Recruiting teachers to the Yampa Valley doesn't tend to be difficult for the Steamboat Springs School District, but finding qualified candidates to lead its new Montessori program is proving harder than usual.
The district, which began advertising for the position in March, has yet to find a candidate who meets its requirements. Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal John DeVincentis said he's in the process of contacting Montessori centers in an effort to directly recruit a qualified and willing candidate.
"I knew there'd be some difficulties with staffing (the position)," DeVincentis said.
Two reasons the district has encountered difficulties are the qualifications sought in the ideal candidate and the manner in which the Montessori program has been set up, DeVincentis and Superintendent Donna Howell said.
"One of the stumbling blocks we've had is that in the traditional Montessori setting, there's 28 students with an instructional aide," Howell said.
Strawberry Park's Montessori class will consist of 23 first-, second- and third-grade students and won't include an instructional aide. Howell said she prefers keeping the class at 23 students because it will more closely match the size of other elementary classes in the district.
DeVincentis said one qualified candidate showed interest in the position but was hesitant because of the absence of an instructional aide. Other qualified candidates who applied for the position accepted Montessori positions elsewhere, he said.
The applicant pool includes two local candidates, both of whom would need to attend Montessori training this summer. The district would prefer to hire a teacher with Montessori experience and a Colorado teaching license or the ability to easily attain one.
"I want someone who understands both systems," DeVincentis said, referring to the Montessori and "best practices" education methods.
Best practice refers to the education model used by the school district. That model is designed to combine the best methods from a variety of educational systems and practices.
"What I want is someone who will realize that -- just as we need to learn more about Montessori -- they'll also learn more about what we're doing," DeVincentis said. District officials want to find a Montessori teacher open to the best-practices model because of their desire to maintain the cohesiveness of the Strawberry Park staff.
Also important to the successful implementation of the Montessori program is teaching district staff and parents about the Montessori approach, a point raised by Strawberry Park teacher Mike Johnson at Monday's School Board meeting.
"The more people are familiar with each program, the more likely people will gain respect for each approach," DeVincentis said.
As for determining who the district's first Montessori teacher will be, DeVincentis said a decision must be made quickly. If an experienced Montessori teacher isn't found soon, the district might need to hire one of its local applicants in time to send him or her to Montessori training in June.
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