One Montessori school closes, another opens

08/18/2009 | Oxford Eagle

The Twelve Oaks Montessori School in Oxford closed its doors in May after 10 years, but parents who want their children to have a Montessori education need not despair: a new school will soon open.

After hearing of the closing of the Montessori school in Oxford, Karyn Jankowski knew she had to do something to rectify the situation. She decided to open her own Montessori school in the Plein Air neighborhood in Taylor.

“I saw an immediate need and opportunity,” Jankowski said. “Also, I wanted my youngest child to have the same quality Montessori education that my oldest had, and my options were limited.

“I have always thought that Taylor was an ideal spot for a Montessori school because of the peaceful, country setting and the small, close-knit community. Since my decision to open the school, I have found it to be a very supportive and caring one as well.”

After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1999 with her bachelor’s in business administration, Jankowski lived in Memphis where she worked in pre-schools and discovered the Montessori method.

The Montessori method began as a philosophy that focuses on getting children to reach their highest potential, through emphasizing social interaction and focusing on the personality of the children rather than just teaching a specific curriculum.

The Montessori method of education is a model which serves the needs of children of all levels of mental and physical ability as they live and learn in a natural, mixed-age group which is very much like the society they will live in as adults, according to the Montessori Web site.

In 2004, Jankowski went to Denver to study at the Montessori Institute and received a diploma from the Association Montessori International. During this time she opened the Assistants to Infancy program at the Maria Montessori School in Memphis while she attended Loyola College and received her master’s in early childhood education in 2007.

After moving to Oxford with her husband, Jankowski wanted to remain involved with the Montessori method. Upon hearing that the Oxford school was closing in May, Jankowski decided to step forward and open a new school.

Jankowski said the Plein Air Montessori School will offer a holistic approach to education with a unique curriculum.

“It will be a place of peace and mutual respect where children will learn from a variety of sources to grow academically, socially, emotionally and spiritually in a safe, loving environment,” Jankowski said.

Lessons are designed to provide structure and support for the children, building concentration and focus while encouraging self-direction and independence through self-correcting materials, Jankowski said.

The curriculum includes lessons in grace and courtesy, practical life, language, creative arts, math, geography and science.

This year the school will accept 2- to 4-year-olds and will continue to grow with the needs of the children in coming years.

Montessori supporter Leighton McCool said she was sad when the Oxford school closed, but she is looking forward to supporting the new school. Her husband, Campbell, is the local developer for Plein Air.

“This was truly such a huge loss for Oxford,” McCool said of the Twelve Oaks school.

“The kids that they fed into the public school system were the top of their class,” she said. “All three of my boys went to the Montessori system here in Oxford, and the foundation that the school gave them for reading put them well above their peers.”

An informational meeting for the Plein Air Montessori School will be held Thursday at 6 p.m. at the new school at 100 Towne Square Lane in Plein Air. Applications will also be available at the meeting and will be reviewed for acceptance on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Only five children will be part of the first-year’s class.