Fun and Learning Join Hands at Children’s Montessori

Students at Children’s Montessori Pre-school find out about outer space and robots by using classroom materials to learn through play. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
A young student takes her turn being the doctor while teacher Shelli Petty plays the patient. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
Los Alamos Daily Post

Now in its 19th year, Children’s Montessori Pre-school offers a morning preschool class 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., with extended child care offered 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and children may attend the school three, four or five days per week.

The school also offers themed summer camps, such as art camp or science camp during school breaks. The school has been at its current location at 1060 Nugget St, just off Canyon Road in Los Alamos for seven years. The facility is rented from Los Alamos Public Schools.

New at the school is the Mom’s Day Out Club. Parents may drop their children off for as many mornings as they wish during the month. Children will attend the normal preschool day with the other students and have the option to stay for the afternoon as well.

The program is flexible and the staff will work with parents to meet the needs of each family.

The school was founded by Shelli Petty. Petty’s daughter Melanie Romero joined the teaching staff in 2001. The two are certified Montessori teachers and embrace the philosophy and methods developed by Maria Montessori of educating through the senses and play and focus on the individual child, who is encouraged to learn at his or her own pace.

“We follow each child,” Romero said. “If a child is interested in cars, we might use that to teach language skills or math. Kids learn at different paces and we assess each child every day.”

“We call our program ‘Progressive Montessori’ because we’ve taken the ideas and brought them into the 21st Century,” Romero said. “We try to expose the kids to as many learning experiences as possible. Life skills and social skills, especially getting along with others, are important components of the curriculum. We’re big on manners and treating each other with kindness.”

The day includes group lessons, but most of the teachers’ time is spent working with children individually. Although the students often work independently and have a great deal of freedom in choosing their work, the day is quite structured in terms of its schedule.

“This gives the children a sense of security,” Romero said.  

The curriculum is designed to teach self-discipline and increase the attention span of the students as well as imparting skills and information, Romero said. The school offers fun activities such as holiday parties, a mother’s tea and a science fair where students can show off their school projects to their parents.

It’s not just about fun and games, however. Students also learn the academic skills they’ll need in kindergarten and are well prepared when they make the transition. Last year, 11 of the 12 kids transitioned to kindergarten were reading at the first grade level, Romero said.

Students of different ages are in one pre-school class. “Younger kids get a lot of benefit from watching the older kids,” Romero said. 

According to Romero, one interesting thing about teaching pre-school in Los Alamos is that many children do not speak English when they arrive at the school. Classes have contained speakers of five different languages at the same time, she said. Romero is currently becoming ESL certified to help address this challenge.

Petty and Romero encourage parents to arrange a visit for themselves and their child before enrolling to see the program in action.

“We want the children and the parents to be comfortable with the school,” Romero said.

To learn more about Children’s Montessori, visit the school online at Call 661-4018 for more information.

Music is part of the fun of Circle Time at Children’s Montessori. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/

Teacher Melanie Romero works with a student on a lesson about dinasaurs. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/


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