New school in North Bend rooted in Montessori tradition

NORTH BEND - If you are a parent of a preschool-age child, the Mountain View Montessori School wants to talk with you. Sitting in the shadow of Mount Si, Mountain Valley is a brand-new Montessori opening in North Bend at 248 Main Ave. S. across from Frankie's Pizza and ACE Hardware.

Mother-daughter team Terry and Katy Barnard will be teaching at the school located in the former home of Liz's Playground Childcare. The Barnards have more than 25 years worth of combined teaching experience, although the school is primarily the result of Katy's efforts. Having taught at The Sammamish Montessori School for the past eight years, she said she is realizing a dream come true.

"I swore I would never be a teacher, growing up with teachers and watching my mom teach ... and as I was going through training to become a teacher, I swore I would never open my own school as I listened to these women opening their own schools," Katy said.

Over time, though, a love for kids and a desire to take the next step in her career made her think of setting up her own Montessori.

"Sometimes things just keep presenting themselves," said Katy.

A fellow teacher who runs a Montessori school in Fall City encouraged Katy to look into the idea. Katy bought the contents of a school in Vancouver, Wash., and kept them in storage while she waited to find the ideal location for her own school. She spent about a year and a half looking for the right space and waiting for the right time to leave The Sammamish Montessori.

Finally, the old Virginia Mason building in North Bend became available and the Barnards quickly acted on the opportunity. Katy and her mother have replaced carpeting, repainted the interior and conducted a general remodeling, including securing an outside play area and working on landscaping.

"It's interesting ... it's an interesting experience when you say you're going to buy a school; it includes not just the materials, but all the child-sized furniture," said Terry.

Even though Katy had planned on staying at The Sammamish Montessori through the next school year, she decided to leave in late July so she could spend more time preparing her own school for its opening in September.

"It was hard to leave," Katy said. "I mean, here I am, opening my own business and following my heart and my passion and what I believe in. It was very difficult to leave what was family and I hope to create that same kind of environment [here]."

That environment is rooted in the Montessori tradition that stems from the educational philosophy of Italian physician Maria Montessori. Montessori graduated from medical school in 1896, became the first female doctor in Italy in modern times and developed the Montessori method of education. She opened Casa dei Bambini, or Children's House, in 1906, leaving a chair at the University of Rome as professor of anthropology. Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and Helen Keller are some of the noted Americans who became convinced that Montessori's approach was correct as it spread to the United States in the years preceding World War I. For nearly half a century Montessori, a three-time Nobel Prize nominee, created a worldwide teaching movement that focused on helping children help themselves learn. There are now 7,000 Montessori schools in existence today.

As for what the actual Montessori method is, Katy said it mostly just involves letting kids explore the world on their own terms and helping them build a foundation for elementary school and beyond.

"The children have a lot of hands-on interaction," Katy said. "The teacher acts more as a guide and creates a prepared environment for children so that it's an environment for the child, not for the teacher."

The Barnards want to continue these ideals at their school.

"Montessori is a wonderful experience," said Terry, who taught first grade for public schools in Tacoma for 11 years and holds a master's degree in education from Pacific Lutheran University.

Katy has a bachelor's degree in education from Seattle University and earned her Montessori education through the American Montessori Society (AMS), a national organization that serves as the mainstay to the American Montessori movement. Both Barnards are AMS certified through elementary school, and they said their certification distinguishes them from other schools that may claim to be Montessori schools but have teachers without Montessori training.

Katy looks forward to working with Valley parents and families and considers herself fortunate.

"When you're on the right path and you're doing what you're supposed to be doing in life, everything [should] present itself," she said. "Everywhere I look, there's a reason to say 'thank you' and smile."

* For more information, call (425) 888-3369.

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