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History

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 Class.

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 Junior II).

 

Traditions

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.

Accreditation

 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 instruction. 

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.

Dedicated Staff

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 school.  


Pioneer Valley Montessori School, 1524 Parker Street, Springfield, MA 01129 • 413-782-3108

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