A Future Partnership With Centennial Middle School Is Being Explored
MONTROSE – Since the summer of 2009, former Pomona Elementary School teacher Amber Gardner has employed instructional methods focused on individual learning styles at her Bright Beginnings preschool and childcare program at 120 North Hillcrest Ave.
Bright Beginnings provides an educational environment for infants on up and provides state standard-based curriculum for children ages 4, who are ready for kindergarten, up to boys and girls ready for second-grade standards.
With a current staff of 29, 23 of whom are certified teachers, and 198 students enrolled, the Bright Beginnings' concept has taken off.
But Gardner isn't stopping there.
On Sept. 4, the Maslow Academy of Applied Learning will open and offer education through fourth grade, with the intention of going through fifth grade the following year.
This independent elementary school aligns with Abraham Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs – the belief that human being's needs are arranged like a ladder with the most basic needs, such as water and food at the bottom, and self-actualizing needs, such as the need to become the best one is capable of becoming, at the top.
The school's mission is based on a three-part educational partnership of master teachers, involved families and reflective and goal-setting learners, said Christina Simmons, the current K1 teacher at Bright Beginnings, who also is the executive director of the board for Maslow Academy.
The school's goals are to have parents, families, faculty and students who are actively engaged in the community; employ highly motivated and master teachers who provide education to each student at his or her level; and to create an environment for students where basic needs are met so that students can concentrate on reaching their peak potential.
By using this concept, similar to Bright Beginnings, Maslow Academy will do away with grade levels and rather, teach to a student's level of learning, which is not the same as their age or year in school, Gardner said.
As at Bright Beginnings, Maslow Academy students will advance to more advanced curriculum when they demonstrate the skills and abilities to do so, Simmons said.
“I like the concept of teaching to the individual,” said Karen Liotta, a parent and high-school level teacher for Colorado Virtual Academy.
The school will teach to core standards set by the Colorado Department of Education, will evaluate students using the Measures of Academic Progress assessments, as well as other methods, and each student will be taught by a certified and highly qualified teacher.
Class sizes will be capped at 18 students, with a co-teacher if a class size reaches more than 15 students.
Maslow Academy also will offer classes in physical education, music and art. Its curriculum will be taught using a wide range of material, mostly which will be electronic, Gardner said.
Last summer, Bright Beginnings expanded its facility to add classrooms and a cafeteria, as well as amenities such as an outdoor sensory garden and playground.
The first phase of Maslow Academy will start this spring and include two new classrooms with a shared bathroom facility.
The second and third phases of the project include six additional classrooms. These will be set apart from the first two classrooms because those will be used for art and music.
Gardner said she has secured the financing for the buildings, but is still soliciting money for other needs, including $16,000 for classroom and learning materials, $10,000 for technology (the school hopes to have an iPad lab), $15,000 to $25,000 for scholarships so that students can attendant regardless of their parents' income, and $15,000 for a playground.
The roofs of the additional classrooms face south and eventually, Gardner said, she wants to utilize solar energy.
The schools' board of directors is working toward obtaining nonprofit status, which will allow them to apply for more grants and present additional fundraising opportunities. Currently, the schools work with the Montrose Community Foundation and donations can be made there.
With plans to offer through fifth-grade standards and curriculum only, Gardner said there may be a partnership opportunity with Centennial Middle School. She said the school first approached her about the idea, as Centennial is exploring possible curriculum changes and may make a good school for Maslow students to feed into.
Centennial's leadership team continues to explore Maslow's model, as well as others, said Principal Nancy Alex.
“We are very much in the initial stage of looking at that model to see if it has a place, or if we can find it a place, in a traditional middle school setting,” she said. “We like the individual and standards-based approach.”