May 9, 2013-- Imagine a classroom where children are joyfully exploring the world, making connections across disciplines and developing responsibility and respect for themselves, others and the environment. The role of a Montessori teacher is to guide and engage children in doing just that.
This captures the mission of one of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls' newest graduate programs: Montessori Teacher Education, a program that was launched in the summer of 2012.
Maria Montessori, an Italian physician and educator, developed this educational approach and opened her first classroom in 1907. There are now an estimated 20,000 Montessori schools worldwide, 5,000 in the United States and a growing number in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
"What I value about the Montessori method is that the child, as a connector, is at the center of the teaching and learning community," said Gay Ward, faculty coordinator and professor in the College of Education and Professional Studies at UWRF. "Montessori education thus has the potential to be empowering and transforming for the teacher, the students and their families."
Market research conducted by UWRF in 2011 gathered information from superintendents of K-12 schools and principals or coordinators of public and private Montessori schools in Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. Responses substantiated the difficulty in finding Montessori certified teachers and in finding convenient and credible training programs. The UWRF program is one of few offered by public universities in the United States and has received strong support from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
The UWRF Montessori Elementary Teacher Education Program appeals to both licensed educators in K-12 schools and individuals with a bachelor's degree in other disciplines who want to teach in private Montessori schools. Students choose between completing a graduate Montessori certification or a master of science in education degree with Montessori certification in six consecutive semesters.
Designed to accommodate working professionals across a broad geographic area, the Montessori elementary program offers condensed face-to-face classes during the summer to minimize time away from family. Courses during the academic year are offered online with face-to-face meetings one weekend per month. Students do their practice, observations and practicum in Montessori schools where they work or that are located close to where they live.
Through a partnership with the School District of River Falls, UWRF is able to utilize the Public Montessori Elementary School's (RFPME) classrooms at times when they are not otherwise in use. Rent and fees paid to RFPME enable them to be a recognized American Montessori Society Member School and address other financial needs of the school.
While launching the elementary Montessori program in summer 2012, UWRF was approached by the St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) and asked to train teachers for a Montessori middle school they plan to open in the fall of 2013. Through a partnership between UWRF and the Cincinnati Montessori Secondary Teacher Education Program, SPPS educators starting in the program this summer will earn a Montessori Secondary I-II credential and may continue to earn a Master of Science degree in secondary education – Montessori from UWRF. Currently, secondary enrollment for this summer is restricted to educators from SPPS with courses held in River Falls, St. Paul and Cincinnati.
In September 2012, the Montessori program was recognized as a UWRF Strategic Initiative working toward the university goals of "Distinctive Academic Excellence" and "Innovation and Partnerships." The American Montessori Society (AMS) recently approved UWRF's elementary program as its first program utilizing distance education, and the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education will conduct its on-site review in October 2013.
For more information about UWRF's Montessori programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-425-3190.
Photo: Montessori Instructor Maggie Watson works with students at the River Falls Public Montessori Elementary School.