Dyed-in-the-wool history buffs enjoy great week in Upper Elementary

Upper elementarydyed in the woolhistory (2)Our Upper Elementary “dyed in the wool” history students have studied early cave paintings, presented puppet shows on the myth of Callisto and made a cuneiform alphabet in recent days.

Here’s an update on their work by Lead Guide Jason Winesburg. (Photos by MMS student photographers):

“Following the child was the theme last week in the upper elementary!

A lengthy report by Hayden and Yasin on the early hominids sparked an interest in the natural pigments utilized in cave painting. Plus Program Director Karen Kelly gave us a presentation on the natural dyes used both by neolithic man and by the ancient civilizations we have been studying. Jack donated black walnuts from his yard, and some of the children were able to create a natural brown dye from the walnut hulls to use in their own dyeing.

Several ongoing projects reached completion, including two puppet shows: the first depicted the myth of Callisto, transformed to become the constellation Ursa Major; the second was a showing of early Cenozoic rodents, followed by a quiz.

A pair of students completed their timeline of important events in Mesopotamian history and made a model of the clay ‘bulla’ envelope that Sumerians used as a receipt when conducting trade. Another student made a cuneiform alphabet. Two students presented a test for the others to show their knowledge of the Babylonian culture.

We completed our first round of novel study, learning more about the Greek myths. Our second book is a comedic take on the Greek myths, and the students will now be able to catch all the allusions to these foundational stories.

The sixth-year lunch program was a massive success, and they have been making calls, collecting order forms, distributing food, and tallying money all week. We had an unexpectedly large response, but the students kept their heads and all went well in the end. They also began their sixth-year research paper with Darlene Spangler, and will be visiting the library on Monday to collect sources.

In lessons, we began work on sentence analysis, refreshing our knowledge of subjects, objects, and predicates. Some students worked on geometric constructions, while others pursued knowledge of perimeter and area. We completed our first cycle of the Megawords spelling program.

In math, I continued to give lessons on fractions, and we played games to match equivalent fractions and convert improper fractions to proper fractions. We discussed the “fundamental needs” of human beings and assigned a research project in pairs to study the Ancient Egyptians.

Next week, we will continue our work on Ancient Egypt, with students convening to share their research. We are participating in the pumpkin drop at the end of the month, and I plan to give some lessons on physics to tie in with both this event and the monumental constructions of the Ancient Egyptians.

We will be reviewing the arithmetic operations (algorithms for multiplication and division, primarily), and hopefully most will be ready to move on to decimal fractions. Other students who have mastered this will be working with exponents, the formulas for volume, and circle geometry.

It should be another busy, exciting week!” Jason Winesburg

Smile! School picture day is October 7

Photo dayMountaineer Montessori’s new school photo program is something really smile about! We have a new photographer this year, who will provide high-quality portraits with a variety of options. Sibling photos can be arranged in addition to individual shots. Parents will be provided proofs and can choose the shots that best capture the beauty of their children.

Photos will be taken on Tuesday, October 7. Students may change into every day clothing after their photos are taken.

Support MMS through Amazon Smile, Kroger and BoxTops for Education

SHOP & SUPPORT (1)Your small purchases can add up to make a big difference at Mountaineer Montessori School. This year, we have been selected to participate in three wonderful programs that donate a percentage of sales to our school: Amazon Smile, Kroger and BoxTops for Education.

To participate in Amazon Smile, just go to Smile.Amazon.com and select “Montessori, Etc./Mountaineer Montessori School” as your charity.

Your grocery purchases will benefit MMS if you sign up at krogercommunityrewards.com-just link your Kroger Plus card to our school.

And those pink Box Tops coupons on General Mills products can really add up-cut them out and bring them to the office…some schools raise thousands each year through this program. You can also shop through BoxTops4Education.com .

Please spread the word to relatives and friends…and shop until you drop for Mountaineer Montessori!



Make no little plans: MMS maps path for 50 years of excellence in education

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big. ”  

                                                                          Daniel Burnham, American architect and urban planner (1846-1912)


MMS Strategic Plan_FINAL_nobleeds

Mountaineer Montessori School has launched “MMS@50,” a “think big” 10-year strategic plan to lead the school to a half-century of excellence and innovation in education.

“The future of education is happening today at Mountaineer Montessori,” said Head of School Dana Gilliland. “Since our founding in 1976 by Mary McKown, our school has opened new horizons for children in our community. This new plan builds on that tradition with an inspirational vision for West Virginia education as we approach our 50th anniversary.”

The plan was introduced at the school’s annual meeting on September 23.  The event was held in conjunction with an open house for the school’s new middle school program at Unity of Kanawha Valley, 804 Myrtle Road.

Implementation of a toddler program, exploration of a Montessori high school, development of a community outdoor classroom and construction of a new purpose-built facility to house all MMS programs are among the plan’s lofty aims.  Read more here: MMS@50 Strategic Plan

A volunteer committee spent several months benchmarking peer independent schools nationwide and surveying MMS faculty and families in developing the plan.



“MMS@50” identifies six priority areas:

Programs:  Build upon tradition of excellence and innovation to provide the highest quality Montessori education in the state with a complete range of integrated and fully developed Montessori programs.

Faculty:  Attract and retain the highest quality faculty and staff.

Organization:  Create and maintain a management and administrative infrastructure that offers the maximum amount of support to teachers in developing and executing quality programs.

Facilities:  Provide authentic, safe learning environments for students at all levels and maximize the use of facilities; enhance and maintain facilities and outdoor environments at all campuses; and assess and address facility requirements for future enrollment and programs.

Finance:   Establish a strong foundation that ensures financial stability and supports our goals for high standards for programs, staff and facilities.

Community engagement:  Model the Montessori philosophy by advocating for excellence and innovation in education for all children and through community service and partnerships.


Reaching new heights: MMS milestones 2013-14

MMS Annual Report Page 1MMS Annual Report Page TwoMMS Annual Report Page 3

MMS Annual Report Page 4










Also at the annual meeting,  Head of School Dana Gilliland and Board President Harry Bell outlined school achievements from the 2013-14 school year that build momentum for roll-out of the ambitious “MMS@50″ strategic plan.

These milestones include implementation of middle school program, addition of a second lower elementary classroom, hiring a full-time reading and learning specialist, enhancing foreign language, music and after-school programs and a record-setting year for enrollment and fundraising.


About Mountaineer Montessori School

Mountaineer Montessori School is the largest, oldest and most established Montessori school in West Virginia, serving an estimated 1,000 students since its founding in 1976 by the education pioneer Mary McKown. MMS provides a rich academic and cultural program to 120 students ages 3-14 at its Kanawha City/University of Charleston (308 20th Street) and South Hills (704 Myrtle Road) campuses in Charleston.

MMS is an independent non-sectarian, non-profit 501(c)(3) school governed by board of directors elected from the community.  All MMS faculty members train at programs affiliated with the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) or the American Montessori Society (AMS), the two most recognized Montessori teacher training programs worldwide.  Tuition assistance and other support is available based upon financial need.




David Pushkin, MFA, offers specialty art courses at MMS

createMountaineer Montessori School is offering a series of specialized art classes for children ages 6 to 12 starting in September.

Classes will be led by MMS faculty member David Pushkin, who received his foundation at the Rhode Island School of Design, BFA at the San Francisco Art Institute and MFA at Columbia University. For more than 20 years, Pushkin taught fine art at Columbia, American and Hofstra Universities. At Hofstra, he taught watercolor painting in Venice as part of the university’s study abroad program.

Clay II, a three-week workshop, will be presented on Tuesdays from 3:30-5 p.m. for students in first through third grades on Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and Oct. 14.  Classes for fourth through sixth grade students will be offered on Fridays from 3:30-5 p.m. on Oct. 3, 10 and 17.

Color Composition: Intermediate Watercolor II, will be presented on Tuesdays from 3:30- 5 p.m. on March 11, 18 and 25, 2015 for first through third graders.  Classes will be offered on Fridays from 3:30-5 p.m. on March 14, 21 and 28, 2015, for students in fourth through sixth grade.

Classes will be held in the MMS Art Studio on the school’s third floor.  The course fee, which includes all materials, is $85 per student. Registration is very limited and will be accepted on a first-come basis. Payment for Clay II is due by Sept. 26; fees for Intermediate Watercolor must be submitted by Jan. 10, 2015.

For more information, please call 304/342-7870 or email David at dpushkin@mountaineermontessori.org


Middle school ribbon cutting, annual meeting to be held Sept. 23

Grand Opening Invite Photo

A ribbon cutting and open house for Mountaineer Montessori School’s (MMS) new middle school program will be held Tuesday, September 23, at Unity of Kanawha Valley, 804 Myrtle at Bridge Road.

The new 7th and 8th grade program is the only one of its kind in West Virginia, offering an academically challenging curriculum that emphasizes STEM, arts, entrepreneurship and real-life work.  It was created in response to a growing demand for alternatives to one-size-fits-all education and a 50 percent enrollment increase at MMS over the past three years.

MMS families and the public are invited for the opening festivities and an informal reception at 5:30 p.m., which will be followed by the school’s annual meeting and report to the community at 6 p.m.  During the program, faculty and members of the board of directors will update attendees on school developments.

Presentation of “MMS@50,” a new 10-year strategic plan for the school, and election of new board members are also on the agenda.

To RSVP, please call 304/342-7870 or email info@mountaineermontessori.org



About Mountaineer Montessori School

Mountaineer Montessori School is the largest, oldest and most established Montessori school in West Virginia, serving an estimated 1,000 students since its founding in 1976 by the education pioneer Mary McKown. MMS provides a rich academic and cultural program to 120 students ages 3-14 at its Kanawha City/University of Charleston (308 20th Street) and South Hills (704 Myrtle Road) campuses in Charleston.  Scholarships and sliding scale tuition are offered based upon financial need.

MMS is a private, non-sectarian, non-profit 501(c)(3) school governed by board of directors elected from the community.  All MMS faculty members train at programs affiliated with the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) or the American Montessori Society (AMS), the two most recognized Montessori teacher training programs worldwide.



MMS lunch orders due September 19: A delicious tradition by students for students!

MMS Lunch Program One of Mountaineer Montessori School’s most delicious traditions continues this year with our special lunch service presented by students for students.

Through this program, upper elementary students survey and negotiate with area restaurants, caterers and other food vendors to offer a menu of options that students in first through sixth year may order for lunch. Our students are responsible for all aspects.

(Please see the wonderful feature article below for a complete description of the program.)

Orders and payments for the fall 2014 program are due Friday, September 19.

An order form can be found here: MMS Fall 2014 Lunch Order Form





Lunch lessons: Montessori students run own food program


The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)

May 22, 2010 | Sara Busse

Don’t mess with the lunch staff at Mountaineer Montessori School.

The program is run, profitably, by the fifth- and sixth-grade students at the school.

One student met a habitually tardy delivery person at the front door of the Kanawha City school.

“She said, ‘This is not acceptable,'” teacher Darlene Spangler said, smiling. “They are serious about this. They fired the vendor because they got tired of calling to remind them.”

The food comes from area restaurants – chosen by the students with prices and contracts negotiated by the students as well.

“The fifth- and sixth-graders survey the other students to decide what types of food are wanted,” lead teacher Mary McKown said. “They listen to the comments, and they change the vendors or the choices from favorite vendors three times a year.”

Elena Pomponio, 11, and Lillian Maxwell, 11, described the offerings.

“Monday, we get Creperi Cafe. Tuesday, it’s Main Kwong. Wednesdays and Fridays are Husson’s Pizza, and on Thursdays we serve ‘Annie’s Homemade Mac and Cheese,'” Pomponio said.

“It’s made here at school by our teacher, Mary McKown,” Maxwell added.

Cheese pizza is the most popular, with 50 to 70 students ordering the item each Wednesday and Friday.

Sixth-graders Joe Anderson and Sam Jenkins help with the program.

“We deliver the food to the classrooms,” Anderson said. “It goes to the juniors and the primaries,” he said, describing the different age groups who eat the hot meals. Students who do not order from the lunch program pack lunches. There is no cafeteria – students eat in their classrooms or in an outdoor picnic area.

The students who run the program send out a reminder to the parents to get the monthly order forms in on time.

“When we tell them we’re not accepting any more, that’s usually when all of them come in,” student Cora Dunlap said. She said the experience has taught her the consequences to others when she’s not on time.

Ask the students, “How many slices are in a pizza?” The entire class will answer, “Twelve!” They add 25 to 50 cents to each meal, making the program into a fundraiser.

The food business alone has garnered $1,700 this year, which will be donated to UNICEF’s Haiti relief efforts. And, like everything else in this democratic classroom, the students researched charities and voted on their favorite.

They made a list, including Save the Children, Doctors without Borders, the Red Cross and more. Student Anne Frances Melton suggested UNICEF.

“We looked at what percentage of the money will go to Haiti and how much goes to management. One hundred percent of the money goes directly to Haiti,” Deema Kahwash said. Another student pointed out that the school will donate a total of $5,500 to UNICEF this year, thanks to a walk-a-thon and “Houses for Haiti,” decorative pins created by the students under the direction of art teacher Nancy Johnston.

When asked what UNICEF stood for, the students quickly answered “United Nation International Children’s Emergency Fund.” One student added, “That’s an acronym!”

Robby Thaw added that they collect “Pennies for Peace,” which is donated to charity as well. The students do other tasks at the school, in addition to managing the lunch program.

“We clean carpets and the floor, help with the younger kids, collect the ‘Pennies for Peace,'” Thaw said.

In addition to the charitable giving to UNICEF, the students work once a month at Manna Meal and have done cleanup and restoration at Celebration Station playground on Charleston’s East End.

Chip Ellis / Saturday Gazette-Mail photos Tuesdays are Main Kwong days at Montessori. Students (left to right) Joe Anderson, Sam Jenkins, Deema Kahwash, Elena Pomponio and others organize the lunches in the schools kitchen before delivering to different classrooms.

Jay Sheth balances fried rice with chicken as he delivers to his schoolmates at Mountaineer Montessori.

Lillian Maxwell dashes up the stairs to deliver the hot lunches to students on the second floor of Mountaineer Montessori School.

Students in the fifth and sixth level at Mountaineer Montessori organize the schools lunch program, with profits going to charity.

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.

Sara Busse

Copyright The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)



MMS announces new faculty appointments


MMS Faculty and Staff 2014-15

Mountaineer Montessori School is pleased to announce several new faculty and staff appointments as part of a major program expansion for the 2014-15 academic year.

Dana Gilliland MMS Head of School

Dana Gilliland
MMS Head of School

“We are delighted to welcome several new educators and congratulate many returning faculty members on their new positions at our school,” said Head of School Dana Gilliland.

The appointments were made in response to a 50 percent enrollment increase in the past three years and specific program needs.  To accommodate these changes, MMS has opened a middle school program, added a second lower elementary class and implemented enhancements in foreign language, after-school and specialized learning services starting with the new school term.

(Please refer to the MMS Faculty section of our website for additional  information on all faculty and staff members.)



Core Program Staff


Jason Winesburg Upper Elementary Lead Guide

Jason Winesburg
Upper Elementary
Lead Guide

Jason Winesburg has been named the new Upper Elementary (grades 4-6) Lead Guide. He brings five years of experience at Montessori schools in Memphis and upstate New York and holds a B.A. in English from Hood College in Frederick, Md., and M.Ed from Loyola University in Baltimore, Md.  Winesburg is certified in 6-12 education from the AMI Washington Montessori Institute.






Becca Moore Lower Elementary Lead Guide

Becca Moore
Lower Elementary
Lead Guide

Becca Moore will serve as the Lead Guide for MMS’s second Lower Elementary (grades 1-3) classroom. Moore is training at the rigorous AMI 6-12 program at the Milwaukee Montessori Institute. A graduate of Marshall University, Becca brings 10 years of experience in Kanawha County Schools to MMS.  Her Montessori mentor and classroom assistant this year will be MMS Head of School Dana Gilliland, an educator and administrator with more than 25 years of experience in premier Montessori schools in Ohio and Indonesia.






Samantha Den Berghe Primary Lead Guide

Samantha Den Berghe
Primary Lead Guide

Samantha Van Den Berghe has been promoted to Lead Guide for the school’s second Primary (ages 3-6) classroom. Experienced in early childhood education, Van Den Berghe holds a B.A. in psychology, with a minor in child and family, from Baldwin-Wallace College, Berea, Ohio, and trained at the AMS-affiliated Virginia Center for Montessori Education in Richmond. Her in-class Montessori mentor will be Susie Newhouse, a former primary lead guide at MMS.






Suzanne Sanders Middle School Lead Guide

Suzanne Sanders
Middle School
Lead Guide

Leading the new MMS Middle School program is Suzanne Sanders. Sanders has more than 15 years of Montessori experience in schools in Costa Rica, Colorado and Pennsylvania and most recently was the MMS Upper Elementary Lead Guide. A graduate of Penn State University, she is one of only two educators in West Virginia certified in Montessori 6-18 education, having trained at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies, the Center for Montessori Education in New York and the AMI Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies program.







Gloria Lopez Primary Classroom Assistant

Gloria Lopez
Primary Classroom

Gloria Lopez has been named a Primary Classroom Assistant and will be working in the classroom of Lead Guide Kathryn Rhoads. Lopez attended West Virginia State University and brings a rich and diverse business background to MMS. This is her second year at the school.








Julianna Phillips Primary Classroom Assistant

Julianna Phillips
Primary Classroom

Julianna Phillips has also been named a Primary Classroom Assistant, and will be working with Samantha Van Den Berghe and Montessori mentor Susie Newhouse. Phillips holds bachelor’s degrees in history and philosophy from Concord University and in psychology from WVSU and is pursuing a master’s degree in early modern European history from Marshall University. She trained at the AMS-affiliated Greater Cincinnati Center for Montessori Education.







Rachel Scarpelli Middle School Classroom Assistant

Rachel Scarpelli
Middle School
Classroom Assistant

Rachel Scarpelli has been appointed the Middle School Classroom Assistant. She holds a B.A. in mass communications from Middle Tennessee State University, and is in her second her at MMS.









Special Program Staff


Jennifer Carriger Learning Specialist

Jennifer Carriger
Learning Specialist

Jennifer Carriger has been named a full-time reading and learning consultant. The co-founder of the Appalachian Reading Center, Carriger holds a B.A. in international studies, a B.S. in secondary education and M.S. in special education from West Virginia University.








Maria León Kersher Foreign Language Specialist/Plus Program Assistant

Maria León Kersher
Foreign Language Specialist/Plus Program Assistant

Maria León Kershner has been appointed foreign language specialist to implement an expanded Spanish language program and will also serve as a Plus Program Assistant. She earned the equivalent of a master’s degree in her native Costa Rica and trained at the Midwest Center for Montessori Teacher Training. This is her sixth year at MMS.








Susie Newhouse Plus Program Guide

Susie Newhouse
Plus Program Guide

After a distinguished 22-year career as a Primary Lead Guide, Program Director and Montessori mentor and educator, Susie Newhouse has been named a Guide for the MMS After-School Plus Program. She is certified by the National Center for Montessori Education in Atlanta. Newhouse will be working with Plus Director Karen Kelly to implement an enhanced Montessori approach to our after-school programming.






Michelle Scarbrough Plus Program Assistant

Michelle Scarbrough
Plus Program Assistant

Michelle Scarbrough has been named a Plus Program Assistant. Scarbrough holds a B.S. in communications from WVU.








All MMS faculty train at programs affiliated with Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) or the American Montessori Society (AMS), the two most recognized Montessori teacher training programs worldwide.


About Mountaineer Montessori School: 

MMS is the largest, oldest and most established Montessori school in West Virginia, serving an estimated 1,000 students since its founding in 1976 by the education pioneer Mary McKown. MMS provides a rich academic and cultural program to 120 students ages 3-14 at its Kanawha City/University of Charleston (308 20th Street) and South Hills (804 Myrtle Road) campuses in Charleston.

A comprehensive tuition assistance program is available to MMS families based upon financial need.



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Babylonia, constellations and sexigesimal system lessons kick off year for Upper Elementary students

Ancient Babylonia, constellations and the sexigesimal number system are just a few of lessons that have engaged MMS Upper Elementary students during their first two weeks of school. Lead Guide Jason Winesburg and student class photographers share this report on their work thus far:

MMS Upper Elementary students are excited about the year ahead!

MMS Upper Elementary students are excited about the year ahead!

“‘We began the year, as is tradition, with a story of the beginning of the universe. We begin with this topic as the foundation for the children’s own narrative, into which they can weave each new bit of knowledge they acquire. These larger-scale stories are called the great lessons, and there are five of them throughout the year. Afterwards, the children came up with ideas for follow-up work to demonstrate their understanding of the story.

The lesson spawned many interesting projects, including mobiles, a comic, posters, and board games.  Nancy Johnston was invaluable in helping to bring the children’s’ visions to life. We also began work on the constellations in this area.


 On a more prosaic note, we began daily writing prompts and math facts work to keep everyone’s skills sharp.

Ancient civilizations

 Our focus for history this year is the ancient civilizations, and we studied the Mesopotamian groups this week, primarily the Sumerians and the Babylonians. Our first read-aloud book has been Gilgamesh the Hero by Geraldine McCaughrean, an exciting (and somewhat more child-friendly) retelling of the first great work of literature, the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh.

Mountaineer August 202Constellations

 We discussed the geography of the Mesopotamian region and its historical significance. I gave a lesson on the sexigesimal (base 60) number system and showed how it was the basis of our measurements of time and angles, which led into older students working creating addition tables for different number bases. This work will continue next week.

Finally, the students’ interest in board games sparked a group lesson on an ancient Sumerian game called the Royal Game of Ur, of which only the barest outline of the rules have ever been discovered. The children were then challenged to create their own rule sets for the game, while a group of older students chose to create a model of the board with wooden tiles.



 Mountaineer August 208In class, we will be tracking work with individual work journals that students keep themselves. They will set deadlines for their projects with teacher guidance, and hold themselves to their choices. The children will meet with me one-on-one bi-weekly (more often if needed) to discuss their choices of work and address any individual concerns. Students will prepare for their conference with a self-reflection. We will also continue with community meetings on Monday and Wednesday mornings to address group concerns and ideas.



Community rules

In addition to all the work we accomplished this week, the upper elementary students also chose their own community rules and developed a list of chores to maintain the environment. We also somehow found time to engage in active play outside, with Capture the Flag and Pirate Ball!Mountaineer August 184

 Looking ahead, preparations continue for the annual trip to The Mountain Institute on September 7-9.  We also will be reading excerpts of the Code of Hammurabi and translating them into modern language. We will begin work with fractions and geometry, and continue with non-decimal bases.”

Watch for more interesting updates from our Upper Elementary and other classes in the weeks ahead!


MMS Glass Classroom: A New Vision for Education in WV


Dr. Maria Montessori and students at the “glass classroom” held at the 1915 Pacific Panama International Exposition.

A century ago, tens of thousands of visitors to the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco got their first look at Montessori education when Dr. Maria Montessori organized the “glass classroom,” an actual Montessori school held at the Palace of Education and Social Economy.

Thousands of children applied to be students at this demonstration school; Helen Parkhurst, Dr. Montessori’s star teacher, was selected to lead the program (she later went on to found the prestigious Dalton School, which incorporated many Montessori principles, in New York.) The Glass Classroom was a powerful public education tool and raised awareness around the world of the benefits of this scientific approach to education.

As the centennial of the “Glass Classroom” approaches, Mountaineer Montessori School is launching a comprehensive campaign that will bring Montessori education into the community and the community into our school.  We’re planning experiential town halls and other events to raise awareness of the benefits of Montessori education among parents, educators, policy makers and business and community leaders. Our goal is to contribute to state-wide efforts to create “A New Vision for Education in West Virginia” and showcase the many ways the Montessori approach supports excellence and innovation in education.

Please watch for details and invitations to get involved in this history-making celebration and support transformation of education in West Virginia.


A New Vision for Education in West Virginia Public Schools


Senator Dan Foster, from left, MMS Co-Director Julie Margolis, MMS Board Member Jack Rogers, Newt Thomas, WV Board of Education President Gayle Manchin, Charles McElwee and MMS Head of School Dana Gilliland tour our school and share ideas for promoting innovation in education.

An exciting movement is underway to revitalize public education in West Virginia. S pearheaded by Charles McElwee, an attorney with Robinson & McElwee, a group of committed leaders and citizens from the spheres of education, politics, government, business, non-profit and philanthropy has been gathering and studying to review our education system from top to bottom and identify and implement changes to create learning environments that promote success for all students.

MMS is excited to be a part of these important efforts.

In November 2013, WV State School Board President Gayle Manchin and other leaders toured our school to experience Montessori firsthand. Since then, Head of School Dana Gilliland and Board Vice President JoEllen Zacks have actively participated in ongoing discussions designed to create a state-wide movement for transforming West Virginia Schools.  The MMS Glass Classroom campaign is a concurrent effort to demonstrate the role Montessori can play in elevating education to this state-wide group and the community at large.




Recent media coverage:

West Virginia Public Broadcasting: Can the Structure of Public Education Be Changed?

By Clark Davis, August 11, 204
Mapping a new vision for education in West Virginia.

Mapping a new vision for education in West Virginia.

Members of the state’s education community met Monday at Marshall University to discuss how to take the next step in public education in the state.

Can West Virginia’s public education system be fixed? That was the question that was asked Monday on Marshall’s campus. Charleston attorney Charles McElwee called together administrators and policy makers to discuss how change can be made in the public education realm. McElwee said the current system which follows old outdated standard  isn’t working.

“The goal is to try to mobilize citizen support and getting an ever widening number of citizens involved, because if we don’t get citizen support, I think our efforts will be for not,” McElwee said.

The meeting yesterday was the second organized by McElwee, the first was held in Morgantown. McElwee said he hopes that by hosting the forums around the state that more people will get involved and take a closer look at the current K-12 system.

Marshall University President Dr.Stephen Kopp told the group of 30 gathered for the forum that a new action plan needs to be developed to take into account how today’s public school student learns.

“Much of what needs to take place is aligning the scientific foundations and examining the practices that are being followed and ask the question are there other practices that have yet to be fully developed that would have not only a greater impact in terms of the outcomes we’re trying to achieve with the student, but would actually foster deeper learning for our students,” Kopp said.

Kopp went on to say that under the old model a professor in the case of Marshall or a teacher in the case of K-12 was there to profess knowledge on a subject, but in today’s world knowledge can be obtained anywhere, so a professor or teacher needs to do more.

“In this day and age, if professing knowledge is all we’re doing, that learning process can happen just about anywhere,” Kopp said. “The critical question in my opinion is how do we make the transition from being professors to being designers and architects of powerful learning experiences for our students.”

Cabell County Superintendent William Smith realizes changes are the key to improving, but they aren’t always easy.

“Education is very very tough to change, because everyone has done it and they all know what it’s supposed to look like,” Smith said. “When you start talking about change, your biggest opponents is usually your total community because school is the way it was when I was going there in the 50’s, why does it need to be changing now. We need to look at what assessments need to be put in place to determine achievement.”

Smith noted that Cabell County Schools is embracing the idea of a different learning environment. An older middle school is being remodeled into a consolidated elementary school. There, an incubator school will be formed  – one of just a few schools in the country to take part in expeditionary learning, where kids become much more involved in their day-to-day instruction. Marshall University’s June Harless Center will help train teachers in the new learning techniques.

“I think student engagement is a major issue for schools, we need to think about how we engage our students and how do we measure that, that tells me whether a school is going to be successful or not,” Smith said. “But when you’re talking about student engagement, it’s not just what they know, but what they can do, so assessment is going to have to be more I guess in terms of what a student can do.”

McElwee hopes the ideas from the meeting lead to change in the state’s education system.



Herald-Dispatch: New Approaches for Education Explored, August 12, 2014

New approaches for education explored

Aug. 12, 2014 @ 12:00 AM

About 30 people attended the session titled “Creating a New Vision for Public Education in West Virginia,” taking on topics including college preparedness and even changing the traditional teaching model that has dominated in the United States since the 1800s.


MMS Head of School Dana Gilliland, Charlie McElwee and education leaders share ideas for advancing education with WVU President E. Gordon Gee.

The forum was the second of its kind to be hosted by Charles R. McElwee, an attorney from Charleston who has researched and written about the public school system for many years.

McElwee hosted a similar forum at the home of West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee in Morgantown in June.

The goal of the forums has been to help mobilize citizen support for an improved public education system in West Virginia, McElwee said.

McElwee believes the state should focus on how students best learn and what it is they should learn.


WV Board of Education President Gayle Manchin and Nelle Chilton

“We need to determine that,” he said. “We also need to determine whether our age-old learning model, which is derived from Prussia in the early 1800s, should continue.”

That model, he said involves breaking up the school day by subject, teaching all students at the same pace and advancing students through the educational system by age.

McElwee questioned if that learning model has kept up with societal advances.

“Does it make any sense to teach all kids at the same pace?” he asked. “Should we have student-centered learning and let kids advance at their own pace? Those are some of the things we need to examine in the traditional learning model.”


Becky Ceperley, president, Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, from left, JoEllen Zacks, MMS Board of Directors, Gayle Manchin, Charlie McElwee, and Ryan White, Kanawha County School Board.

Cabell County Schools Superintendent Bill Smith was one of the contributors to the forum.

He pointed out the school district’s foray into the Expeditionary Learning model that is being used in two of the district’s schools. Those schools, Geneva Kent and Peyton elementary schools, will be consolidated at the end of the school year to create the first Expeditionary Learning school in West Virginia.

In Expeditionary Learning, students learn by conducting learning expeditions rather than by sitting in a classroom being taught one subject at a time. The school district has partnered with Marshall University’s June Harless Center to offer teachers in Cabell County and throughout the state training on that type of learning approach.

Smith said the model will play more into focusing on what students can do as opposed to what they know.

“I think student engagement is a a major issue for schools,” Smith said. “We need to think about how we engage our students and measure that. … When you talk about student engagement, it’s not about what they know, it’s what they can do. Assessment in the future is going to be more about what they can do.”

Marshall University President Stephen Kopp echoed that sentiment of student ability when he noted recent statistics from the National College Board that indicated only 26 percent of high school graduates entering college were prepared for college-level math and English courses.

“I think when you look nationally at the preparedness of high school seniors to go into college and do college-level work, we’ve seen an erosion of preparedness,” Kopp said. “It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause, but I think what we’re going to accomplish today is to start asking very important questions and explore potential solutions.”

Kopp also said a university’s role is just as important in K-12 public education because universities educate the teachers who will be tasked with helping students meet educational standards.

In his opening remarks for the forum, Kopp pointed out the importance of looking for solutions and not looking for someone or something to blame.

West Virginia Board of Education President Gayle Manchin supported Kopp’s philosophy and stated it is one that needs to be used broadly in the educational system today.

“I think in the past it’s been easy for people in the community to say it’s the teachers’ fault because they don’t teach kids today the way they used to,” Manchin said. “Teachers say it’s the parents fault because students don’t come to school with basic instruction, and the business leaders say it’s everyone’s fault because they don’t have enough qualified people to hire and do the jobs they need done.

“It truly is about coming together today independently, each and every one of us has a responsibility to the education of the children of West Virginia and across this country.”

Follow Reporter Lacie Pierson on Twitter @LaciePiersonHD.