Instilling a Lifelong Love of Learning
NKY Montessori Center Expands

Julia Preziosi thought something should be done to save Covington’s only Montessori preschool when she heard that the founder was retiring and planned to close the 37-year-old school.

“I told her I would find someone to take it over,” Preziosi says.

Of course, she ended up doing it.

The Northern Kentucky Montessori Center was started in 1967 by Kitty Salter, who ran it with her husband, Ken, until 2004.

Preziosi stepped in and saved the school eight years ago and has been slowly expanding it into elementary grades since.

That expansion continues in the 2012-13 school year with the program, for the first time, now accepting applications for children through sixth grade.

Expansion Expected

By next fall, Preziosi expects to expand to 70 children, with nine teachers, and also add another preschool class.

Of course, “grades” are a loose concept in the individualized learning mantra of the Montessori philosophy. The Montessori Center groups children in three age brackets: preschool (three to five year-olds), lower elementary (traditional second and third grades) and upper elementary (fourth through sixth grades).

Dr. Maria Montessori developed the concept in pre-World War I Italy as a way to teach children in the ghettos of Rome.

“They started learning extraordinary things that no one thought they were capable of,” says Preziosi, a Northern Kentucky native, who was educated at Xavier University in Montessori training and is on the faculty of XU’s Montessori Teacher Education Program.

The core philosophy of Montessori: “Children innately want to learn. You put them in a rich, exciting, creative environment and that ignites their passion for learning,” Preziosi says. “All are working at their own pace, but are focused on something particular to your curriculum.”

While Montessori developed her program for poor children, in America it has become a private, even elite program, mainly because it can be costly requiring small classes, individual instruction and specially-trained teachers.

In this area, Cincinnati Public Schools has been a leader in breaking the private Montessori mold with one of the most ambitious public school programs in the country. It offers Montessori instruction in five elementary and two high schools.

Preziosi credits Cincinnati Public Schools with helping to popularize the program in this region and says the Montessori Center expansion is partly spurred by parents seeking Montessori instruction in Northern Kentucky.

Challenging Children

“For many of our parents, their children are really bright, but they are bored,” says Preziosi, who has helped train many Cincinnati Public Montessori teachers while at XU.

“What happens in so many traditional programs is the light goes out. Children get very tired of rote learning. They get bored, frustrated, or just numbed by it.”

Preziosi says there is little debate over the success of Montessori, with the vast amount of studies showing it works. Historically, she thinks the instruction hearkens back to the one-room schoolhouse when teachers were faced with blended students of different ages and had to encourage independent learning to manage the class, utilizing Montessori techniques before there was a name for it.

How do parents determine if Montessori is best for their child?

Preziosi says the key question is: Does my child enjoy school? “If the answer is no, then why not? Are the child’s needs being met?”

Preziosi acknowledges cost is a factor (tuition at the Montessori Center is $7,550). She says the school tries with its limited budget to help defray costs for in-need families.

“This is the time to invest in your child’s education. This is the age when it really pays off. If you can instill at an early age a love of learning and the ability to become an independent learner, they will get their college scholarship. You pay for it now and reap the benefits on the other end.” ■

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