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Destination Imagination lifts off December 12

Sky's the limitDestination Imagination (DI), a nation-wide program that teaches the creative process from imagination to innovation, will lift off in Charleston on Friday, Dec. 12, 4-5:30 p.m. at Mountaineer Montessori School (MMS), 308 20th Street.  The program is open to all area students in third through fifth grade.

Destination Imagination encourages teams of learners to have fun, take risks, focus and frame challenges while incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the arts and service learning.  Participants learn patience, flexibility, persistence, ethics, respect for others and their ideas and the collaborative problem solving process.

Team members work together after school once a week under the guidance of trained parent or community volunteer team managers, to brainstorm, develop and refine solutions to a “Team Challenge” of their choice,  and present their solutions at the West Virginia State Competition, to be held in Fairmont on March 21, 2015.

A “Rising Stars” DI team for students in kindergarten through second grade will also be formed based upon interest.

At the organizational meeting students and parents will be introduced to the program, participate in some “Instant Challenge” activities and discussing scheduling and future events. Interested families should contact Ali Shams ( or Anne Fishkin ( to register.

A “Rising Stars” DI team for students in kindergarten through second grade will also be formed based upon interest.

At the organizational meeting students and parents will be introduced to the program, participate in some “Instant Challenge” activities and discuss scheduling and future events. Interested families should contact Ali Shams ( or Anne Fishkin ( to register.

For more information about Destination Imagination, go to, and for details about the West Virginia program.

Reaching new heights in education — with your help

MMS Mountain Institute 2014

“We have started an amazing ride of self-discovery and mental and spiritual adventure. We are very thankful and excited about what the rest of the year has to offer.” Mountaineer Montessori Middle School student

Opening new worlds of discovery to help children achieve their unique potential and become the thoughtful leaders of tomorrow — that’s been the vision of Mountaineer Montessori School since 1976.

This year, we elevated that lofty ideal through several program enhancements that inspired our students, community and state.

They include:

  •  Opening West Virginia’s only Montessori Middle School, providing an unparalleled academic experience that prepares adolescents for a lifetime of learning and service.
  •  Expanding our financial aid program to serve a growing number of MMS families.
  •  Launching “MMS@50 Strategic Plan to guide us to a half-century of excellence and innovation in education.
  • Enhancing foreign language instruction by beginning to integrate Spanish as a classroom subject and increasing instruction time.
  • Inspiring environmental awareness through a City of Charleston art exhibition, “Flotsam,” which featured amazing creatures MMS students formed from plastic bottles that accumulated during the West Virginia water crisis.
  • Sponsoring training for four faculty members at the most rigorous Montessori training programs in the country. In addition, our Head of School completed Tier One of Montessori Administrators Training and will complete Tier Two in 2015 (only a handful of principals in the United States have completed this level of certification).

MMS Math lessonMaria Montessori believed that the goal of education was to unleash a child’s potential and transform him into a citizen of the world.  Through the investments we are making in our students, faculty and families, we are realizing Maria Montessori’s goal every day.

While tuition covers most of our expenses, it is only through fundraising such as this annual appeal that we can offer programs like those described and serve the growing number families turning to MMS for a high-quality alternative to one-size-fits all education.

We invite you to take advantage of this opportunity to elevate education in the year ahead with a tax-deductible gift to the MMS Annual Fund. Tax credits through the Neighborhood Investment Program can make your investment go much further. A $1,000 donation, for example, could actually entail a $300 out-of-pocket cost after tax credits and deductions. These tax credits are very limited and available for donations of $500 and up.

You can make a donation today online or call our office for more information: 304/342-7870.

Yours in service to the child,

Your friends at Mountaineer Montessori School












Living fully each day: lower elementary update

Living fully each day…a wonderful reminder in this latest update from David Pushkin and Amanda Cox’s lower elementary class:

TotemcondensedWelcome back.  We hope that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and were able to spend quality time with your family.

Before we left for the break, our class celebrated Thanksgiving by baking an apple pie and having a feast. We also created two large totem poles under which to celebrate the fall harvest.

As part of our Native American studies, we focused on make our Thanksgiving fun and meaningful. Eating the pie reminded us of the thanks that we would like to giving for the apple harvest and a sweet year. (See more photos in our Facebook album.)

Thank you for your support and involvement in your child’s learning. We hope you continue to read to your child and allow your child to read to you. It’s also a good idea to ask children about what they are studying in school.  Many are working on research projects now. We are encouraging them to present their current projects to the class before they leave for winter break.  Project topics include studies of animals, rocks and minerals, geographic locations, architecture, transportation and history.




Isiah cashAs you know, the Montessori experience is a holistic way for your child to take part in living fully each day. By decorating our environment and making our own food, we have created a Thanksgiving experience of which each child feels an important part.  We learn as human beings, we take responsibility for our environment, our food and our body and mind. Learning in and outside the environment becomes more than a chore, it becomes our reason for living.

During the next few weeks leading up to our longer holiday break, we encourage you to step up your involvement in your child’s learning. You are always welcome to come visit our classroom and observe a regular day.

Until Friday, there is a Holiday Gift and Book Fair in our library. The event is open to the community from noon until 6:00 p.m. Come visit the school, take a look at the books and gifts and enjoy some holiday spirit with our staff, students and friends.

David and Amanda

December 2, 2014

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When in Rome: Upper Elementary Update

Upper Elementary students are delving into the life and times of the Ancient Romans and taking a deep dive into math. Here’s their latest update by Lead Guide Jason Winesburg:

Jason cropped condensedI appreciated the chance to meet with most of you last week for conferences. For many of the students, it was only their second or third time attending a formal conference, and I was pleased to see great self-advocacy in setting and expressing their personal goals. In the spirit of the holiday, thank you to everyone who found a way to attend these conferences and who continues to support what it is that we do.

At the conferences, you may have seen the students’ finished biography papers. They did a magnificent job of presenting this work to the class. We practiced our note-taking together, taking down the who, what, when, where, why, and how information about each historical figure.




Our next piece of writing will be a persuasive essay, which will begin jaimee condensedthis week. It will follow the same format and organizer as the last work, but the students will be challenged to support their claims with textual evidence. Where the last paper emphasized layout and formatting of a paper, this piece of writing will be focused on depth of research and note-taking.

In history, we have been making projects on the Ancient Romans. We discussed as a group the transition from republic to empire, the composition of the infamous Roman army, and the groundbreaking sanitation system of Rome itself. A few interesting projects have been completed on the Romans so far, with many more in the works!




Condensed alexanderWe ventured into some geography with work on the layers of the earth leading to a discussion of plate tectonics. We also focused on biology, with work on parasitism, symbiosis and mutualism.

Older students have continued language work with sentence analysis and parts of speech, identifying infinitives, transitive and intransitive verbs and auxiliary verbs. We also voted as a group on our new read-aloud book, The Name of this Book Is Secret, by Pseudonymous Bosch (ugh, puns!).

Individual math lessons continue, and I have been emphasizing mastery of division for both integers and decimal fractions. Many older students have begun balancing equations and working through order of operations in preparation for algebra.

A final thanks to everyone who answered my call for donations for Manna Meal! I’m sure you’ve seen the table in the hallway, heaping with our canned goods.




audrey condensedPlease stay tuned for further details about Spring field trips and the upcoming book

fair! Hope you have a wonderful evening.

Jason Winesburg

November 30, 2014

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Raising polite children in a rude world

manners croppedRaising polite children in a rude world. It’s a challenge for every family.  In the premiere issue of “South Hills Living,” Mountaineer Montessori School offers tips for incorporating the principles of grace and courtesy into everyday life.  We appreciate the thoughtful insights provided by Head of School Dana Rowe Gilliland, Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center Director Sky Kershner and etiquette expert Pamela Harvit. 

We also offer a special thank you to this month’s advertising sponsor, Randall J. Hill, M.D. & Aaron R. Parry II, M.D.  Watch for opportunities on how you and your businesses can help MMS share positive messages about children and families in upcoming issues.


Minding their Manners: Raising Polite Children in a Rude World

In today’s digital, drive-through world, many worry that good manners may be going the way of the dinosaur.

While times may change, courtesy and kindness never go out of fashion, and still play a big role in supporting a child’s social interactions, academic learning and eventual career advancement. We talked to three South Hills experts who share tips for parents on making manners a way of life for your child.


In the home

December 2014 P.1Parents are a child’s first teachers. When it comes to manners, what they see and hear at home will have a greater impact than anything they read in a book or learn in a class.

“It is never too early to start learning manners,” says Pamela Harvit, a certified protocol consultant. Harvit, who attended the The Protocol School of Washington, is the founder of the Harvit School of Protocol and Professionalism.

Havitt suggests that parents start by always saying “please,” “thank you” and “excuse me” to their children, no matter their age.

“Making this a habit that children hear and see continually at home is much more likely to result in children responding in the same way as they grow.”

Another simple way to instill positive habits is by setting the table properly.

“Even if it’s just as simple as placing the napkin in the right position, or knowing which side of the plate the fork, spoon and knife should go, this helps a child realize there is more to eating than just getting food into their mouths,” says Harvit.

Sky Kershner, executive director of the Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center and pastoral leader of Unity of Kanawha Valley, 804 Myrtle, agrees that manners count.

“I am interested in manners developing out of mutual respect and a sense of empathy for the other person,” says Kershner.

“I often see manners being coerced or a child threatened with adverse consequence for not using manners. I have even seen parents yell ‘Stop being so rude’! The irony of this seems to be missed in their frustration of the moment.”

In his book “Raising Children Compassionately: Parenting the Non-Violent Communication Way,” Marshall Rosenberg observes that parents would probably never get away with talking to a fellow adult in the way we talk to our children.

“There is a lot of room for more positive modeling. Is there a way to teach manners politely? I think there is!,” Kershner says.

At school

December 2014 p 2Poorly mannered students not only derail their own learning and sabotage friendships but can interfere with education for their classmates. Class rules and behavior guidelines can create a set of expectations for interactions that create a positive learning environment.

In Montessori schools, manners are a way of life. “Character formation cannot be taught. It comes from experience, not explanation,” said Maria Montessori.

“We practice the Montessori philosophy of grace and courtesy, which extends to relationships between students and teachers and the entire school community,” says Dana Gilliland, Head of School at Mountaineer Montessori School. “Students learn respect by being respected.”

Teachers model grace and courtesy and gently guide primary (ages 3-6) students’ positive behavior, while elementary and middle school students often create their own codes of conduct and hold each other accountable for living up to them. “Students are motivated to abide by rules when they are the ones who’ve created them,” Gilliland says.

“Character is not what you learn. Character is what you do,” says Gilliland.

At social events

Dec 8 JPEGThe upcoming holiday season presents many opportunities and challenges for instilling good manners. Harvit cautions that children must be properly prepared for parties, concerts, religious services and special events.

“It is really quite difficult to expect children to use proper manners at formal occasions if they never see it at home and sadly, sometimes it may be the parents who need coaching on their manners more than the child!,” she says.

The holidays are also a good time to teach the importance of thank you notes.  Even children too young to write can decorate a card to express their gratitude, says Harvit.

The annual Children’s Tea presented by the West Virginia Symphony League is a wonderful opportunity for children to develop their “party manners” and support West Virginia’s leading performing arts organization.  This year’s tea, “Polar Express,” will be held on Dec. 7 at Berry Hills Country Club. For more information, please see the events listing.

Good manners will always be in fashion, says Peggy Post, the great- granddaughter-in-law of the famed Marjorie Merriweather Post. “It’s not about old-fashioned etiquette with your pinkie in the air. It’s about making people feel comfortable. It’s a relationship-driven activity built on respect, being aware of others and inclusive of them, and on honesty and tact.”

And that’s a lesson that will stand the test of time.

JoEllen Zacks is a South Hills mother, lawyer and education advocate

Sixth year project preps students for high school and beyond

Picture 007One of the most popular traditions at MMS is the “Sixth Year Project.” It’s a year-long college prep research and writing course for sixth graders, facilitated by Darlene Spangler, who has played many key roles at MMS over the past 20 years, including upper elementary and middle school assistant, administrator and co-director.

Darlene holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Duke University, and this year is working closely with sixth year students as they take a research paper from start to finish over the course of the year. Students pick their own topic, and then learn to research sources (requiring a minimum of 100 note cards), prepare an outline, compose the final paper and deliver a formal presentation to their class and sixth year parents. This year’s student topics include autism, animal abuse, dinosaurs, global warming, history of hats, the Eiffel Tower, hieroglyphics, history of Nike and the Beatles.

As a reward for their efforts, students are taken on a surprise overnight adventure at the end of the school year ..the destination known only to faculty and parents.

Year after year, alumni tell us that their “sixth year project” was excellent preparation for high school and college work, and that their MMS academic background gave them a distinct advantage over their peers without this intensive experience. Thank you Darlene!

Black Friday, meet #GivingTuesday: MMS to kick off holiday fair and bake sale

There’s a day for giving thanks. Two for getting deals. Now there is #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back.

GT_logo2013-final1-1024x85On Tuesday, December 2, Mountaineer Montessori School (MMS), will join charities, families, businesses, community groups and students from around the world in coming together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity and to give.

Gift Fair Bake SaleAs part of its #GivingTuesday and year-round community service, students and volunteers will kick off the annual MMS Holiday Fair and Bake Sale. The fair will showcase gift items from Ten Thousand Villages, a nonprofit fair trade organization that markets handcrafted products made by disadvantaged artisans from more than 120 artisan groups in more than 35 countries. Unique handmade gifts, jewelry, home décor, art and sculpture, textiles, serveware and personal accessories representing the diverse cultures of artisans in Asia, Africa, Latin American and the Middle East will be featured.

Book FairIn addition to gifts from Ten Thousand Villages, the MMS Holiday Fair and Bake Sale books and educational items from Scholastic Books and homemade seasonal and ethnic dishes and holiday treats. MMS also invites #GivingTuesday support for its “Lighting the Way for Education” annual appeal, which funds financial assistance and specialty programs at the school.

Following its #GivingTuesday kickoff, the MMS Holiday Fair and Bake Sale will be open from noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 3 through Friday, Dec. 5.



Giving TuesdayAbout Mountaineer Montessori School:  MMS serves 130 students ages 3 to 14 in an authentic Montessori environment, guiding them to fulfill their unique potential and make the world a better place. Its rich academic and arts programs nurture a child’s curiosity and creativity and build the foundation for a life of learning, growing, meaning and service. A recognized child development authority and academic innovator, MMS has been lighting the way for education since 1976.  For more information, go to: or call 304/342-7870

About #GivingTuesday:  An estimated 10,000 organizations from all 50 states are expected to participate in #GivingTuesday. For more information, go to

About Ten Thousand Villages:

Planning to learn

Students in David Pushkin and Amanda Cox’s class start every day by planning to learn. Here’s their latest update:

Daily plnner

Starting the day by planning to learn

Every morning all of the Lower Elementary students begin the day by completing handwriting exercises and filling out Daily Planners. The first year students also take a spelling test each morning. Montessori students enjoy learning cursive handwriting at the same time as manuscript. It flows more easily and allows the student to strengthen hand-eye
coordination.  It also builds confidence in the child because it is easier and creates a purposeful reason for writing.

Our students also enjoyed a wonderful trip to the Charleston Broom and Mop Company. Thank you to all the parents who helped make this special experience possible.

David and Amanda

November 14, 2014

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Lower elementary students are creating displays about the human body.

Lower elementary students are creating displays about the human body.

Students were swept away in history on their recent field trip.

Students were swept away in history on their recent field trip.

Jim Shaffer has been handcrafting brooms and mops for 68 years.

Jim Shaffer has been handcrafting brooms and mops for 68 years.

Touching history

Touching history

Jim Shaffer demonstrates each step of the broom-making process.

Jim Shaffer demonstrates each step of the broom-making process.

Breaking new ground: middle school update

MMS Middle School students are breaking new ground for themselves…and education in West Virginia.  Jasmine Phillips provides their latest class update:

Breaking New GroundHello parents!

As you know, we have been working very hard and doing various off-campus trips and studies.

Recently, we went to the Hershey Montessori School in Huntsburg, Ohio, to visit the middle school in order to get a good idea of what an established Montessori adolescent program looks like. When we arrived on Monday, we joined the residential students, who come from all over the world, for dinner, and later, helped with barn chores. On Tuesday, we were paired with Hershey Montessori students, who we shadowed for the entire school day, and joined each of the classes that they attended. On Wednesday, we shadowed the students once again, but this time it was actually their creative and physical expression day (just like it is here for us)!

Thursday, we were able to go out to Cleveland, which is roughly 50 minutes away from the Huntsburg campus. We went to the Cleveland Botanical Gardens, which were absolutely beautiful, and we also went to the Cleveland Museum of Art, where we saw marvelous pieces of art from some of our favorite artists such as Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, and many more.

On Friday, our last day, we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with my father, George Phillips, and he drove us back to Charleston.

At the Hershey Montessori School, I was fortunate enough to witness a program that none of us has heard of called ‘NaNoWriMo,’ which stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month,’ where people write novels in the month of November after working through a packet that helps to plan and provide details and tips on writing your novel!

Water studies

Recently, one of the main things we have been focusing on for this part of the year has been water. After coming back from the big, week long field trip, we were able to wrap all of our studies together with a man named Glenn Nelson from the DEP in Montgomery, West Virginia, where we were able to actually get in the water, test it, and see how different industries impact and affect our water today.

In relation to water, we have been working hard on a skit that we will present to the other classes at the main campus, which correlates perfectly with our new creative expression class, Drama with Rachel. In this class, we have been playing acting games that help us build talents and skills that actors and actresses have, such as listening, working as an ensemble, knowing cues, and many other things. We have also been reading scripts and embodying and describing characters.

Novel study

We are currently reading the book ‘Ishmael’ by Daniel Quinn. During our book groups, we have been having deep and theoretical discussions on very debatable topics that are being brought up in the book. This not only helps expand our mindset, but also introduces us to many interesting topics that I believe everyone needs to know about.

Not too long ago, we were fortunate enough to have a session on essential oils with a friend of Suzanne’s named Amy Williams, where we learned about how certain scents and oils help release and make the body and soul feel better. Something that I definitely learned was that these essential oils help physically and emotionally. We have been using them often in classes to lighten moods, and they are definitely working!

Humanities projects

Due to our water studies being completed, we have already jumped into our next humanities project, the Indus Valley, with open arms! Like we did for water, we have small assignments and vocabulary words that are due on dates that we, as a group, decide. Not only do we learn more about the Indus Valley, but we also learn time management skills, which is an important skill to learn as we roll into the adolescent years.

Thanks to all of those who have been helping us do our studies and allow us to learn more and more facts in very fun and interesting ways. We have been able to apply skills that we have been learning from our classes into the real world, which is important for any school to teach their students. I, so far, have really enjoyed this school year and we have been able to do a lot more than I ever imagined due to having such a small and portable class!

Written by Jasmine Phillips

Edited by Julia Carriger

November 13, 2014


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