WHEELING-Lifelong learning begins when a child is an infant, and in today's competitive education and scholarship systems, parents are seeking ways to make sure their children are prepared. Sikora Montessori School helps with that preparation.
Located at 2108 Lumber Ave. in Elm Grove, the school was part of the Mount de Chantal Visitation Academy from 1970 until its closing. Paula Sikora became the preschool director there for 15 years after enrolling her daughter in the program. "We wanted a place with more creative activities than were offered at that time." When Mt. de Chantal closed, friends and client families encouraged her to reopen the school in a different space.
Sikora found their present space, updated all of the licensing and acquired American Montessori School accreditation. The school employs nine certified daycare workers and teachers, some of whom followed Sikora from the Mount. In the infant to 1-year-old group, the student to teacher ratio is four to one. For 2-year-olds, the ratio is eight to one. In the 3 to 6-year-old class, the ratio is 12 to one. One of the Montessori methods is blending the older age groups. Sikora said that all of the teachers are familiar with and "open to the Montessori methods" and share "a passion for teaching."
The "methods" stem from the observations and philosophies of Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian educator and doctor in the early 20th century. She designed educational activities that would encourage children to openly interact with their environment, reasoning that children who act spontaneously and instinctively develop at an optimal level rather than when being "taught" within a rigid structure.
"Our curriculum is based on order, independence, concentration and coordination," explains Sikora. "We breathe life into curiosity, and that creates lifelong learners." Mixing age groups and doing activities that facilitate movement-from learning to pour and scoop to dancing-enhance the learning process and develop motor skills.
Upon entering kindergarten, Montessori students have already learned practical skills (such as pouring, sweeping and cleaning,) learned to read phonetically, learned to count from one to 1,000 and can add, multiply, subtract and divide. Sikora notes that early childhood is when language skills are developing, so at Sikora Montessori they also learn French.
Montessori schools really gained a foothold in the United States around 1960 and have become increasingly popular. So much so, that the once-critical, traditional education system has begun to utilize Montessori methods and principles in its own early childhood programs.
Sikora Montessori is the only certified Montessori school in this area, and Sikora says that students come from the Wheeling area, but also from Ohio. Because it is a state licensed daycare and preschool, it has the same price structure as other licensed facilities. She offers several scheduling plans including three days or five days and half or full days. In addition, Sikora offers a discounted five-day plan for parents who work at Wheeling Jesuit, West Liberty University, Wheeling Hospital and Ohio Valley Medical Center.
She says she's appreciative of the support from her clients and is glad she decided to continue the school. She's excited about a new "Kindermusic" program coming up, and the school works with Oglebay Institute regularly.
Parents interested in Sikora Montessori can visit the website, www.SikoraMontessori.com, or call Paula Sikora at (304) 905-8453 to schedule a tour.
Valenti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.