Iberville Elementary begins Montessori philosophy in hopes of turning the school around

TOMMY COMEAUX

Iberville Elementary School has struggled with its ability to be a successful school so it switched its curriculum this year to the Montessori system.

“I think the biggest difference between a Montessori school and a traditional school is the philosophy and the materials that are used,” said Principal Jeanne’ Medine. “There’s specific, specialized materials in all areas of the curriculum for Montessori and the activities the students participate in are all hands-on with material objects.”

“There’s very little pencil and paper used in pre-K to second grade,” she continued. “Most of the learning is through the specialized material.”

Another difference is in the seating arrangements and classroom assignments.

“One thing that you will notice that’s very different is the learning environment,” Medine said. “In pre-K to second, there are no desks so the students haver floor mats to work on. They sit on the floor. There’s an ellipse in every room that serves as the meeting place, the gathering place for whole classroom instruction.”

“So the learning environment is very comfortable for the students,” she said. “It’s very centered around the students.”

“Even in the third through sixth grades, the learning environment is very different,” Medine said. “It’s student-based with flexible seating options where the students might be sitting on a bouncing ball; they might be sitting on a wobble chair; they might be sitting on the carpet working on a table that’s lower to the ground.”

The biggest difference, though, “is the learning material you use with the students and the way it progresses over time,” she said. “We also have mixed aged groups in one class. For example, my pre-K classes and my 4-K classes are together.”

“The same is true of first and second grade students,” Medine said. “The reason for that is the teacher keeps those first grade kids for two years.”

“She has them for two years so a strong relationship is built between the teacher, the child and the family,” she continued. “The teacher can really understand that child’s learning style and so over the course of two years, she can push a lot of growth.”

“Also, the older kids are good role models for the younger kids in the classroom,” Medine said. “They can help them with a lot of procedural things and even with their work, so that’s a big difference.”

Iberville Elementary was chosen for the Montessori program for two reasons – it is the largest elementary school in the district and, “Over the years, it has it has not been a successful school so it needed to be turned around so it could move in the right direction.”