Westminster College has introduced the only degree program in Utah for educators who wish to use the Montessori learning approach in their classrooms. The Institute for Montessori Innovation opened its doors last month.
This Montessori Method stresses small group instruction and allows children to choose their own learning activities at their own pace, without the use of grades or tests. Michael Dorer is Program Director of the new Montessori program at Westminster. He says there are about 40 Montessori schools in Utah, but no Montessori teacher training programs in the state that are associated with a college or university- until now.
“In more ways than one it’s pioneering and creating some whole new territory out here and that’s exciting thing to be on the ground for,” Dorer says.
In this classroom, prospective teachers are scattered on the floor working with shapes and figures. Leah Morisi is training to work with preschool-age children. She explains part of the Montessori theory using marked blocks that represent the number 5,632.
“They’re actually holding 5 thousands, 6 hundreds, 3 tens and two ones," Morisi says. "So it helps to bridge the abstract concept to the concrete concept so they can fully understand it.”
Currently there are 33 students enrolled in the eight-week course, which will be followed by a year of student teaching. Students can earn a Montessori credential through Westminster as well as a Montessori Master of Education.