In 1972, Judy Pemberton chose to bring her ideas for enhanced education to the children of Arcadia. She believed that children benefited from independent learning that was specifically tailored to them, but felt that opportunities in the area were limited.
“There were so many things that I wanted to do, that I believed in and felt,” Judy said. “And yet, there were so many restrictions and rules on how children should learn.”
A mother of three, Judy’s experiences influenced her approach to education.
She wanted to create a school suited to every child and worked tirelessly in pursuit of her goal. Her early foray into these endeavors came when Judy obtained her Montessori certification and rented a room at Shepherd of the Hills Church at 56th Street and Lafayette.
“I was a fish out of the water, just jumping in,” Judy said.
This early school had only twelve students, six of whom were relatives who paid no tuition. But news of her dedication to quality education spread, and the small room soon needed a larger campus, which came in the form of a home at 5115 E. Virginia Avenue in Arcadia.
In the early days, the school not only hosted students but 75 animals as well, including a pony, chickens and goats.
As Arcadia Montessori continued to grow, it held on to the principles that made it a success in the first place. The school has provided a tailored, quality education to thousands of children over its 50-year span.
“Many things changed over the years, but we’ve been fortunate to have such longevity of staff and the ability to expand several times. One of our teachers has been with us for over 42 years. Me, my brother Josh and sister Holly even attended the school,” Ivan Pemberton, Judy’s son, said.
Arcadia Montessori opened the second location near 52nd Street and Virginia Avenue in the fall, just half a mile from the main campus. It will educate up to 125 students, ranging from infants and toddlers to primary students.
“We have an ever-growing waitlist and a passion for providing more children access to a quality Montessori program. When we first toured the building, we knew that its large outdoor space, courtyard, and spacious classrooms would be a good fit for our program,” Ivan said. “We have new students starting every week and were fortunate to have some existing staff move over to the new campus to assist with a smooth opening.”
Arcadia Montessori plans to renovate buildings at the original campus, including new outdoor equipment and storage for the classrooms.
Maria Montessori, whose teaching methods are available at schools nationally and internationally.
Where did Montessori come from?
On August 31, 1870, a woman was born in Chiaravalle, Italy, who would change the fabric of education worldwide.
As a child, Maria Montessori was interested in education but studied medicine after briefly pursuing engineering. She graduated from the University of Rome in 1896 and started her career as one of the first female physicians in Italy.
Her career, combined with her interest in education, led her to open a childcare facility in 1907. The center was the first of its kind in Italy and helped young children whose parents worked during the day. With this work, Maria developed her educational theories, studying how children learn as she cared for them.
She found that children naturally enjoy learning and that trouble with education is usually caused by teaching methods that aren’t compatible with the student’s learning styles. Maria found that the children she watched learned by doing and needed to interact fully with their environment. She believed that given the right setting, children would teach themselves, an idea that she integrated into the Montessori curriculum.
She eventually taught her techniques to others. Soon, schools using the Montessori Method began to spring up all over Europe. By the end of 1911, Montessori education had been officially adopted in public schools in Italy and Switzerland. In 1912, other European countries along with the United States had adopted her methods. The first school in the U.S. opened in October 1911 in Tarrytown, New York. By 1913, there were more than 100 Montessori schools in the country.
In addition to her educational accomplishments, Maria was a prominent activist who campaigned for women’s right to vote. She lived in the turbulent times of world wars, but she used this experience as motivation to add peace education to her teaching curriculum.
Maria died on May 6, 1956, at age 81, at a friend’s home. She left behind a legacy of educational excellence that continues today, with over 5,000 Montessori schools in the United States alone serving over one million students.