Montessori to live on sans founder

Montessori of Minot owner Dana Elmore and her family will be moving to Louisiana after Memorial Day because husband J.T. Elmore has gotten new orders from the Air Force, but Elmore said she will continue to manage the private school from afar.

The Montessori school is located just north of Minot Air Force Base in St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. This year it serves about 50 children in preschool and the early elementary grades.

Next year, Elmore said the school will stop offering grades 1-3, but that will allow the school to expand its preschool program.

“We have kids on a waiting list (for preschool) now,” said Elmore.

Elmore started the school five years ago out of her home basement because she wanted to be able to offer a Montessori program for her own children. Her first students were her two older daughters and another child.

Three years ago Elmore moved to the former Lynch Immanuel building. Since then the program has grown steadily; in fact the school might have grown more quickly if Elmore hadn’t held steady this year.

About 60 percent of the students come from nearby Minot Air Force Base, but other students travel from north of Glenburn and south of Minot, largely because the parents like what the school offers. The Montessori school offers child-directed education with a lot of one-on-one attention from teachers and mainly organic lunches. Elmore said some of the students attending the school have food sensitivities and the parents appreciate the lunch menu.

The young students also begin learning a foreign language Elmore has been the German teacher who provides German immersion one morning a week and celebrates other cultures. When kids are learning about another country, they often eat from that country on Friday.

Elmore said the Montessori school is also able to differentiate lessons for children with varying ability levels. It is less regimented than in a public school setting and better able to meet individual needs. For instance, wiggly kids are able to get up and move around the classroom.

In one class, she has a student who is reading at a college level but is not as advanced in science and math. Other kids in the class have different strengths. The teacher presents a lesson that is geared towards the entire class and then children begin working on different activities that are geared towards their ability levels. Sometimes the young students are called upon to teach what they have learned to their teacher or to another student or encouraged to ask for help from another student. Elmore said teaching what they have learned is a good way for kids to learn the material.

Elmore said population growth in the area and the ongoing oil boom has both advantages and disadvantages. It has been a challenge for her to find staff because the school isn’t able to pay a salary that matches what people can earn in the oil field. She was forced to raise tuition, which enabled her to give her staff a raise. The school has wonderful teachers who are not there for the money, said Elmore.

Next year Elmore said those teachers will continue teaching. A colleague will serve as a local manager and she will enter into a partnership with someone in the area who will be able to handle any difficulties that might arise.