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Gladwyne Montessori celebrates 60 years of Montessori excellence

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Gladwyne Montessori
Gladwyne Montessori Courtesy of Gladwyne Montessori

Sixty years ago, Gladwyne Montessori’s six founders recognized that the curriculum commonly used for early learners nationwide was inadequate. Together these remarkable women — Vivian Piasecki, Nora Leibold, Joan Kirk, Pat Dempsey, Josie Sorlien, Darcey Hall, and Grace Sharples Wheeler — overcame countless challenges and began a tradition of early learning excellence, with teachers cultivating depth of knowledge and the values required for children to grow into actively engaged adults. 

“It wasn’t easy,” Vivian Piasecki later recalled. “Local educators had very different ideas.”

Today, Gladwyne Montessori is steadfast in its commitment to providing children with the best foundation for alifetime of learning.  

Through an authentic delivery of Maria Montessori’s researched-based curriculum, faculty cultivate depth of knowledge and the values required to be actively engaged global citizens.  

“In the Montessori environment, every child can work at their own pace,” said Assistant Head of School Gwen Shangle, an educator of over 30 years. “Our curriculum allows children to move from concrete to abstract activities according to their own interests and needs.” 

“Families choose Gladwyne Montessori knowing that it is the right choice for this formative period. They have confidence in knowing that during this key period of time for brain and child development, their child is learning in a space that encourages them to realize their potential,” said Shangle.

At Gladwyne Montessori, faculty are trained to deliver three years of curriculum in their multi-aged classrooms, providing students ages six weeks to 12 years with the gift of time to absorb and practice new concepts, the ability to push ahead as they achieve mastery, and the opportunity to explore their curiosity without limits. 

The only American Montessori Society accredited school teaching infants through adolescents along Philadelphia’s prestigious Main Line, Gladwyne Montessori’s learning environments are uniquely designed around a child’s perspective, using materials that inspire them to question, collaborate, and succeed. 

Courtesy of Gladwyne Montessori

Alumna Julia Whiteman credits the school for helping her learn how to problem solve, manage time, and think differently. 

“Both of my older children are so different, and yet they each get their own opportunity for self-discovery as part of this school. They have had the space to have their own formative experiences. Each one has gotten what they needed, unique to their personalities and personalized to their needs,” said Whiteman. 

Whiteman was enrolled in Gladwyne in 1991 as a toddler and attended the school until 6th grade. Now, a mother to three, Whiteman is creating the next generation of Gladwyne Montessori students. She also serves as a Co-Chair for the school’s PTA. 

“My experience as a child was unique and I didn’t realize that until much later when I compared my early education with others,” said Whiteman. “I felt like I was a part of something bigger than a grade or just a classroom, but was part of a community that was large and loving.”  

Courtesy of Gladwyne Montessori

An exciting chapter for Gladwyne Montessori

Today, Gladwyne Montessori is poised to realize the full potential of its beautiful, nature-rich, five-acre campus by creating carefully curated new spaces that reflect the Montessori philosophy and optimize child development.

“The school has constantly evolved and advanced throughout the years, but what I think is so special is that it has never lost its core values. It’s a hard balance to strike but it has been done beautifully here,” said Whiteman. 

Courtesy of Gladwyne Montessori

Specifically, the school is:

Adding two acres of outdoor learning spaces, featuring a nature trail, playing field, orchard, greenhouse, and pollinator and permaculture gardens; 

Creating new, dynamic playgrounds and a hardscape play area where children can practice playful and positive unstructured social interactions, while building strength and safely challenging their bodies; 

Establishing a unique thinking and learning corridor and outdoor learning terrace for elementary students; and 

Constructing a 1,600 sq. foot visual and industrial arts center, where old-world trades and handicrafts will live in synergy with modern technology and design.

For more information, visit Gladwyne Montessori.