Veteran teacher takes reins at Agape Montessori school

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 5, 2009

From staff reports

A 12-year-old student may have saved Vicksburg’s Agape Montessori Christian School from closing.

Mary Lou Christian, the daughter of newly appointed school administrator Lois Christian, would have had to enroll elsewhere if Agape Montessori had closed when Lynn Smith, former head of the school, retired at the end of the last school year.

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Agape Montessori Christian School will host an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday for enrolled and prospective students and parents. The school is located at 6889 Paxton Road. For more information, call Lois Christian at 601-634-0092.

Christian, a teacher there since 2008, didn’t want that to happen. She took over the reins of the 10-year-old school June 1.

In addition to being committed to the school’s philosophy of Christian education, “I really wasn’t looking forward to finding somewhere else for her (Mary Lou) to attend,” Christian said.

Agape Montessori is currently accepting students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.

Christian is a retired public school teacher with 32 years of experience. The transition into her new position has been fairly smooth, she said.

In addition to staffing and readying curriculum, Christian has overseen some upgrades to the Paxton Road school facilities and is working on getting the its preschool program certified by the Mississippi Board of Health.

The state preschool certification will enhance what the school already offers and allow it to accept voucher students, office manager Amy Myers said.

Final paperwork for the licensing for the preschool program was being completed as building preparations for the upcoming year were concluding.

“We just had to fix the roof,” Christian said. “You know it’s flat up there, and water collected (and) leaked into some of the rooms. So now we’re working on having a pitched roof.” Other minor housekeeping issues have also been completed for the new school year.

Montessori schools are known for small class sizes and low student-teacher ratios, a plus for Christian. “I like the idea of a small classroom, a class where the teacher has the opportunity to chat with each child,” she said.

In the past, Agape Montessori has had an enrollment of about 30 students, a level Christian hopes to increase with the advantages offered by the Montessori method. “This year, I would like to try to shoot for 40 or 45 (students),” Christian said. The facility can accommodate 50.

“Even after (other schools) have started, we’ll just take them as they come,” she added.

“We plan to have an open house Aug. 9, and then the students will return on the 11th,” Christian said.

The Montessori teaching philosophy was developed by Italian educator Maria Montessori in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Though the name is not copyrighted and schools are not required to follow prescribed curriculum or methods, most Montessori schools emphasize self-directed study and inquiry by students.

Agape Montessori teaches students in an environment that stresses Christian education as well as intellectual stimulation and active learning, especially in five core areas — practical living, math, language, culture and sensory development, Myers said.

Prospective parents and students are encouraged to tour Agape Montessori, located at 6889 Paxton Road, and meet the teachers and staff. Registration forms are available in the school office, along with additional information.