“The child is both the hope and the promise for mankind.” Maria Montessori
Mountaineer Montessori began its 45th year of excellence and innovation in education this fall.
While many things have changed over the years–including program expansions and a new campus–our mission remains the same: creating a better tomorrow through service to the child today.
Founded in 1976, Mountaineer Montessori is West Virginia’s original and largest Montessori school, offering a premier, child-centered educational experience to 178 students ages Toddler-Middle School right here in the heart of Appalachia.
“Creating the Future, One Child at a Time,” the 2021 MMS Annual Appeal, provides essential funding that enables us to lead, adapt and meet the growing demand for superior academic options in our community and inspire the next generation of innovative thinkers, problem solvers, community builders and visionary leaders.
Your tax-deductible donation will help us create the future by:
Funding continuing facilities and safety enhancements for all students.
Benefiting our teacher appreciation and training funds and support ongoing curriculum alignment through the AMS Pathways to Continuous School Improvement process.
Continuing to increase community access to our programs through financial aid.
The goal of this year’s campaign is $25,000.
We plan for 100 percent school participation to meet that goal… every gift of every size matters and makes a difference!
Thanks to your generous contributions to 2020 fundraising, MMS:
Realizing a long-term goal, opened a beautiful new campus at the former St. Agnes School, with expansive indoor and outdoor learning environments for Primary-Middle School students.
Started the state’s only AMS Montessori Toddler Program.
Became fully licensed by WVDHHR to provide child care at both campuses.
Sponsored out of state AMS training for four teachers.
Provided nearly $50,000 in tuition support and financial assistance to families in our community.
We invite you to meet the 2021 Annual Appeal Ambassadors, featured below and on our website, to learn how MMS is making a difference in the lives of students, families, teachers and alumni.
At MMS, potential is empowered and the future is inspired. With your support, we can continue to build a better tomorrow by serving our students today, one child at a time.
As part of our Annual Appeal campaign, MMS students, families, teachers and alumni are sharing their Montessori stories.
Meet this year’s Ambassadors!
Molly Seidler, MD., MMS Alumna
Molly Seidler, MD, with husband with husband Greg Caughran, MD, and Luca
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many of my MMS classmates have excelled in life both professionally and personally. My classmates are now physicians, scientists, climate activists, entrepreneurs, lawyers, musicians, educators, and so many others have fantastic and interesting careers. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that when people are asked what my strongest trait is they say I am loyal. MMS taught us to respect our fellow man, work as a team, and lift up those in need. These are lessons you can’t learn from a textbook but must experience as part of a culture.” Dr. Molly Seidler
Jackson Young, Primary I, with sisters Madison and Blakely, parents Jennifer and Brian Young, and grandparents Darlene Spangler (MMS Reading Specialist, and former Co-Director) and Reed Spangler
“Having MMS as a foundation for Jackson’s education will allow him to think independently and have confidence in his abilities. Most importantly, I hope that he is always kind. The education he is getting at MMS is more than just reading and writing, but also encompasses empathy and communication.He is learning to not only be a leader, but to be compassionate at the same time.” Jennifer Young
“Mountaineer Montessori has been my home for more than 25 years and I have watched children grow and become incredible individuals thanks to the education they are receiving there. I always hoped that my grandchildren would be able to attend MMS and benefit from such an amazing learning environment. Having Jackson enrolled at Mountaineer Montessori School has been so exciting. From day one we could see the changes in him, especially in his social skills. My mother always told me ‘never stop learning.’ I’m so proud that I have passed that philosophy on to my daughter who is passing it on to her children.” Darlene Spangler
Sonji Byers-Baldwin, MMS Lower Elementary I Assistant
“I hope that the children in our class remember that Tara (Fought) and I want the best for them. We will do our best to make sure beautiful memories and great learning experiences were developed here. I would love for them to look back and say, ‘Mountaineer Montessori gave me the foundation to excel in my education–and life.'” Sonji Byers-Baldwin
Dr. Rayan Ihle, and Isaiah (Lower Elementary II), Paul Ihle, and Abigail (Upper Elementary I).
“I think every parent wants to see their child learn and be successful. With Montessori, you can see a foundation being built that prepares your children for life long success. Tenets of respect, responsibility, independence, self motivation, and leadership will shape their lives forever. We couldn’t ask for anything more.” Dr. Rayan Ihle, and Isaiah (Lower Elementary II), Paul Ihle, and Abigail (Upper Elementary I).
“I like how each person can learn at their own pace, which is different from traditional schools that give all students the same work and a deadline. Montessori tailors its education to each student. Some of my favorite memories are working with my friends on projects like the egg drop. Another experience I enjoyed was a trip to Spruce Knob where we camped outside and learned life skills, like how to make a campfire and how to find your way back with a compass.” Danny Zanabli, eighth year student
“I chose Montessori because the curriculum challenges students and allows them to experiment and engage with subjects in a unique way. My favorite thing about the school is how students learn, how they have a say in what they learn, which allows them to feel invested in their education and their future.” Nasrin Zanabli
MMS Alumna Sara Beal, Director of Publishing, Still Working/Roy Orbison Productions, Nashville, pictured at a BMI Awards event with with husband Jon Cavendish, left, and colleague Jeff Allen, now at Viacom
“I honestly think I learned more in those six years (at Mountaineer Montessori) than in the rest of junior high/high school, undergrad and grad school.Being able to attend MMS set me up for a successful professional and personal life.” Sara Beal
MOUNTAINEER MONTESSORI WINS $50,000 IN WEST VIRGINIA SCHOOL VACCINATION CONTEST;
PUTTING MONTESSORI VALUES INTO PRACTICE
CHARLESTON, W.Va., Nov. 15, 2021 — Mountaineer Montessori School (MMS) had some special visitors—and a big surprise today—when West Virginia Governor Jim Justice delivered a check for $50,000 to Director Jennifer Carriger as part of a state-wide “I Got Vaxxed“ Competition.
MMS was one of four elementary school winners, and the only private elementary school, in this phase of the competition, which was created by the Governor to encourage eligible school-aged children, faculty, and staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Mountaineer Montessori is an independent, non-sectarian, non-profit school serving 178 students ages 2-14. Its main campus is located at 4801 Staunton Avenue, SE, in Kanawha City (former St. Agnes School). Founded in 1976, MMS is the state’s original and largest Montessori school.
Through the “I Got Vaxxed” competition, a total of 12 West Virginia public and private schools – four elementary schools, four middle schools, and four high schools – with the largest percentage of eligible vaccinated staff and students will each win $50,000 to use for activities or initiatives to will improve the student experience.
MMS will use its award winnings to help fund technology upgrades at the school, including a large projector screen and speakers so that presentations from guest speakers can be viewed in the classroom. The funds will also be used to create and enhance outdoor learning, playing and eating areas around the new campus in Kanawha City, enabling students to spend more time outdoors during the school day and in the after school and summer programs.
A total of 77 public and private schools entered the competition, and all submitted vaccination data was verified by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to identify the winners. At least one winning school in each category is a private school. Schools were required to submit entries by Oct. 8.
The Governor was joined by his English bulldog, Babydog, at the event. Babydog was a hit with the students, and enjoyed homemade dog treats made by the seventh- and eighth-grade class.
The Governor was greeted at the announcement with a performance of “The West Virginia Hills” by Middle School student Ellie Hoblitzell on the violin and MMS teacher Alasha Al-Qudwah on the guitar. All MMS students gathered on the school lawn to sing “Country Roads” to the Governor and Babydog as they departed the campus.
“We are thrilled and honored to be a winner in this competition,” said MMS Director Jennifer Carriger. “It reflects the dedication and commitment of our students, teachers and parents to keeping our school and community safe over the past 20 months. We are very grateful to Governor Justice for encouraging schools to do their part to stop of the spread of COVID-19. With these winnings, we can enhance education inside our building and keep our children learning and playing outside for longer periods of the day and after school.”
As part of the Montessori peace curriculum, children learn to take care of themselves and each other, their classrooms and the community right from the start.
“Our entire school family embraced the opportunity to put Montessori values into practice by wearing masks, following social distancing guidelines, participating in testing and getting vaccinated when eligible,” said Carriger. “This award is a testament to those values.”
“As an MMS parent, I am thankful for the leadership and support of Jennifer and our staff, our Board of Directors and the MMS COVID-19 Task Force, which helped us stay strong and stay together throughout the pandemic,” said MMS Board President Clifton Clark. “Working together, we have been able to minimize disruptions, stay true to Montessori learning, and promote health and safety for all.”
Since March 2020, MMS has undertaken a range of extensive measures to help keep students and teachers safe, including:
Promoting social distancing by doubling classroom sizes and expanding to a second campus in the 2020-21 school year
Working closely with local health officials on quarantine protocols and other issues
Requiring mask usage
Adding air purifiers to all classrooms and increasing ventilation and fresh air circulation
Implementing additional hand hygiene/sneeze education and protocols
Beginning the 2021-22 year with all-school testing event held on campus in partnership with Fruth Pharmacy
Partnering with Fruth to provide weekly on site staff testing
Promoting weekly random testing of student population
Strongly encouraging eligible students to be vaccinated, including presenting a vaccination event for children ages 5-11 on Nov. 12 in partnership with Fruth. MMS continues to urge parents to consult with their pediatricians about the COVID-19 vaccine and all health matters.
Staying closely connected with sustained and consistent school health updates, including videos and social media outreach
In addition, several MMS teachers, families and alumni promoted vaccination by participating in production of a community immunity PSA produced by the Center for Rural Health.
“This award is a powerful affirmation of our efforts to help protect the health of our community and incentive to remain diligent as we work to stay strong and stay together through the rest of the school year,” Carriger said.
MMS is participating in a creative fundraiser withArt to Remember that allows you to purchase keepsake products customized with art created by your child under the direction of MMS Art Teacher Sarah Galaska.
For our students… for their families… for our community. MMS teachers, parents, alumni and friends got vaccinated and now it’s our turn. Let’s help keep everyone healthy and safe as we head into a new school year! #communityimmunitywv
COVID-19 Vaccine for children 5-11 available, 11-5-21
A COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 is now available. We encourage parents to talk to their pediatricians for more information about the vaccine for your child and other health-related questions you may have. We are considering hosting a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for eligible students at school. Please take a moment to complete this short survey to help us gauge interest.Please submit your completed surveys as soon as possible to help us decide whether to present this opportunity.
COVID-19 Policy Update, 11-01-21
“Forward Together,” the 2021-22 MMS COVID-19 Handbook, has been updated to incorporate new policies and practices put into place since the beginning of the school year. Please ensure you are referencing the most current edition, dated November 1, 2021.
Mountaineer Montessori Message/First Day of School Update, 8-22-21
MMS Director Jennifer Carriger is back with a final back to school message for our parents, students and their caregivers.
Please take a few minutes to watch this very important video TODAY and share with your children and others who may be involved in their arrival and pick up at school.
Familiarizing yourself and your child with the new processes today will help everyone know what to expect tomorrow.
As we excitedly welcome many new and returning MMS families to a new campus, it’s important that we all–parents, students, caregivers and staff– follow updated arrival and dismissal procedures closely to help get the new year off smoothly. We thank you for your patience, understanding and cooperation tomorrow and in the days ahead. Working together, the arrival and dismissal process will become streamlined as we all become familiar with new patterns and rules.
The MMS Re-entry Task Force met earlier this week to review our policies and procedures in light of increasing virus spread in our community.
As a follow up to those discussions, we have amended our “Forward Together” handbook to incorporate clarifications of existing policies and identify special points of emphasis for our community. These additions are outlined on page 13. Please ensure you reference the mostcurrent edition of the handbook,dated August 19, moving forward.
Unless otherwise specified, all previous policies, remain in effect, with particular attention to the following:
Masks. Masks must be worn indoors by all adults and students ages 3 and up. Masks must fit properly. Masks may be worn outdoors during large gatherings.
Vaccines. It is the expectation that all eligible staff and students will be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Board and the Re-entry Task Force will continue to monitor recommendations by the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics and other public health authorities.
Testing. As successfully implemented in 2020-21, MMS will continue the practice of requesting randomized testing of our student population when Kanawha County is designed as “orange” or “red” by the WVDHHR.
All school testing. To get the year off to a safe start, we strongly encourage all students to be tested before their first day of school. Testing will be available for all students on Friday, August 20, from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon at our Staunton Avenue campus.Saliva tests will be administered by Fruth Pharmacy, with results expected in two days. Children should not eat or drink anything for 30 minutes prior to the test. A separate, valid email address is required for each person tested. At home kits will be available during this event for parents who are unable to bring their children during this time slot. If you are not able to attend on Friday, please check the WVDHHR website for other testing options. Results of all tests should be promptly emailed to Jennifer Carriger: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Field trips. Overnight and day trips will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Proof of vaccination or a negative test result may be required prior to participation. Parents should anticipate that plans may be modified on short notice in response to the changing health environment. Parents should direct questions to their child’s classroom teacher(s).
Screening questions and illness: Parents shall screen their children for symptoms associated with COVID-19 each morning (see page 7 of handbook). Students who have had close contact with someone with a suspected case of COVID-19 should be kept home. If a child presents illness at school for any reason, parents will be notified and shall pick up their student immediately.
Ice Cream Social. Our traditional back to school celebration, featuring Ellen’s Homemade Ice Cream, will move forward as planned on Thursday, August 26, 6:00-7:30 p.m., at our Staunton campus. Masks may be worn for this outdoor event and we remind our community of social distancing guidelines. Let’s start the year off smart!
We remain grateful for your support, cooperation and understanding as our school community navigates a changing health landscape.
Please understand that our policies may be adjusted to reflect latest developments with respect to the pandemic, government directives, new recommendations from the CDC and other authorities, and our own experience administering these policies and procedures.
Our community’s health and safety is of the utmost importance. The Board of Directors and the MMS Leadership Team are working together to provide learning continuity for your child, and to provide a strong and safe community for your entire family. We thank you in advance!
“Education must begin at birth.” ~ Maria Montessori
After 44 years of serving students starting at age 3, MMS is thrilled to announce a new program starting this fall for younger siblings through the Montessori Toddler Curriculum–the only program of its kind in West Virginia.
A live information session on the program will be held Thursday, June 17, at 6:00 p.m. Interested parents may attend in person or online; registration is required.
MMS will begin accepting enrollment applications on a first-come, first-served basis starting on Friday, June 18, at noon.
During the first three years of life, children develop more rapidly than at any other time. During this phase, the child absorbs large amounts of information from the environment through observation and experiences. These are the years that lay the foundation for later learning—and the stronger the foundation, the more the child will be able to build upon it.
Samantha Van Den Berghe-Lynch, who has been an integral part of our Primary 3-6 team for six years, has more information:
“I am enthused to share news of a new Toddler program at Mountaineer Montessori School. Having spent the last six years with a focus on the early childhood developmental plane, I am looking forward to venturing into new territory, embarking on the preceding plane of development and thus opening the door to serving our youngest friends. This new venture will provide a space for these young friends that will serve their budding developmental needs, while simultaneously exposing them to some of the early constructs of a Montessori environment that will serve them well when it comes time to transition into the early childhood environment.”
Follow this link for more information about Montessori Infant and Toddler environments:
What ages will be served by the MMS Toddler Program?
Initially, we plan to “start small” with our pilot program serving children 2 years and up. As the program grows, we may move toward a full toddler model by offering care for younger children.
Where will the program be housed?
This program will be housed at the 20th Street location in what is currently the Primary I building. We will be making adaptations to the space to ensure that it is tailored to the specific needs of our younger friends. In the near future we will share opportunities to come take a look at the space as we prepare it for your children!
Note: Starting in August 2021, MMS Primary-Middle School classes will be located at our Staunton Avenue campus in Kanawha City (former St. Agnes School).
What will the hours be?
We will start with the hours of 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Monday-Friday. There may be an option for half days (8:00 a.m. to noon). All enrollment will be for the full week.
We will follow the MMS school calendar. The Toddler program will be a “school-year” program, running this year from August 23, 2021-June 3, 2022.
We will follow the school year calendar of Mountaineer Montessori School.
What does the Toddler classroom look like? How does it differ from daycare?
The Montessori Toddler program is not daycare — it is so much more. The Toddler program will be focused on fostering your child’s budding quest for independence and exploration.
Some of the key components of the environment will be: opportunities for self-care, and care of the environment, refinement of large motor skills and fine motor skills, opportunities for language development and social development. One of the primary portions of the child’s day will be the uninterrupted work cycle, during which the children are free to choose from lessons in the prepared environment while receiving gentle guidance from the directress as needed.
We will also incorporate a short “group time” each day during which we will do songs, stories, and movement activities. Additionally, we will have outside time, rest time, and individual snack time that the child can elect to have at any point during the day (with help as needed.) Samantha also intends to support children in “toilet learning” as they show interest and readiness as an added piece of their other quest towards independence.
The Mountaineer Montessori Toddler program will provide support and guidance for families through programs that may include parent education and parent/child group experiences.
How will the Toddler program prepare my child for the next step in his/her school experience?
The routines of everyday living are the foundation of Montessori Infant & Toddler programs. Activities promote independence, order, coordination, and concentration, as well as support social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. These learning activities include:
Self-care: washing, dressing, toileting, and eating, according to each child’s individual capacity
Care of the environment: cleaning, food preparation and food service; plant care and animal care
Large-motor activities (indoors and out): walking, climbing, running, jumping, balancing, climbing steps, and more
Fine-motor skills: reaching, grasping, picking up objects, transferring objects, using tools and utensils, doing art work
Language: naming objects, describing actions and intentions, discussing pictures, conversation, music, and singing
Social skills: developing manners through interactions with peers, teachers, and adult-led small group games
How can I learn more about Montessori Infant and Toddler programs?
Samantha Van Den Berghe-Lynch is our lead Toddler teacher. Samantha holds an American Montessori Society credential at the early childhood (2.5-6 year olds) level, and she will complete the AMS Infant/Toddler credential training this summer at the Virginia Center for Montessori Studies in Richmond, Virginia. Samantha has been a key member of our early childhood team at Mountaineer Montessori for six years.
Depending on the number of children enrolled, Samantha will be joined in the classroom by one or two assistants. Our teacher/student ratio will reflect AMS and WVDHHR standards.
What is the cost?
The tuition for the full day Toddler program (8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) is $7,200 for the school year.
The cost for the half day Toddler program (8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.) is $5,400 for the school year.
There are 36 weeks in the school year, and as with our other programs, we ask for a year’s commitment as part of the enrollment process.
Flexible, individualized payment plans are available through FACTS Tuition Management.
How do I apply?
The online enrollment process for the Toddler program will open on Friday, June 18 at 12:00 noon. New families will need to create an account first, then complete the online application. Applications will be considered on a first come-first served basis.
Handwriting is an important part of early education. Unfortunately, many schools have abandoned explicit handwriting instruction due to time constraints and a belief that handwriting/work with pencil and paper is not as important as it once was in our society.
A number of scientific studies point to the importance of handwriting, including this one which concluded that handwriting (as opposed to typing or tracing) guides preliterate children toward developing reading skills. This article highlights five of the important reasons we should not allow direct instruction in this area to go by the wayside.Not only does learning handwriting early help children develop skills needed for reading, evidence suggests it makes children better writers, spellers, and leads them towards future success in academics. When children are able to write fluently with proper and consistent letter formation, they are free to complete big work without having to stop and think about how to write the letters.
In Montessori schools, handwriting is a critical component of children’s learning. As with so many other skills, our curriculum takes a spiraling approach, indirectly preparing children prior to direct instruction. Very young children develop the muscles necessary for a pincer grasp while they manipulate materials such as the knobbed cylinders, a Montessori favorite!
There are two other important materials in the Primary classroom that facilitate handwriting readiness: the metal insets and the sandpaper letters. The metal insets are wooden trays that hold a series of stencil-like shapes. Removable shapes are blue with a pink background. Some shapes have straight-lined sides while others are curved. Children trace the shapes with a pencil, giving their hands a chance to practice creating a variety of lines. Increasingly challenging activities encourage children to create different patterns with colored pencils while staying inside the original traced lines. At first glance, this may appear to be a fun art activity but its main intention is to prepare children for their upcoming work in handwriting.
Montessori sandpaper letters take the work a step further. Twenty-six wooden tiles are adorned with gritty, sand-textured letters of the alphabet. Children are given lessons on how to trace these letters with their fingers and say the sound. (As a side note, Montessori children are taught the sound of each letter in conjunction with its name, which makes much more sense for reading preparation.)
Once children enter the elementary years in a Montessori school, they are required to write throughout the day. Typically, children work throughout the morning work period on a largely independent basis, unless they are receiving a direct, small-group lesson from the guide. During this independent work they record parts of their work in notebooks. Children also record their goals for the day in writing.
As part of our multi-year curriculum alignment work, we have identified end of level outcomes specific to handwriting. At MMS, Primary children are given direct instruction with manuscript (print) letters, starting with lowercase and moving into uppercase before the child transitions to Elementary. In Lower Elementary, the first-year students spend time fine-tuning the manuscript letter formations, and then move into cursive writing. By the time the children complete the third year of Lower Elementary, we expect that they will have mastered the formation of all cursive letters, lowercase and uppercase. When the children enter Upper Elementary, they spend some time fine-tuning cursive writing before learning keyboarding skills. When students leave Upper Elementary and transition to Middle School, we expect that they will be able to use manuscript writing, cursive writing, and keyboarding for written expression.
MMS is thrilled to return to an in-person format for our annual Spring Gala. While our 2020 event was a smashing virtual success, nothing can replace celebrating together in person (safely, of course)!
What the World Needs Now, the 2021 event, will be held on Saturday, June 5, 7:00-9:00 p.m., on the outdoor terrace of Edgewood Country Club. This expansive outdoor space accommodates social distancing in beautiful surroundings; in case of inclement weather, the party will be moved to the facility’s spacious ballroom. The gala format has been streamlined to meet safety guidelines and best practices.
Reservations will be strictly limited, and adjustments may be necessary in response to changing circumstances. Please watch for announcements and deadlines so you don’t miss out.
Sponsorships and ticket information:
Reservations are now open for sponsorships, which start at $250. The gala platform details sponsorship levels and benefits. Sponsorships committed by Thursday, April 29, will be acknowledged in the gala invitation mailing.
Gala information is also available in document format:
Individual ticket sales will launch Friday, May 7. Reservations will be strictly limited.
This major school fundraiser generates critical funding to help us meet the growing demand for superior academic options in our community and sustain our 44-year tradition of excellence and innovation in education.
Proceeds will fund continuing facilities enhancements and expansions, teacher appreciation and financial aid.
Text mmsgala to 76278 for more information.
We invite our friends to join us to:
Celebrate education that nurtures what the world needs now
Applaud MMS programs and faculty
Bid on amazing class art projects and an extensive array of exciting prizes (online bidding will be available for silent auction items!)
Enjoy entertainment by DJ Vinyl Village and Minor Swing (with Upper Elementary II Guide Alasha Al-Qudwah)
Enjoy delicious passed hors d’oeuvres, wine, beer and non-alcoholic options
Mingle with friends old and new
Lift up the next generation of community builders, innovators, entrepreneurial thinkers, problem solvers and creators
Featuring host Jim Strawn
Your support will help:
Fund ongoing facilities upgrades and expansions
Continue to grow our financial aid fund-nearly $50,000/year to Charleston families each year
Support teacher training and appreciation
At MMS, potential is empowered and the future is inspired. With your support, we can continue to elevate education and our community in the year ahead.
Volunteers of all kinds and silent auction donation welcomed and needed. For more information, please contact Erica Hoffman.