Surrey Public Montessori Program
The Past to Present
The first group of parents met in April 1980 to establish parental support for an Elementary Montessori Program in the Surrey School district. Coquitlam district had already instituted a primary Montessori classroom in 1979. Following many meetings and a great deal of research concerning teachers, equipment, materials and possible space, in November 1980, the parent group made a presentation to the Surrey School Board. A list was submitted with 73 signatures beneath the statement, “I strongly support the establishment of a second level (elementary) Montessori classroom within School District #36, Surrey.”
The Surrey School Board approval for the first class was given in the spring of 1981. The Surrey Montessori Society was formed in June 1981 to provide support for the elementary program.
The first class opened with 19 children in September. The classroom was located in a portable in the back of Dawn School in White Rock.
The parents realized that the key to a successful and authentic Montessori alternate program would be dependent on the teachers who would be hired for the program. The school Board allowed a great deal of parent input on this matter.
The Society raised funds to pay for scholarships for B.C. certified teachers to receive Montessori elementary training, which was not available in Canada. One teacher received his intermediate Montessori training in Italy, funded by the SMS! (see below)
In September 1983, the Montessori program moved to an old, empty school known as Strawberry Hill Annex at Scott Road and 76th Avenue in the North (it was an annex to the New Strawberry Hill School located just up the road). Gloria Ayolfson was the head teacher. There were two primary classes with a total of 47 children.
The downstairs of the school was renovated in order to provide another classroom. This class, made up of a multi-age grouping, was headed by Stu Gardner who joined the staff after receiving his intermediate Montessori training in Bergamo Italy, funded by SMS. Three classes were made up of 78 children.
The first portable was added at Strawberry Hill, housing another primary grouping adding 20 children to a total of 98 children in four classrooms (one intermediate and three primary). The new primary teacher, Muriel Turnbull, began this year, having attended the University of Washington for Montessori training for one year, paid by SMS.
The second portable was added and Sheri Deri Child joined the staff. Now the total student population was 116 in five rooms (four primary and one intermediate). The "year ones" from the inception of the program were now the "year sixes." Several actually stayed on as "year sevens" in September 1987.
The downstairs class moved to a third portable, finally making room for a library after renovations. 124 children in five classes (four primary and one intermediate - still headed by Stu Gardner). Lorna Mikkelson was appointed as Principal.
A fourth portable was added - 149 students in six classes (five primary and one intermediate).
Numbers dropped to 139 due to the opening of Phoenix Montessori private school. (Four primary and one intermediate).
The program moved to Tynehead School with 160 students with two new primary classes added. Six primary and one intermediate - headed by Ms. Svenson (no Montessori training). A Gala Evening was organized and attended by the Mayor of Surrey. David Kahn, Director of NAMTA, gave a report to the SMS and Surrey School District after observing the program for two days.
Parents met to discuss a South Surrey public program.
Second Intermediate class was added at Tynehead headed by Gloria Eyolfson (formerly primary, additional training paid by T-PAC). This class began as a four/five class. Svenson's class was taken over by Ann Buchanan (formerly of Strawberry Hill) team teaching with Marg McIntyre, Librarian. No new primary class, in fact one less. New admissions absorbed in existing five primary classrooms. Jean Bird was appointed new Principal.
The South Surrey Program started at Dawn Elementary as an annex of Tynehead School. Sheri Deri Child was the teacher for the one primary class.
A third intermediate class was added, headed by Cynthia Stiebel (no Montessori training). Again, this class began as a 4/5 class. Housed in first portable. Five primary classes. South Surrey program was opened at Dawn School as an annex of Tynehead. One primary class was headed by Sheri Deri. Jean Bird was Principal of both schools.
Fourth intermediate was added, as a 4/5 split, headed by Peggy Chapman (formerly primary, additional training funded by TPAC). New primary teacher Julia Felman took over the position vacated by Chapman. This class was housed in second and, according to the school district, the last portable on site. Odetta Neitz joined staff to replace Mrs. Stiebel (on maternity leave). The senior class was an unconventional 1/2/3 split headed by Sheri Deri Child trained by T-PAC funds.
Consolidation. Four intermediate and five primary were all operating at close to capacity. No new classes were added. New Principal, Ms. Kerri Wallin. Mrs. Ann Bucanan returned on a part-time bases to teach Odetta Neitz' class.
South Surrey program moved to Sunnyside Elementary in a dual track setting. The principal was now one of the whole school, Ms. Grehte Nickel. A third primary class (1/2 split) was added, directed by Marian Mahony. The intermediate class was still an unconventional 3/4/5 split.
Tynhead was operating at capacity in the primary divisions and close to capacity in the four intermediates. 200+ students in 9 classes. Waiting list was down to 15. They were all offered spaces at Sunnyside. Gloria Eyolfson left the program as did Rondalynee Fitz. Ms. Mahony (training upgraded by TPAC donation fund) and Mrs. Buchanan took over the two intermediate classes.
South Surrey program at Sunnyside grew to three true primary and one true intermediate class with 78 students.
The Surrey Public Montessori program had grown to over 400 students in two schools. There were over 1300 students in public Elementary programs in the lower mainland. Surrey was the largest enrolment of the districts.
There were over 10 Montessori pre-schools in Surrey.
Elgin Park Senior Secondary introduced a Montessori/Fine Arts based program to over 50 grade 8 and 9 students in White Rock.
For the first time, Montessori credit courses were offered at UBC.
The SMS and many parents were active: fundraising, researching, contacting other Montessori Societies, providing parent education sessions, making materials for the teachers and promoting Montessori education in Surrey.
2002 - 2020 - Update in progress!
The future of Montessori in Surrey depends on parents like you . . .