What is the difference between “Montessori” and any other school? This is a question Paula Sikora, director of Sikora Montessori receives on a daily basis. Sikora explains, “I want to ensure that our community still has this alternative choice in early education.” … So what exactly is this alternative choice?
Montessori is a multifaceted method of educating individuals. It focuses on mixing age groups to enhance peer learning, independence in choosing your own work throughout the day, and developing cognitive skills through hands-on experience.
Sikora started her career in 1999 at Mount de Chantal. She first earned Montessori credentials for ages 2-6, and subsequently furthered that education with a specialization in Montessori Math in 2006 at Xavier University. After teaching at Mount de Chantal for 8 years, the school unfortunately shut down and along with it, so did the Montessori program. But in the midst of this loss, Sikora was faced with the fact that although the school as a whole would be no longer, there was still a substantial demand for the Montessori branch of the institution.
In light of the hearty base of families that wanted to continue their children’s Montessori education, Sikora found herself opening her own Montessori school and continuing the program she was running at Mount de Chantal entirely on her own. In this endeavor, she relied on the pillars of education she established in the Montessori program at The Mount: varied ages in each classroom, fostering independence in her students at an early age, and reminding them that they are part of something bigger.
If you walk into a classroom at Sikora Montessori, you may not notice it right away, but every item is placed thoughtfully on specific shelves, each piece of work flowing methodically across the room from left to right. Nothing in this environment is arbitrary—there is a reason and care behind the way each room is composed.
A typical student’s day at Sikora Montessori will include everything from yoga, to French lessons, to something referred to as Practical Life. The Practical Life aspect of Montessori education is integral to children ages 2-6, as they are building the internal blocks that will compose the person they grow into as adults. Practical Life consists of just that, skills that one uses on a day to day basis throughout their life. This includes skills like pouring, stirring, scooping—minute tasks that when taken all together, fine-tune a child’s motor skills. Maria Montessori, the founder of this method, stated with regard to her concentration on practical life skills, “Our task is to show how the action is done and at the same time destroy the possibility of imitation,” encouraging that each child personalize their relationship to an activity, while still carrying out the task effectively.
This nexus of learning styles, where structure meets fluidity, is unique to Montessori. It is intended to teach individuals control over their own bodies, so that they can enter into a lesson with a clear and concentrated mind, while at the same time retaining a level of independence to encourage thoughtful action. A child is not told what to do, they are taught how to do something and given the liberty to practice those skills with others in the environment.
Sikora aims to carry on a tradition of quality education that she was a part of at Mount de Chantal through a new generation of children. Standing alone as the only Montessori center in Wheeling, she provides an alternative choice to the traditional education experience offered throughout the rest of the city.