ALPENA Bingham Arts Academy has partnered with Rogers City Montessori to bring the first Montessori preschool program to Alpena. The program is set to begin in August, and is currently open for children ages two and a half up to age five.
"There is a shortage of preschool opportunities in the Alpena are for families that do not meet eligibility of state or federal funded preschool," Robin Benson said. "Montessori is a great option for preschool and really fosters independent thinkers and self-regulation, which fits in well with the philosophy of learning at Bingham. The teachers that will be working in the program will be specifically trained and certified in Montessori instruction."
Bingham is teaming up with the Rogers City Montessori because their program is established and has experience with running a quality Montessori.
"We felt it best that they bring their experience to the partnership," Benson said. "Josie Peltz will oversee the program and ensure it is implemented to the model and quality that is offered at the school in Rogers City. We work very hard at Bingham to implement high quality."
Along with the Montessori, Bingham is making a few changes to its grade level offering due to high numbers in the lower grades.
"Because the lower grade enrollment has been growing in size, and we like to keep our classrooms under 25 students each, we will be able to transition the teachers into different roles," Benson said. "Each year it seems that Bingham has needed an additional grade level teacher, and next year we anticipate the same."
The grade level offerings will be reduced from PK-8 to PK-5 for the 2014-15 school year to help support a narrowed focus on early childhood and elementary education, and allow for the expanded preschool program.
"We really feel we can best serve Pre-K through fifth grades and can offer the highest quality to these grade levels," Benson said.
She expects the Montessori program to grow and expand based on the current wait list in Rogers City because of the high quality of the program and the benefits it offers to young children.
The teachers who are currently instructing the sixth through eighth grade classes will continue to work at Bingham, according to Benson, just in a different area.
"One will be moving into a Title 1 teacher role, and one will be needed for the expansion of third grade we already need for next year," Benson said. "There has been two classrooms for the sixth through eighth graders, one for a sixth grade, and one for a seventh and eighth grade split course."
The curriculum set for the Montessori preschool will align with the current curriculum already in place at Bingham, and offer student learning in the same structured curriculum.
"Our Paragon curriculum, with our culture/arts/history curriculum, as well as the workshop time contained in our daily reading blocks and math blocks to allow for independence in student learning through discovery, self-motivation and high order thinking skills," Benson said. "This blends well with the Montessori concepts. We also hope to have our kindergarten teachers incorporate some of the Montessori concepts in their classrooms as they will be allowed to observe and learn from this method."
Benson said she is excited to add the Montessori program and thinks it will be a great addition to Bingham.
"We have been serving the Alpena community for the past ten years, and we are thrilled to enhance our program offering this year with the addition of the Montessori preschool," Benson said.
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.