Memorial service for Dana Gilliland planned for February 26

Dana Gilliland (photo by Chip Ellis, Charleston Gazette)

Dana Gilliland (photo by Chip Ellis, Charleston Gazette)

Mountaineer Montessori School will celebrate the life and legacy of Head of School Dana Gilliland with a memorial service scheduled for Thursday, February 26, at 6:00 p.m. The service will be held at the South Ruffner Presbyterian Church, located down the block from our main campus at the corner of 20th Street and Kanawha Avenue SE in Charleston.

Dana sadly passed away earlier this month, and leaves behind three daughters, a large extended family and legions of friends, education colleagues and current and former students in Charleston around the world who mourn her loss. MMS will celebrate her life and her extraordinary service to our school and children everywhere at this special gathering. We invite our school families and the community to join us in honoring a loving mother, gifted educator, inspiring leader and very dear friend to all.

A memorial fund has been established to sustain Dana’s Montessori legacy. Contributions may be sent to: Dana Gilliland Fund, c/o Mountaineer Montessori School, 308 20th Street SE, Charleston, WV, 25304, or made online.  For more information, please contact our office at 304-342-7870.

As a reminder, no classes will be held on Monday, February 23, as MMS observes a day of mourning and reflection in honor of Dana.

MMS mourns passing of Head of School Dana Gilliland

Among Dana's many accomplishments at MMS was the opening of a middle school.

Among Dana’s many accomplishments at MMS was the opening of a middle school.

Dana Gilliland

Dana Gilliland: mother, educator, community leader and friend.


Dana Gilliland dedicated her life in service of the child.









It is  with heavy hearts that we share sad news. Dana Gilliland, Mountaineer Montessori School’s dynamic Head of School, passed away earlier this week. MMS is shocked and saddened by Dana’s untimely passing, and extend our deepest sympathies to her three daughters, one of whom is an MMS student, and the many, many family members and friends who loved her dearly.

Dana dedicated her life to children and the Montessori principle that “the child is both the hope and promise of mankind.” Her long and distinguished Montessori career was marked by achievement and purpose. Under Dana’s leadership, MMS started a middle school, enhanced several programs and experienced strong enrollment growth. More importantly, Dana’s warm and genuine commitment to our school inspired our students, faculty and our entire school family.

Dana’s family has planned a memorial service on Saturday, February 21. Visitation will be held at the Dwayne R. Spence Funeral Home, 550 Hill Road North, Pickerington, Ohio, from 1:00-2:00 p.m., with service to follow at 2:00 p.m. Please see the link below for details.

MMS will celebrate Dana’s life and legacy at a memorial service  to be held Thursday, February 26, at 6:00 p.m., at South Ruffner Presbyterian Church.  No classes will be held on Monday, February 23, as we observe a day of mourning in Dana’s honor.

In December, Dana announced plans to move to Ohio at the end of the school year to be closer to her family, and MMS faculty members Jennifer Carriger and Suzanne Sanders were named co-directors. A transition plan, which was already in progress, will be updated to provide steady leadership during the months ahead.

At this time, however, our top priority remains offering our support and sympathy to Dana’s family and nurturing our students and school community at this very difficult time. The MMS board and faculty ask you to join us in honoring Dana by carrying her vision forward in the weeks and months to come.

(MMS families should refer to communication sent from our office yesterday for more information.)

As Dana signed each and every announcement, we dedicate this message “in service to the child.”…


Mountaineer Montessori Middle School to hold open house Feb. 10

OPEN HOUSE FEBRUARY 10 (1)Mountaineer Montessori Middle School will hold an open house and information session for prospective students and their families on Tuesday, February 10, from 5:00-6:00 p.m.

The school, serving seventh and eighth grade students, is located at Unity of Kanawha Valley, 804 Myrtle Road. It is among 400 Montessori middle schools in the United States and the only one of its kind in West Virginia.

The Mountaineer Montessori Middle School program was launched in August 2014 in response to a 50 percent enrollment increase at Mountaineer Montessori in the past three years and growing demand for a high-quality alternative to one-size-fits-all education. Research shows that the Montessori approach to adolescent education supports higher academic achievement, superior talent development and greater student interest and intrinsic motivation.

Based upon Maria Montessori’s vision for a “school of experience in the elements of life,” Mountaineer Montessori Middle School combines the best Montessori practices with the latest scientific research on adolescent education.  It offers an academically rigorous, individualized curriculum emphasizing STEM, arts, hands-on learning, entrepreneurship and community service.

Middle School Surveying Project 018During the open house, attendees will have the opportunity to meet the faculty and current students, who have prepared exhibits showcasing their academic and service projects.

The seventh and eighth grade program was developed in partnership with two of the world’s leading Montessori adolescent education consultants:  Laurie Ewert-Krocker, the founding head teacher of the Hershey Montessori School Farm School, widely considered the premier Montessori adolescent program in the country, and David Kahn, executive director of the North American Montessori Teachers Association (NAMTA).

Applications for admission to the 2015-16 Mountaineer Montessori Middle School program are now being accepted. The school considers students with Montessori and/or traditional school backgrounds. Financial aid is available.

The middle school program extends the curriculum offered by Mountaineer Montessori School, 308 20th Street. Founded in 1976, Mountaineer Montessori is the oldest, largest and most established Montessori school in West Virginia, providing a rich academic and arts curriculum in a child-centered environment to 120 students ages 3-14.  To RSVP for the open house or for other information, please call 304/342-7870.

MMS 2015-16 academic year registration forms due Friday, Feb. 6

IMG_7088Time to line up! Friday, February 6 is the deadline for current MMS families to submit completed registration forms, signed Letters of Intent and financial aid applications for the 2015-16 school year. We anticipate another year of full enrollment and may not be able to guarantee a place for your child after that date. Any available classrooms slots will be opened to applications from new families starting on February 9. Please call the office at 304/342-7870 if you have questions or would like to schedule a tour (new families).

For information on our admissions policy and procedures, please click here.

Lower elementary continental explorers

KirenThis week we began a large research project on the continents. Our class is divided into seven groups of three students. Each group is doing research on the topography, flora, fauna, religion, clothing, food, architecture, language and mythology of every continent. We look forward to sharing the work with you as it develops. Congratulations to the third year students for completing the standardized testing this week! Everyone is off the hook this week regarding the spelling test. We will resume the regular spelling tests next week.

David and Amanda

January 30, 2015

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“It’s not book, paper, pencil. It’s ‘do it.'” Middle school mapping Carriage Trail

Mountaineer Montessori School seventh year students are mapping the Carriage Trail — a big undertaking that combines trigonometry, science and art. Here’s a report on this exciting project by Kera Mashek and WCHS-TV News:


Jamie condensedRight outside Mountaineer Montessori School in Charleston, you’ll find the Carriage Trail.  The 0.65 mile path winds through the woods near the south end of the Southside Bridge.  Students at the Montessori School are now making a detailed map of this trail.

“It teaches them how to take data from the physical world and then use mathematics to translate it to something like a map.  So we’re going to be using trigonometry, graphing, and then some artistic sketching to fill in the details,” said George Phillips, engineer and parent volunteer.

Students recently took a field trip through the trail using a compass, and clinometer to measure distances between points on the path.

“It is tedious. It takes maybe 10 minutes per shot.

So we spent about an hour today doing five shots. They have to pick their stations of where they’re going to take the shots from there, then measure the angle and the bearing,” said Phillips.

Students appreciate the ability to put their math and science skills to the test and giving them a deeper understanding of what they’re learning through practical application.

“It’s not sit down, book, paper, pencil.  It’s get your hands on it.  Do it.  Figure it out,” said student Jamie Coleman.

“When people are talking to you, you’ve kind of got a picture of what it is, but you’re not really sure, and I think that having the outdoor experience and doing what they’re actually teaching is much better and you have more understanding and learn a lot more,” said student Jasmine Phillips.

It will take about six months for the Carriage Trail map to be finalized and this project won’t stop there.  Students are also hoping to use the maps as part of their business challenge at Mountaineer Montessori, finding a way to sell them to the community..

“I’m looking forward mos to seeing the final map and then getting it printed in bulk, and then we’ll be able to see our product go to other people,” student Fynn Roberts-Donaghy said.



Middle school bringing “Little Free Library” to South Hills neighborhood

Little-Free-Library (1)A “Little Free Library” is coming to South Hills thanks to our middle school students…but they need your help to finalize the project. The free book exchange will be located at Unity of Kanawha Valley Church, the site of our 7th and 8th grade program.

MMS students designed the structure (the photo here is just for example), prepared a brochure and delivered a formal proposal to the Bridge Road Neighborhood Association, which generously donated $250 towards its construction. Additional financial help and/or donations of building materials will help them finalize the project. To make a contribution, please contact Suzanne Sanders or Rachel Scarpelli, or go to our home page send it via PayPal:

Please note that MMS has a few NIPS tax credits available for donations of $500 to the Free Little Library or other MMS programs. Through NIPS, donors receive a 50% credit for the amount of their contribution on their state income taxes. Our credits are nearly depleted, so please contact MMS at 304/342-7870 ASAP to take advantage.

I learned how to answer my own questions: Alumni share lessons of Montessori

Alumni from a wide range of fields shared the secrets of their success and the impact of their Montessori education on their college and career paths at “Education for Innovation,” a special MMS parent night and community forum held January 20.

Montessori alumni from left, Travis Crouse, Avrah Urecki, Emily Beal, Rusty Kruzelock, Morgan Robinson and Clifton Clark

Montessori alumni from left, Travis Crouse, Avrah Urecki, Emily Beal, Rusty Kruzelock, Morgan Robinson and Clifton Clark

Here’s some of what they had to say:

“Montessori taught me how to answer my own questions.” Morgan Robinson, morning host, Electric 102.7

“I wouldn’t be the same person without Montessori. It helped develop my creativity and gave me a strong work ethic.” Avrah Urecki, MFA, art teacher, Charleston Catholic High School

“I’m the one who’s not afraid to ask the obvious questions. Montessori gave me confidence and the ability to be a leader.” Travis Crouse, Director of IT Services, WVU Physicians of Charleston



MMS students led tours of our school for Senator Chris Walters and community members during our Education for Innovation event.

MMS students led tours of our school for Senator Chris Walters and community members during our Education for Innovation event.

“Montessori teaches children not to be afraid to ask questions and dig deeper for knowledge. It gives you flexibility and is great training for an entrepreneur….my father says it was the best thing that every happened to me because it taught me how to learn.”  Rusty Kruzelock, PhD, CEO, West Virginia Regional Technology Research Park

“Montessori definitely developed my problem-solving skills and the ability to collaborate with others.” Clifton Clark, JD/MBA, BB&T

“I spent my junior year of high school in Austria and I left Charleston without knowing any German or the students in my program. Montessori gave me the confidence and motivation to try new things and follow my interests….it’s also the best education for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) that I can think of.”  Emily Beal, PhD, Henthorn Environmental Services



MMSEducationforInnovationWe offer deep thanks to our alumni for participating in this program and the many parents and community leaders, including West Virginia Senator Chris Walters, who came to learn about Montessori education and how a “Montessori mindset” can benefit children and our state.












Second semester starts with smiles

MMS students are all smiles as they begin the second semester of our school year.  Enjoy this latest update from David Pushkin and Amanda Cox’s lower elementary class:

Hug ClubWe have had a wonderful re-entry into our curriculum this semester. Some of the highlights include the third year students learning long division, the second year students beginning to identify common multiples and the first year students approaching the identification of commutative combinations in simple addition.

Many of our first year students are learning about verbs and adverbs. The second and third year students are preparing for sentence analysis.

Note: if you are the parents of a third year student, please feel free to contact us prior to January 26, which begins our week for standardized testing. Each third year student would benefit from some parental involvement during the next two weeks.

David and Amanda

January 13, 2015

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Education for innovation: MMS alumni panel to highlight brain-based learning

MMSEducationforInnovationSelf-paced learning. Flipped classrooms. Inquiry-based education. Expeditionary learning. Some of the “newest” ideas in education have been successfully implemented in Montessori schools for more than a century, including the more than 500 public Montessori schools in the United States.

Montessori is a research-based approach education based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s scientific observations of young children at the “Casa dei Bambini,” a school she founded in Rome in 1907.

Brain-based learning

Dr. Steven Hughes, past president of the American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology, calls Montessori “the original brain-based approach to education because it based upon scientific principles of human development.”



Secret of their success:  Montessori

Photo credit: The Boyd School

Photo credit: The Boyd School

Montessori education has influenced the founders of some of America’s most innovative and successful companies, including Amazon (Jeff Bezos, named by Harvard Business Review as America’s most effective CEO), Wikipedia (Jimmy Wales) and Google (Sergei Brin and Larry Page) as well as well known figures from the worlds of art and culture, including Beyonce, Yo-Yo Ma, George Clooney, P. Diddy Combs, Jacqueline Kennedy, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julia Child and Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, to name just a few.

Montessori is education for innovation

What sets the Montessori approach apart from traditional education? How does Montessori foster creativity, innovation and discovery? Could the Montessori mindset benefit your child, business, community and state?

These questions and more will be discussed at “Education for Innovation,” community forum to be held Tuesday, January 20 at Mountaineer Montessori School, 308 20th Street. The event will begin with school tours at 5:30 p.m. (optional), followed by a panel discussion at 6:00 p.m.

At this special program for MMS parents, West Virginia educators, policy makers, community leaders and potential MMS families, local Montessori alumni will share their perspectives on the skills needed for success in the 21st century and discuss how their Montessori background shaped their educational, professional and personal journeys.

Dr. Emily Beal and son, Ethan

Dr. Emily Beal and son, Ethan

Clifton Clark

Clifton Clark

Travis Crouse

Travis Crouse

Dr. Rusty Kruzelock

Dr. Rusty Kruzelock

Morgan Robinson

Morgan Robinson







Avrah Ureck

Avrah Ureck

Montessori alumni speakers confirmed to date include:

  • Emily Beal,* PhD, environmental consultant, Henthorn Environmental Services;
  • Clifton Clark,* JD/MBA, high net worth lending consultant, BB&T;
  • Travis Crouse,* BA, director of IT Services, WVU Physicians of Charleston;
  • Rusty Kruzelock, PhD, CEO, West Virginia Research and Technology Park;
  • Morgan Robinson, BA, community leader and Electric 102.7FM morning host;
  • Avrah Urecki,* MFA, art teacher, Charleston Catholic High School.

*MMS alumni


To RSVP or for more information, please call 304/342-7870. Childcare is available with a reservation.

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