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About Montessori School
of Tupelo

Montessori School of Tupelo encourages the development of the whole child's personally and academic growth by fostering independence, confidence, responsibility and joyful life long learning.


Since 2002, Montessori School of Tupelo has sought out to guide future leaders, nurturers, and motivators. The dandelion flower is a symbol of growth, hope, and development. Starting out as a yellow bud, this flower transforms into a head of seeds that spreads across the land to take root and produce future growth. Whether you are a teacher, parent, friend or family member of the children of Montessori School of Tupelo, you are a part of this growth. Just like the dandelion, you are spreading the learning experience through the example you lead and motivating the next generation ahead.

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Our Board Members

Executive Committee

Misty Coleman, President

Patrick Elkins, Vice President

Laura Kent, Treasurer

Chance Beck, Secretary


Kira Bailey, MST Founder

Bronson Tabler, Legal Chair

Luke Burke, Medical Chair

Christy Garrison, Fundraising Chair

Amanda Patton

Rob Chesnut

Jenna Trautman

Leila Keel

Not Pictured: Shelby Gann


"(The child) is a traveler through life... We are the guides of these travelers just entering the great world of human thought. We should see to it that we are intelligent and cultured guides, not losing ourselves in vain discourse, but illustrating briefly and concisely the work of art in which the traveler shows himself interested, and we should then respectfully allow him to observe it as long as he wishes to."

- Dr. Maria Montessori, The Montessori Method, p. 237

Meet Our Teachers & Staff

  • Are all Montessori schools alike?
    No, Montessori schools vary widely because the name “Montessori” is in the public domain. This means that anyone wishing to use the name “Montessori” for their school may do so. The best way to insure that a program is faithfully incorporating the Montessori approach as developed by Maria Montessori is to ask if the school or program is affiliated with AMI.
  • Is the Montessori method right for all children?
    The Montessori philosophy has been proven successful for children of all socio-economic backgrounds, and it has met approval in regular classrooms, in gifted programs, and in classrooms designed for students with special needs. The individualized nature of the Montessori classroom ensures that the environment adapts to meet the needs of the student and allows him to work according to his abilities, not those set by a teacher for an entire group of children at one time.
  • What do children do in a Montessori program?
    There are several different, yet integrated, areas of learning in a Montessori classroom: practical life skills, sensorial development, language, mathematics, history, science, and cultural studies such as geography, art, and music. In addition to the available materials in each area, children might also take time out during the day to sing songs, read a story, or enjoy nature. Children have both individual and group lessons in each area. Throughout the day, children are free to work with the activities. Emphasis is placed on helping children choose pursuits that are of interest to them, thus supporting the child’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. At the elementary level for ages 6 to 12, you can also expect to see children working together on projects, since collaboration at this age helps the child to become socially adapted to society and aware of the needs of others. What you won’t see in a genuine Montessori program are systems of rewards and punishments to promote work or control behavior. In a Montessori class, children are engaged, active, and respectful because they are internally motivated, spending their time in an environment that consistently supports development of their will — that is, positive willpower and self-control.
  • Why do Montessori schools ask that children attend five days a week?
    Attending school five days a week gives the young child a concrete sense of ownership and place in the classroom culture. The routine also fosters the child’s sense of order and consistency, which contribute to the positive growth of a Montessori classroom.
  • How do children adjust to more traditional schools after graduation?
    The child-centered Montessori classroom instills independence of thought, love of learning, and self-confidence in the mind of the child. As a child masters a skill, they move on to the next, and thereby challenges themself instead of relying on a teacher to assign more difficult work. The child’s innate self-motivation, as well as the adaptability encouraged by the freedom of the classroom, prepares the child not only for different learning environments but also for the real world. Hundreds of thousands of Montessori children have transitioned and succeeded in more-traditional school settings after Montessori, and have found themselves better prepared to enter college and the workforce.
  • Why is there such a non-competitive atmosphere in Montessori programs when we live in such a competitive world?
    In a Montessori program, children are on their own journey at their own pace toward maturity, acquisition of skills, and incorporation of knowledge. Therefore the emphasis is on assisting and supporting children to develop and learn based on their own interests, desires, and timing. Attention is also paid to promoting collaborative social and educational relationships that enhance learning through shared ideas and insights. Using systems of rewards in the classroom distracts a child’s personal journey by intentionally directing their attention to the progress of other children. Ultimately, many studies have shown that competition inspired through the environment does little to build confidence or strengthen internal motivation and self-direction over the long-term. There certainly are situations where competitive activities can move children to greater efforts and improved skills, but as Maria Montessori stated, “The prize and the punishment are incentives towards unnatural or forced effort, and therefore we certainly cannot speak of the natural development of the child in connection with them.”
  • Do children have difficulty transitioning to a public school after going to a Montessori school?
    Moving from a Montessori school to another school setting is an issue often raised by parents and family members. Happily, the habits and skills a child develops in a Montessori class last a lifetime and stand a child in good stead no matter where they go. Montessori children tend to be adaptable, working well alone or with a group. They have solid decision-making skills, practical problem solving abilities, and generally manage their time well. Since children in a Montessori classroom are also encouraged to share ideas and discuss their work, fitting into new situations is made easier thanks to good communication skills.
  • What will my Montessori child do if there isn’t a higher-level program for them to transition into?
    If your child transitions out of a Montessori environment to another type of program, she is likely to thrive socially and academically. Poised, self-reliant, and used to working harmoniously as part of a classroom community, students who move from Montessori typically adjust quickly to the ways of their new school.
  • Can Montessori accommodate gifted children? What about children with other special learning needs?
    An advantage of the Montessori approach—including multi-age classrooms with students of varying abilities and interests—is that it allows each child to work at his or her own pace. Students whose strengths and interests propel them to higher levels of learning can find intellectual challenge without being separated from their peers. The same is true for students who may need extra guidance and support, including students with special needs such as ADHD, learning differences, and autism spectrum disorders: each can progress through the curriculum at her own comfortable pace, without feeling pressure to “catch up.” From a Montessori perspective, every child is considered gifted, each in his own way. Every child has unique strengths and interests that the Montessori environment nurtures and supports.
  • What ages do Montessori schools serve?
    Currently, most Montessori programs begin at the Early Childhood level (for children ages 2.5 – 6 years). However there are also programs for infants and toddlers (birth – age 3), Elementary-aged children (ages 6 – 12), and Secondary students (ages 12 – 18). Some schools refer to the first part of the Secondary level as Middle School (ages 12 – 15) and the second part as High School (ages 15 – 18). The benefits of Montessori—the emphasis on independent learning, for example, and the warm, supportive community—continue to be important at each stage of development as children grow into lifelong learners and responsible citizens of the world.
  • Is it true that Montessori students are free to do whatever they want, and at their own pace?
    Dr. Maria Montessori observed that children are more motivated to learn when working on something of their own choosing, and at their own unique pace. A Montessori student may choose her focus of learning on any given day, but her decision is limited by the materials and activities—in each area of the curriculum—that her teacher has prepared and presented to her. Beginning at the Elementary level, students typically set learning goals and create personal work plans under their teacher’s guidance.
  • If children work at their own pace, don't they fall behind?
    Although students are free to work at their own pace, they’re not going it alone. The Montessori teacher closely observes each child and provides materials and activities that advance his learning by building on skills and knowledge already gained. This gentle guidance helps each child master the challenge at hand—and protects him from moving on before he’s ready, which is often what causes children to “fall behind.” Each child is challenged appropriately in each area of the curriculum to ensure that skills and competencies are fully developed and that the child is able to pursue his own unique interests.
  • Why are Montessori schools all work and no play?
    This is a common misunderstanding of Montessori education. Dr. Montessori realized that children’s play is their work—their effort to master their own bodies and environment—and out of respect she used the term “work” to describe all their classroom activities. Montessori students work hard, but they don’t experience it as drudgery; rather, it’s an expression of their natural curiosity and desire to learn. They engage in these activities with joy and focus—intent on mastering new skills independently!
  • Do Montessori schools assign homework?
    It is unusual for the youngest students to receive homework. Generally, parents can expect that as students mature through the grade levels they will be given homework. When this happens, students are expected to spend approximately 20 – 40 minutes completing the task on their own. Young children (ages 6 – 8) may be asked to read to their parents, or complete a project that is started at school. As students move through the Montessori program, more responsibility for completing homework is expected.
  • Is there such a thing as public Montessori school?
    There is! More school districts are including Montessori programs as a parent choice. Currently, more than 500 public schools nationwide offer Montessori programs. Public Montessori education is a popular option for preschool through high school students attending all types of publicly funded schools—neighborhood, magnet, and charter. Because they are publicly funded, public Montessori schools are open to all children. They do not generally require incoming students to have prior Montessori experience; however, some restrict the admission of children without Montessori experience to lower Elementary levels only. Students are often admitted to public Montessori programs by lottery because there tend to be more applicants than openings. While public Montessori programs are tuition-free, tuition may be charged for 3- to 4-year-olds in public school pre-kindergarten classes that are not fully covered by state funding. If required, pre-kindergarten tuition is usually paid on a sliding scale, depending upon the family’s eligibility for the National School Lunch Program (free, reduced, or full-pay).
  • Should I keep my child in Montessori as they graduate to higher grade levels?
    The benefits of Montessori—the emphasis on independent learning, for example, and the warm, supportive community—continue to be important at each stage of development as children grow into lifelong learners and responsible citizens of the world. As your child matures in her school activities so will her independence, problem-solving abilities, social maturity, and academic skills. At the higher levels levels, Montessori programs combine rigorous student-centered academic studies with purposeful work—often including out-of-classroom excursions such as service learning, internships, outdoor education, and entrepreneurship designed to cultivate global citizenship and civic responsibility—preparing students to become contributing adults who are self-confident and possess the skills needed to thrive as active citizens in society. To assess what is best for your child’s next stage of development, speak with his teacher to discuss your child’s learning strengths, interests, and areas for development, and your –and the school’s—learning goals for him. Observe the higher-level classroom environments to see, firsthand, what your child will experience as she grows and ask to speak with parents of children in the next level to learn about their experiences.
  • How well do Montessori students do compared to students in non-Montessori schools?
    A growing body of research comparing Montessori students to those in traditional schools suggests that in academic subjects, Montessori students perform as well as or better—academically and socially—than their non-Montessori peers. These benefits grow as children have more experience in a Montessori environment. Most Montessori schools report that their students are typically accepted into the high schools and colleges of their choice. And many successful graduates cite their years at Montessori when reflecting on the important influences in their life.
  • Why do Montessori classrooms combine children into mixed-age groups?
    Montessori School of Tupelo seeks to create an environment appropriate for the child’s different stages of development and to meet his individual needs within each stage. Montessori schools combine ages into approximately three-year ranges (for example, ages 3-6 or 9-12) in a classroom. Therefore, children remain in the same class for three years. They develop strong relationships with their peers and with their teachers (who in turn come to know in depth the needs of each student) and develop a deep sense of community. In turn, the older students develop leadership skills and act as role models for the younger children.
  • In a Montessori classroom, does the child simply do what they want?
    While a Montessori classroom is designed around the child to develop his independence and creativity, it is a carefully prepared environment. The teacher ensures that the materials of the classroom suit the developmental age of the children in it. In other words, the child has the freedom and empowerment to choose from lessons designed around his needs. Furthermore, the teacher serves as a guide to present lessons to the child so that he may understand how to use them properly and take them out at will. The teacher also acts as an observer to guarantee that the materials of the classroom continue to challenge the students in it.
  • How does a Montessori classroom differ from a traditional classroom?
    The familiar form of traditional classrooms developed at the turn of the twentieth century with the advent of mass education, and were set up for the purpose of efficiency–not based on the needs of children. The Montessori classroom is child-centered, while the traditional classroom is teacher-centered. At TMS, students spend their days in rooms filled with materials and furniture that are not only designed to attract and engage them, but are also child-sized. Our teachers sit on the floor with the children or pull up a chair at the table where they are working. The elementary Montessori classroom is similarly organized–you won’t see the teacher sitting at a desk. Teachers move about the classroom as they are needed, while elementary students work individually or in small groups to complete weekly goals. Each week’s set of goals are based on the current needs of the student, and on more general lessons given by the teachers to the class as a whole. Students check in regularly with the teacher to have him/her evaluate their progress and lead them toward the next task. The best way to understand the difference between a traditional and Montessori classroom is to schedule an observation. Whether you are a prospective or a current parent, twenty minutes spent sitting in quiet observation of the active class is priceless. To schedule an observation, please call us at (662) 840-9917 or email us at
  • What is the advantage of having a three-year age span in the classroom?
    Children have a wide range of experiences, skills, abilities, and interests. A three-year age span in the classroom allows children the opportunity to use a wide range of engaging materials that keep them challenged to learn. As the child’s interests change, the range of available materials allows the child to move from one level of complexity to another. Additionally, children have the opportunity to be learners and teachers simultaneously. This allows a child to experience the joy of providing leadership to those who are younger and the satisfaction of receiving useful assistance from those who are older or more skilled. It is a win-win for all the children in a Montessori classroom.
  • How is discipline handled in a Montessori classroom?
    It is the development of self-discipline that is encouraged and valued. By maintaining a carefully prepared, structured environment that encourages exploration, creativity, and choice within clear boundaries, the child learns self-control and problem-solving skills that foster independence and responsibility. In this setting, discipline is viewed as a maturation process that evolves, supported by guidance from the teacher. With gentle, prudent assistance, children eventually become comfortable and equipped to accept the consequences of their own behavior. Skilled AMI-trained teachers use Montessori materials and activities to promote a classroom atmosphere that reinforces personal discipline and harmony by offering each child the opportunity to gain a sense of direction, confidence, cooperation, and self-control.
  • How many students are typically in a Montessori class?
    Unlike some private schools, which strive for very small classes, Montessori values the lessons of community that can happen when the size of the class is somewhat larger. A larger, multi-age class can encourage students to rely on themselves and their peers as resources, rather than going directly to a teacher for support first. Montessori classes at the Early Childhood level and above might include 20 – 30 students whose ages span 3 years. All members of the community benefit from this configuration. Older students are proud to act as role models; younger ones feel supported and gain confidence about the challenges ahead. And all children develop their independence as they problem solve with their peers within their classroom community. Classes for infants and toddlers are smaller, with typically 10 – 15 children. Often the teacher-to-child ratio for this youngest age group is set by state licensing standards.
  • Is it true that Montessori students have the same teacher for all subjects?
    Montessori teachers are educated as “generalists,” qualified to teach all sections of the curriculum. But many schools also choose to employ specialists in certain subjects, such as art, music, foreign language, physical education, and science.
  • What training do teachers undergo?
    Montessori School of Tupelo actively seeks to offer the best possible staff to its students. MST strives to employ Montessori-certified teachers in every classroom but, alas, they are not always available. To that end, we sponsor official training of teachers who have not completed Montessori certification. Every MST classroom has at least one Montessori-certified teacher. Montessori certification requires a four-year college degree, although not necessarily in the education field, and certification training includes extensive work in the areas of child development and educational philosophy. Furthermore, the Department of Human Resources mandates the continuing education of teachers. Teachers undergo a minimum of 12 hours of quality childcare training a year.
  • Why do Montessori teachers encourage my young child to be independent?
    Helping a child develop independence and self-sufficiency is a hallmark of Montessori programs. Children who are independent and make self-directed choices develop self-confidence and experience pride when they accomplish their goals. In the Montessori classroom, young children are supported to become autonomous in caring for their personal needs and in taking care of their classroom environment. Children are given freedom of movement and choice over their activities in the classroom and are encouraged and supported to “do it for themselves.” Montessori students are self-confident learners who believe in their own abilities to accomplish a task. This confidence and self-reliance sets the stage for all future learning.
  • Do Montessori teachers follow a curriculum?
    Montessori schools teach the same basic skills as traditional schools, and offer a rigorous academic program. Most of the subject areas are familiar—such as math, science, history, geography, and language—but they are presented through an integrated approach that weaves separate strands of the curriculum together. While studying a map of Africa, for example, students may explore the art, history, and inventions of several African nations. This may lead them to examine ancient Egypt, including hieroglyphs and their place in the history of writing. And the study of the pyramids is a natural bridge to geometry! This approach to curriculum demonstrates the interrelatedness of all things. It also allows students to become thoroughly immersed in a topic—and to give their curiosity full rein.
  • I’ve heard that Montessori teachers don’t really teach. Is this true? If so, what do they do?
    When you observe a Montessori teacher at work you may be surprised! You will not see her standing in front of the classroom teaching the same lesson to the entire class, because the Montessori curriculum is individualized to the needs, interests, and learning style of each child. Often you will find her on the floor, working with an individual child. With the older children, she may be giving a small group lesson, or demonstrating a lesson or activity that the students will then complete on their own. One of the many roles of the Montessori teacher is to observe each child and the classroom community as a whole and make adaptations to the environment and lesson-planning as needed to support each child’s development. As the Montessori teacher observes, he is determining when and how to introduce a new challenging lesson to a student, and when to review a previous lesson if a skill has not yet been mastered. While a Montessori student may choose her activities on any given day, her decisions are limited by the materials and activities in each area of the curriculum that the teacher has prepared and presented to her. The teacher’s observations inform each child’s personalized learning plan and allow each child to move through the curriculum at an appropriate pace and level of challenge.
  • Why don’t Montessori teachers give grades?
    Montessori students typically do not receive letter or number grades for their work. Grades, like other external rewards, have little lasting effect on a child’s efforts or achievements. The Montessori approach nurtures the motivation that comes from within, kindling the child’s natural desire to learn. A self-motivated learner also learns to be self-sufficient, without needing reinforcement from outside. In the classroom, of course, the teacher is always available to provide students with guidance and support. Although most Montessori teachers don’t assign grades, they closely and continuously observe and assess each student’s progress and readiness to advance to new lessons. Most schools hold family conferences a few times a year so parents may see samples of their child’s work and hear the teacher’s assessment—and perhaps even their child’s self-assessment.
  • How do you evaluate children?
    Montessori schools evaluate children individually, not on a comparative grading system. Parent-teacher conferences, held three times a year, allow parents and teachers to review the child’s work, progress in mastering age-appropriate skills, and social development. At the elementary level, Montessori programs incorporate self-evaluations, which afford students the opportunity to work with teachers to establish their own academic goals and assess their own progress.
  • Does Montessori incorporate homework and tests in its evaluation?
    In a Montessori classroom, learning is hands-on and not based on rote memorization and repetition. Therefore, Montessori School of Tupelo approaches homework as an opportunity. Students are “tested” on the skills they master by presenting lessons to other students, presenting lessons to their teachers for evaluation, and by close observation by their teachers. At the elementary level, homework may consist of a special assignment which creatively connects or expands upon topics being covered in the classroom, not hours of exercises reiterating ideas already covered in the classroom.
  • Are children in a Montessori program prepared to take state required examinations?
    Yes, children in Montessori programs are required to meet state regulations. It is the responsibility of the teacher to insure students are prepared to take tests. Download a recently published study on testing outcomes for Montessori students.
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