Steamboat Springs Strawberry Park Elementary School is looking for a new upper-elementary Montessori teacher after the school learned last week that longtime teacher Linda Stansbery would not be returning.
Strawberry Park Principal Celia Dunham said Tuesday that despite the unexpected loss of one of their two Montessori teachers, the program is continuing as planned. She said until they are able to find a teacher to replace Stansbery, substitute teacher Sara Boyle is teaching Strawberry Park’s 21 fourth- and fifth-grade Montessori students and has developed a curriculum that draws from Stansbery’s lessons.
Dunham said the alternative education program’s curriculum would stay the same and continue to draw from the hands-on independent learning method named after Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori.
“Everything appears to be going great,” Dunham said about the program’s first week. “Our whole goal with our temporary plan was to make sure the kids’ learning wasn’t interrupted and that nothing got in the way of them having a great first week.”
Dunham said that after she learned four days before the first day of classes on Aug. 24 that Stansbery had accepted another job out of state, the school immediately began a search for a new Montessori-trained teacher and has been aggressively advertising for the position in markets across the country. She said that while there were no leads last week for the position, applications have started coming in this week.
“I’m hopeful we will have another Montessori teacher very soon,” she said. “There’s a great passion for the Montessori program, and my observations from the first week of class is that the students have the same busy work ethic they had last year.”
Dunham has been communicating with parents this week about their progress in finding another teacher after some expressed concern about potential changes resulting from Stansbery’s absence. Stansbery taught Montessori classes since the program’s inception in 2004-05, and the program’s enrollment stayed steady this year at 45 students.
On Tuesday, the upper elementary students were busy working on math lessons and learning state abbreviations with Boyles. The program’s older students also were starting research projects.
During a passing period, upper elementary Montessori students Natasha Totman and Katie Lake were anxious to talk to Dunham about the list of 20 questions they were developing for their project.
“I’m going to study beta fish and find out what they’re made of,” Totman said.
And Lake was busy preparing to research modern German culture.
“I want to learn how they live,” she said.
Both said they were unfazed by Stansbery’s departure.
“I think it’s been fun helping our new teacher and the other students as we start the school year,” Totman said. “It’s been a fun first week.”
— To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com