Learning lasting lessons

Grosse Pointe Academy directress discovered the advantages of Montessori years ago with her own children’s early education. Now she looks forward to a new feature of GPA’s Early School Montessori starting in January.

In January, The Grosse Pointe Academy, home to Michigan’s longest continuous-running Montessori program, is launching a two-day program that will introduce 2-1/2 to 3 year olds to a Montessori education. Academy directress Kathleen Hallas is looking forward to it.

It’s widely accepted that good preschool education is critically important in the development and preparation of children for academic and social success later in life. In the first few years after birth, a child’s brain develop rapidly and those changes usually are permanent. And children who have the benefit of Montessori very early consistently show better academic performance and social understanding when compared with students without a Montessori head start.

That’s according to a recent longitudinal study of Montessori education outcomes, which was published last year. The study, “Montessori Preschool Elevates and Equalizes Child Outcomes: A Longitudinal Study,” authored by Angeline S. Lillard, Megan J. Heise, Eve M. Richey, Xin Tong, Alyssa Hart and Paige M. Bray, and published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that well-implemented Montessori education could be a powerful way to help the youngest of children achieve their full academic potential later in life.

Hallas has been teaching on the Academy campus for nearly four years.

A Grosse Pointe Academy Montessori directress, who discovered for herself the benefits of Montessori years ago when her own children were in a Montessori-directed preschool program in the Detroit area, also is an avowed advocate of the program conceived by Italian educator Dr. Maria Montessori at the turn of the 20th century.

“I became interested in Montessori after enrolling my own two children in a Montessori preschool in Roseville, Mich.” said Kathleen Hallas, who’s been on the GPA campus for nearly four years. “I was a homemaker at the time and a retired hairdresser, and I became more open-minded toward a teaching career as my interests in Montessori grew. Since I asked so many questions back then I was invited to take a position as an assistant at my children’s school. Three years later I became certified and the rest is history!”

Cindy Mayilukila, another Montessori directress at GPA who’s been on staff since 2013, says Hallas truly is a dedicated teacher.

“She is kind, caring and always ready to help anyone here on campus, anytime she can and with anything, including classroom projects, organization, curriculum and more. She’s also very thoughtful toward others as she sometimes surprises staff and students with delicious homemade treats.”

Now well into the current school year at the Academy, Hallas is eagerly anticipating the latest change in the school’s Montessori program — one that has been designed to help introduce the innovative method of teaching to even more parents and their young children.

New Montessori component

In January, The Grosse Pointe Academy, home to Michigan’s longest continuous-running Montessori program, is launching a two-day program that will introduce 2-1/2 to 3 year olds to a Montessori education. The small class, which will be led by one of the school’s current Montessori directresses, will provide an introduction to Montessori principles and to the school itself.

The new program will meet on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (8:25 – 11:10) from January through May and students enrolled in the program can also benefit from priority enrollment at GPA for the fall 2019 term. Currently, GPA offers the Early School Montessori in a variety of three-day and five-day schedules for children aged 2-1/2 to five.

For Hallas, a native Californian who’s been living in Michigan since she was two years old, it’s just one more reason to be happy about working at GPA.

“I actually applied at GPA many years ago, but a position was not available,” she said. “After beginning my career on the east side and then working in several schools farther outside the tri-county area, I still yearned to be back near my original neighborhood in Michigan. So I applied one more time to the Academy and I am now celebrating my fourth year here.”

Hallas also noted that after only a few short weeks at the Academy, which operates Michigan’s longest continuously operating Montessori program, there was an unmistakeable difference from her previous schools.

“I was very pleasantly overwhelmed with all the help I received as I came on board and was learning how to navigate all that is GPA,” she said. “I came to know that the entire faculty and staff has each other’s backs.”

Facility upgrades

She’s also happy about some of the more recent changes to the school’s buildings and grounds, especially those in the Early School.

“The physical updates, such as carpet, flooring and sink fixtures, have brought a breath of fresh air to our classroom environments,” said Hallas, who has two grown children and five grandsons and lives in Clinton Township with her retired husband. But she doesn’t lose sight of what’s really important about what she does when she’s on the school’s campus in Grosse Pointe Farms.

Hallas says one of the strongest advantages of learning in a Montessori environment is that the children are learning lasting lessons at such an early age.

“Understanding what I see in children as I guide them, helping them to communicate and assert their own individuality, is paramount for my work here,” she said. “A strong partnership where mutual support and communication is fostered is also of utmost importance. It’s also fortunate that the Montessori philosophy of helping each child reach their full potential socially, emotionally and academically lines up nicely with our school’s overall mission.”

She also says one of the strongest advantages of learning in a Montessori environment is that the children are learning lasting lessons at such an early age.

“Those include grace and courtesy, a profound understanding of the world and its citizens, and the academic tools that equip children with the ability to embrace life and its challenges,” she said.