Principal Mary Anderson
Degrees and Certifications:
Welcome toGarfield Montessori Magnet School. We are one of two downstate public Montessori Elementary Schools in Illinois. We are very proud to be able to serve the families of Decatur, Illinois from the time their children enter preschool until they are ready to enter one of our high schools, Eisenhower or MacArthur. Our building is founded on the principles and teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori, the first Italian female physician. Dr. Montessori believed the child possessed all the talents and abilities he/she would require, and it is our duty as directors and directresses to develop and nurture those talents and provide a prepared, nurturing, and safe environment for those gifts to blossom.
Our building provides three primary classrooms accommodating children between the ages of three and six. Multiage classrooms allow the directress to know her students deeply over the course of three years. In addition, only one third of the class is composed of new students each year to facilitate a smooth transition and assimilate those new students to the routine of the community. Two thirds of the class then functions as "experts in the environment" as they move with grace and purpose to teach the new students the materials and culture of the classroom. This time between the ages of three and six is most important in building the foundation for all knowledge that follows. During this time the child possesses an "Absorbent Mind" and can learn seemingly without effort. At no other time in a child's life will he/she be able to readily absorb language, reading, writing, and build a mathematical mind. The materials in the classrooms are designed to paint pictures in the students' minds that will serve as references in their later works.
Garfield houses four Elementary I classrooms composed of six to nine year old students. Traditionally this would be first, second, and third grades. During this plane of development students use the cultural area of the classroom to drive their learning. Their constant desire to know more about the real world, its peoples, geography, and history launch them into their research and learning. Montessori lessons always begin with the real object whenever possible which captures the mind and attention of the young learner. By providing this rich environment, students eagerly approach their studies and therefore take great pride in their projects and accomplishments. Elementary I students are characterized by a bubbling over to share their latest knowledge with their community, directress, and principal.
Following the three years of Elementary I is the Elementary II curriculum. This is designed for students between the ages of nine and twelve. During these three years, students delve deeper into their mathematics looking for patterning in numbers and operations. Elementary II students are curious to see if they can discover alternate ways of getting the same solution such as different filters to find all the prime numbers between one and four hundred. This creative problem solving will serve them well as they continue to work with others in teams. One unique characteristic of Montessori education is providing students with a control of error. As a student works with a material or after its completion, a child may go to the shelf and find an answer key. This way the child can correct his/her own work and learn from any mistakes they may have made. In Montessori, a work is done until it is perfect. You may have heard that some Montessori schools do not give grades. This is because a child does a work repeatedly until they have mastered the concept. Great self-confidence is attained in this way, and now the student knows he or she can teach other student the same way. Cooperation in work is encouraged rather than discouraged so the concept of "cheating" is foreign in a Montessori classroom.
Garfield Montessori is the only school in the state of Illinois to offer a Montessori based program for middle school students. The middle school curriculum uses time periods to study the fundamental human needs and how cultures, empires, and countries have responded to those needs throughout time. Literature circles are employed as a means to extend those cultural studies into historical fiction of the period. In this way the adolescent connects with the protagonist in the stories and sees the events through their eyes. This builds a profound sense of tolerance, empathy, and leads to understanding. Our middle school students study either a two year pre-algebra or algebra I program. Many of our sixth year Elementary II students are invited to study math with the middle school students. A Montessori education is about following the needs of the child rather than a set curriculum. By observing the tendencies and behaviors of a student, a director/directress can determine what course of study the student needs.
Our middle school students also enjoy choir, Spanish, band, string orchestra, and extra curricular sports. The sports offered at Garfield include cross country, soccer, basketball, volleyball, track, pom pons, and cheerleading. Garfield Montessori is a member of the IESA and adheres to all the guidelines contained within. In a Montessori environment we try to encourage students to research and form their own organizations and clubs according to their personal interests and talents. To the best of our ability we try to adhere to a "no cut" policy so that all students can participate in the activity of their choosing.
We are a magnet school which means students are chosen by a district wide lottery process. If you are interested in learning more about Garfield Montessori, please contact us at 217.362.3370. We shall be pleased to invite you to one of our Montessori orientations and provide you with information about Montessori education. We offer books, videos, and brochures so you may also learn more at home. Each month, I sponsor a Montessori Morning on the first Wednesday of the month between nine and ten. These lecture/discussions are open to parents and community members who wish to discuss and learn more about Montessori education. Realizing that not everyone can attend, I shall summarize our discussions and post them for you, the internet user, at this site. The topics we have covered this year include, The Montessori Triad, The Prepared Environment, How to Speak Montessori, The Montessori Home, and Montessori, the Elementary Years. Please look for these links soon.
It has been my pleasure to provide you with this brief glimpse into our school. Please stop in while school is in session for a classroom observation. We welcome you to sit and observe in any of our classrooms. We ask that you respect the students' work time and not interrupt them while they are working to ask questions. Please jot down your questions and we shall be happy to answer them for you when you complete your observation. We look forward to meeting you and welcoming you into our Montessori family.
Yours very truly,
Mrs. Mary Anderson, Principal
Contact Mrs. Anderson