kindergarten classes.
“We’re one of the only programs in southeast Michigan to offer a complete Montessori program to students from toddler through elementary and middle school,” says Shelley Boatright, who manages marketing and communications for the schools. “We are an authentic Montessori program. We follow Maria Montessori’s philosophies, principles, and views on education as she intended it to be more than 100 years ago.”
The Montessori method is a child-centered approach to education based on scientific observations of the children. The teachers deliver core academics – math, language/reading, geography, science – as well as art, music, physical education, technology, and world languages in a way that impacts students the best. Students “learn how to learn,” a skill that will serve them well in our ever-changing world.
“We have multi-age classrooms, Montessori-trained lead teachers and we follow the child throughout their education,” Boatright says. “We have children here at all grades who are working at different levels. We make sure that we are providing an environment for learning that works for each individual child.”
Dearborn Heights Montessori Center evaluates learning retention for all students through ongoing assessments by teachers and a computerized tracking system. Standardized tests are administered yearly at the elementary level and above, and there are also report cards and conferences so parents can see the progress of their students throughout the year.
At Dearborn Heights Montessori Center, Boatright says the classrooms don’t look like typical classrooms.
“There aren’t desks lined up in rows. There might be kids working with a Montessori material on a rug on the floor, or doing a small group lesson or working with the teacher one-on-one – whatever works best for their learning style,” Boatright says. “The teachers have the equipment and materials they need to run a really wonderful classroom.”
The classrooms, she adds, have low student-to-teacher ratios. In most of the classrooms, the students stay with the same teacher for three years, providing an opportunity for teachers to get to know each student and his or her learning style.
From the beginning of the admissions process, Boatright says the school works to make sure Dearborn Heights Montessori Center is a good fit for the child and for the family. “Our parents know that it’s a partnership. We are working together to educate their children and prepare them for the future,” Boatright says. “We foster curiosity, creativity, and independence in our students, and we place the highest value on character.”
Students who continue with Dearborn Heights Montessori Center through eighth grade often have their pick of local prestigious high schools and excel in them. Graduates report that their Montessori experiences leading groups, working collaboratively with classmates, and presenting before an audience have served them well in high school and beyond.
Dearborn Heights Montessori Center offers after-school activities as well. A drama program presents plays twice a year. Other classes include cooking, dance, science, or sports. Each school year concludes with an all-school cultural festival.
In the summer, Dearborn Heights Montessori Center runs a nine or ten-week day camp at all three locations. Weekly themes, field trips, and in-house presentations contribute to an exciting program.
“There is uniqueness to what we do. We have rigorous academics, but just as important are the other components of our programs that promote peace and respect. We go above and beyond to provide a high level of service and support to our families and students,” Boatright says.
To learn more about the school, parents are invited to Dearborn Heights Montessori Center’s Walk-in Wednesday events. The admissions staff is available from 9 to 11 a.m. every Wednesday for tours and information. Parents can also schedule a tour for a time convenient for them.
Visit the Dearborn Heights Montessori Center website for more information, or call the school at 313-359-3000.