AUSTIN, Texas — Not every student learns or develops at the same rate -- especially at a young age.
The Austin Independent School District understands that. In fact, Winn Elementary School has the first Montessori program in the district. It is a new approach to teaching that's working quite well there.
Kids have a lot of questions. But in this classroom, they've got a lot of answers, too. These young minds are part of a Montessori program at Winn Elementary School, a public school in northeast Austin.
"We are proud to be the first Montessori here in AISD," said Ana Yansi Blessum, principal at Winn Elementary.
Montessori programs are different from traditional classrooms. They have mixed age groups. Everything is hands-on and every child learns at their own pace.
"The teacher is not standing up in front of the class teaching everybody the same thing, at the same time, in the same way. The teacher teaches lessons in small groups and individually so that everybody is on their own plan," said lead teacher Stephanie Perez.
Perez said her students are free to move around and a classroom goal is to set their students up for independence.
"We have child-sized brooms, child-sized dustpans -- everything is child-sized -- the tables the chairs -- so they can move them themselves," she said.
The children even take charge during lunch.
"They have family-style lunch where they help one another -- the older kids help the younger kids," added Yansi Blessum.
If a school wants Montessori accreditation, having teachers -- both leads and assistants -- who have the proper credentials is critical. That's where Sylvia Martinez comes in. She's one of two Montessori consultants that visits the school weekly.
"I can look at the teacher and see what kind of classroom management skills that she needs help with. I look at the assistant and I look at the children. I can watch the children and I can immediately tell what's working and what needs assistance," added Martinez.
This program is a success. It's clear the students are thriving.
"The younger ones look up to the kindergarteners and they want to do what the older ones are doing and so in that process, you'll always find a child that all of a sudden knows all their letters and this child is 3-and-a-half-years-old," Perez said.
And Winn Elementary couldn't be prouder.
"Even though it's a self-motivated type of environment, we are still making sure that our students have alignment with the state's standard," said Yansi Blessum.
The Montessori program at Winn Elementary is free for students in kindergarten through second grade if you are in the district or an approved transfer. Winn is currently accepting transfers from students who don't live in their school zone. If your little one is in preschool, they have to qualify or you must pay a discounted tuition.
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: