Inception and Location
The idea for Pioneer Valley
Montessori School was first conceived in 1963 by a group of Springfield area
parents interested in Montessori education for their children, particularly Dr.
Angelica, for whom the first classroom building was dedicated, and his wife, Rosetta, who joins us for the 50th
Anniversary. She will be with her
children and grandchildren, many of whom attended PVMS.
The Pioneer Valley Montessori
Society was incorporated in June of 1964. The land for the school was donated
to the society by Richard and Emma Anderson, owners of the land around the
school that also included Camp Wilder, which was adjacent to the school
facility. The first classes, with
thirty-seven students, were held in Greene Hall at American International
College in Springfield, and then at Christ Presbyterian Church, until a
one-classroom building was constructed in 1965. On November 23, 1965, the
school began holding classes at the current Parker Street site. In 1971, an
additional classroom and office were added to the original building, and two
more preschool and kindergarten classes began.
At that time there were separate morning classes and afternoon classes.
In response to requests from
parents, a Montessori elementary program was started in 1979 with ten first
graders, and in 1981 the school undertook another building addition, adding
three classrooms, the multi-purpose room and the kitchen. Starting in 1979, an additional grade was
added each year for the next five years until in 1985 that group of first
graders graduated 6th grade.
In 1999, The school built a third
preschool classroom onto the existing building, in response to our expanding
children’s house program. At the
ground-breaking for that addition, Emma Wilder Anderson, original donor of the
land and then in her 90’s, dug the first shovel of dirt!
The 2007-2008 school year saw a
reconfiguration of the former library space into a second Lower Elementary
classroom and an office space. Soon
afterward the Toddler Program claimed the newest Children’s House classroom,
and later the second Lower Elementary was converted to a Children’s House
On June 1, 2011 Pioneer Valley
Montessori School was directly hit by an EF3 Tornado that swept through Springfield
and surrounding towns. Responsible
staff kept everyone at the school safe, and although PVMS was luckier than many
other places, the tornado was a shock for our families and staff. The tornado permanently changed the visual
impression of the school as one in a wooded area. In true PVMS spirit our community came together
with the leadership of Head of School Molly Reynolds, and Board President Luke
Pelletier, and helped us dig out and clean up.
We now have a beautiful, if drastically different, playground, and an
updated facility. Our neighbor, Camp
Wilder suffered greatly, and in 2013 the city received a grant that enabled
them to transform the grounds into a beautiful Park.
The school is now comprised of a
Toddler Class, 2 Children’s House Classes, a Lower Elementary Class, grades 1-3
(formerly called Junior I) and an Upper Elementary Class, grades 4-6 (formerly
During the beginning years of the
School PVMS started some of its most cherished traditions, and began developing
its personality as a family.
Many families remember, and still
talk about, the Carnival, from the mid 70’s to the early 90’s, with the pony! Parents contributed food, brought a
popcorn-maker, organized a cake walk, and fun games.
For many years the Upper
Elementary class cooked a Thanksgiving
feast for the Elementary Students and Staff. This tradition began around 1980, on the
Monday before Thanksgiving, with Gail Supanich cooking the turkeys at home, and
the Elementary students planning food and preparing it- lots of potato mashing!
The next day was Pie Day, and all of the Children’s House classes baked pies. The Elementary students invited the
Children’s House students to join them as “pie partners” and the entire school
came together to enjoy the treat. Pie
Day is still a favorite PVMS tradition.
Some of our photos remind us of the School Spirit Days each month that
included Slipper Day, Hat Day, Twin day, Pajama day, and a favorite with the
Elementary classes: Summer in January, or Beach
Day, when the children would wear their bathing suits and spread their work
out on a beach towel!
PVMS has had a long tradition of giving, including collecting money for many
natural-disaster relief programs, our HUGS collection (Hats,Underwear,Gloves
and Socks) for a local shelter, and the Brightside Wishlist. The Entire school has been providing a meal
to the Loaves and Fishes Program for 25 years, with the Upper Elementary Class
going to the program to serve the meal.
At Friday Morning Meeting we have been collecting food for a local food
pantry for the past few years.
Between 1980 and 2010 The Elementary Mystery Trip included whale
watching, the Mystic Aquarium and Mystic
Seaport, Bronx zoo, NYC, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, The Statue of Liberty,
Gillette Castle, Plimouth plantation, Howe Caverns, Sturbridge Village, Northfield Fish hatchery
and Roger Williams Zoo.
The Upper Elementary have taken trips
to Boston, New York City and Washington DC.
The Spring Production has had many iterations, beginning as a play, and
changing in later years to an all-music program. A highlight of the evening is the slide show,
with a picture of each child in the school projected onto a screen above the
stage. The children collectively call
out the name of each child that appears on the screen!
Earth Day is celebrated at PVMS, not necessarily on the actual day,
but with the same spirit. The children
do planting, clean up the garden beds, go on a scavenger hunt and we welcome
some introduction to wildlife, such as a visit from a Birds of Prey program, or
a Wolf program!
The International Day of Peace on September 21 is
celebrated at PVMS in different ways, but always includes the Peace Pole that
was erected on the playground and was donated by a school family.
PVMS has always had a connection
with our neighbor, Camp Wilder – The
Camp area has long been a great resource for nature walks for the
classrooms. Teachers have brought the
students out to do nature studies, identify birds and trees, have a scavenger
hunt or help clean up.
Through the years we have been
fortunate to have a diverse population, which has enabled us to
experience a rich variety of cultures.
We have been fortunate to have parents who have come in to school to
share information about their traditions and foods. First hand information is always an
interesting way to learn.
As soon as the American Montessori Society
began accrediting Montessori schools, Gail Supanich started the process for Pioneer
Valley Montessori School. PVMS was
actually one of the first five Schools
in the United States to be Accredited by AMS and still remains one of only
two to receive this honor in western
Massachusetts, and the only in Hampden County.
The American Montessori Society Accreditation involves a rigorous 8
point inspection of all areas of the school materials, curriculum and teacher
qualifications, and especially the adherence to the tenets of Montessori
In 2002 when Zanetti School
became the first public Montessori school in Springfield, PVMS welcomed the
teacher trainees for observations in our classrooms. Along with Zanetti Montessori, and other
Montessori schools in the area, PVMS participated in the National Celebration
of the first 100 years of Montessori in the United States in 2007.
Over the years PVMS has enjoyed
having the children of former students attend school here, and many of our
students come back to visit, often surprised to find their favorite teachers
still here. We have had a rich history
of dedicated staff, and take special note of Susan Hershey, in her 43rd,
and last, year at PVMS as a teacher. We
know that she will be an ongoing resource to PVMS. Sue Foerster is in her 33rd year
at PVMS as the Lower Elementary teacher, and often has past students come to
visit her. Lucy Maleshefski has been
here slightly longer than Sue, but the two have had a wonderful working
relationship for many years. Cathy Nortz
has worked in the office since 1986, and has been the unofficial historian of
the school. Paula Wicks, Rosemary
Gossman and Mary Ann Ross have also been familiar faces for many years. Gail Supanich, who taught and was Head of
School for many years, died in 2011, leaving a legacy of devotion to the