Way Beyond A-B-C

Dec. 15-21, 2005
Way Beyond A-B-C
By Our Lady of Lourdes School staff/ SUN contrubuting writer
SUN photo(s) submitted
OLOL School Uses Montessori Method to Prepare Children for Lifetime of Learning

There is nothing more refreshing than a room full of eager little faces, brimming with questions and ready to learn. Of course, teaching, nurturing and guiding all those preschoolers is not without challenges.

One of the best ways to harness that enthusiasm and instill a lifetime love of learning is to use the Montessori method of teaching. At Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Catholic School in Utica, one of three pre-kindergarten classes is a modified Montessori program. The curriculum follows the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian educator and physician who believed that the most important part of learning is the self-motivation of the child.

Established at Our Lady of Lourdes some 30 years ago, the modified Montessori pre-k was one of the first of its kind in this area. This multi-age classroom of three-to five-year olds operates on the premise that every child carries within himself or herself the person that he/she will become. In order to develop physical, intellectual and spiritual powers to the fullest, he/she must have freedom, one that is achieved through order and self-discipline.

Three to five years of age is an ideal time for such development, said teacher Janis Farley, since that is when most children learn the basic ground rules of human behavior. Patterns of concentration and thoroughness established in these early years, Farley said, produce confident and competent learners in later studies. “It is a privilege to bring the methods and philosophy of Montessori education to Our Lady of Lourdes,” Farley said. “The most important aspects of what we do are to instill in the children a love of learning, confidence in themselves, and respect for others.”

Farley is assisted by Wendy Hadynski, who brings a different perspective to this classroom — one of a parent. Her son, John, is now a third grader at OLOL. Wendy and her husband, Greg, said that their positive experience with Montessori at Our Lady of Lourdes convinced them to continue his elementary education at the school.

“As parents, we feel that the Montessori methods and atmosphere have helped our son to become a good student, a kind friend, and a faithful Catholic,” Hadynski said. Now a teaching assistant in the Montessori classroom, Hadynski has many years of experience teaching religious education at her home parish, St. Paul’s, Whitesboro.

“It is wonderful to watch the empowerment of children learning and exploring their own abilities and limitations in an environment that is so positive and peaceful in nature,” Hadynski said. “I also find that the Montessori classroom is an ideal setting for teaching the children about God, our loving Creator, and Jesus, the embodiment of peace.”

And what do the preschoolers think of the Montessori method? “Awesome!” seems to be the general consensus. Patrick and Graceann Quinn, parents of current Montessori student Matthew and “graduate” now-first grader Joseph, rave about the specialized classroom.

“The Montessori curriculum focuses on the child, allowing him to explore new things and develop his independence,” Patrick said. “Both our boys have enjoyed this concept in learning.” Carol Polito, principal of Our Lady of Lourdes, said that both Farley and Hadynski have received specialized teacher instruction from Trinity Montessori School in Rochester. But perhaps even more important, Polito said, they truly love teaching the school’s youngest students. From the first-day-of-school jitters to the confidence of a ceremonious pre-k graduation, each child learns respect because that is how he or she is treated, Polito said.

This philosophy fits hand in glove with that of Our Lady of Lourdes, Polito said, “Where faith shapes the future, one child at a time.”

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