Local Montessori’s year-round schedule a success
Joyful Scholars Montessori switched to a year-round school calendar this year, and school co-founder Anni Hisey said the impact on learning has been positive. Perhaps other schools can learn something from their experience.
“The students are happy, parents are happy, teachers are happy and everyone is learning,” Hisey told me. “I think this is what education is meant to feel like,” she added.
Hisey, who started out as a teacher in a traditional classroom, has found her niche in alternative learning environments where the focus is on engaging students in projects and topics that fire their imagination. Hisey teaches the 4th through 6th grades, while co-founder Cara Hackenmiller teaches 1st through 3rd grades.
Traditional school settings tend to be places where conformity is required and rewards and punishments are common. The Montessori approach provides for plenty of rigor but in a highly collaborative and co-creative learning environment. It’s a place where it’s cool to be a nerdy scientist, said Hisey.
“All children are innately curious,” Hisey told me. She sees her job as helping figure out what fires the imagination of the kids and then “giving them exactly what I know they need in order to take the next step.”
For the first two years, the Joyful Scholars Montessori operated in the basement of the Wenatchee Valley Museum, which gave the kids access to a treasure trove of the Valley’s history. They outgrew the space and have co-located with the Central Cornerstone Church at the corner of Chelan Ave. and Palouse.
The North Central Regional Library is just half a block away, and the students, Hisey said, make generous use of the resources. “They’re at the library every day and the librarians know them by name,” she said.
The notion of going to school year-round started with the students after the school’s first full year. A number of them complained about the long break from school. Parents then started catching the enthusiasm and Hackenmiller and Hisey started looking seriously at how to make that happen.
The research is clear that year-round schedules help kids learn. The long summer break gets kids out of the habit of learning and teachers must introduce materials that have already been covered. But the real discovery Hisey and Hackenmiller made was that the rhythm of six weeks of intense learning followed by a break for kids and teachers to rest and refocus, is far more conducive to learning. It’s much like high intensity training for physical exercise where short bursts of work lead to much greater results.
Hisey, who teaches classes at Wenatchee Valley College, recalled the wisdom of a sign at the school and takes it to heart in her work: “Education is not the filling of a bucket. It’s the lighting of a fire.”
It’s exciting to see the small school innovating and finding success. Perhaps other schools will follow their example.
The school is putting on a vintage fashion show and tea party as a fundraiser from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, April 23. For tickets, email email@example.com or call Kerri Walker at 775-335-6225.