Our History

WPMS 40th Anniversary QuiltThe first meeting of the Pittsburgh Montessori Society was held on April 28, 1963.  The purpose of the Society was to establish a study group to look into the possibility of starting a Montessori school in the Pittsburgh area.  The group, led by Laura Hertig, was interested in knowing more about Maria Montessori’s method. At that first meeting they agreed to raise the membership dues from $1.00 to $10.00 in order to purchase literature explaining Maria Montessori’s method.

By October of that same year, the group had progressed in their understanding to the point that Tom Egan, a member of the Society, agreed to travel to Chicago in order to visit the Alquin School which used the Montessori method.  The members wanted a better understanding of the procedure they needed to follow in order to open a school of their own.  At that time there were approximately one hundred Montessori schools in the United States.

In the fall of 1963, the Society also became established as an official study group of the American Montessori Society.  Over the course of the next several months (October 1963-September 1964), the Pittsburgh Montessori Society recruited their first Montessori trained teacher, increased their membership base and learned more about the Montessori method.  On April 2, 1964, the Society received notice of its non-profit status from the IRS.   By August 25 of that same year, the school was registered in Harrisburg as a non-profit corporation.  Although the school did not open until the first part of 1965, the minutes from their meetings list September 15, 1964 as the day the school was founded.

The first official meeting of the Western Pennsylvania Montessori School, Inc. (WPMS), was held onWPMS-Red-Door November 8, 1964.  The first fifteen Corporation members were elected.  The school’s assets at the time were $429.00.  The board agreed to charge $400 a year in tuition, to be paid on a monthly basis.  The school opened in the basement of the Bellwood Church in January of 1965.  Jean Keegan and Bianci Nardi were the two teachers.  Twenty-five children enrolled that first year and classes lasted two and half hours.  The school moved to Poff School from 1966 to 1968 and then to the Wildwood Road House from 1968 to 1970. In 1970, the school rented the Wyland School building for two years.  It was later purchased from the local school district in August of 1972.

In 1989, the Board of Directors conducted a feasibility study and found the need for an all day Montessori program due to changes in family child care needs.  A capital campaign was launched for the first time in the 25 years history of the school in order to finance the $150,000 addition.  In September of 1991, the all day classroom for three to six year olds opened in the upper room.  The addition also housed an all purpose room, furnace room and two bathrooms.  The addition was dedicated in the fall of 1992.

WPMS has grown and changed from its beginnings in 1965, but it still remains true to the philosophy and beliefs established by the parent Corporation.  Parent interest, involvement and support have always been crucial to the progress and success of the school.  At the heart of a Montessori educational experience is the belief that learning comes from within the child, from the child’s own natural curiosity and desire to learn.

Today, as in the past, we see a Montessori classroom that has much more than desks and chairs.  It is a fertile place rich with a variety of learning tools – things to touch, see, manipulate and enjoy.  It remains a place where teachers guide, listen, encourage and promote self-discovery.  Children respond through active participation and cooperation.  Learning opportunities are tailored to individual needs and interest.  The Montessori program provides young children with a magnificent, creative introduction to the joys of learning within a framework where intellectual and social discipline go hand in hand.

In 1989 the Board of Directors conducted a feasibility study and found the need for an all day Montessori program due to changes in our family’s need for childcare. A Capital Campaign was launched for the first time in the 25-year history of the school to finance a $150,000.00 addition. In September 1991 the all day classroom for three to six year olds opened in the upper room. The addition also housed an all-purpose room, furnace room and two baths and was dedicated in the fall of 1992.
 
The summer program that makes WPMS a year round facility began in the summer of 1994. Its theme based Montessori program is available for 3-6 year old children from any Montessori school. Due to declining summer enrollments the board of directors voted to discontinue this program from the WPMS schedule in June of 2006. The WPMS summer camp was reinstated for the summer of 2012.
 
In the fall of 1997 the WPMS toddler program began in the all purposeroom three mornings a week for two hours. The 20-month – 3 year olds enjoy learning to share space, to work cooperatively and to separate positively. 
 
Western PA Montessori School has grown and changed from its beginning in 1965, but it still remains true to the philosophy and beliefs of the corporation. Parent interest, involvement, and support have always been crucial to the progress and success of WPMS. At the heart of a Montessori educational experience is the belief that learning comes from within the child, from the child’s own natural curiosity and desire to learn. 
 
Today, as in the past, we see a Montessori classroom that has much more than desks and chairs. It is a fertile place rich with a variety of learning tools – things to touch, see, manipulate and enjoy. It remains a place where teachers guide, listen, encourage and promote self-discovery. Children respond through active participation and cooperation. Learning opportunities are tailored to individual needs and interest. The Montessori program provides young children with a magnificent, creative introduction to the joys of learning within a framework where intellectual and social
disciplines go hand in hand.

 

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