Lander University's Montessori program will take a huge step forward in its development thanks to a $750,000 appropriation from the South Carolina General Assembly. Barbara Ervin, director of the Virginia Self Center for Montessori Education, said the allocation will enable Lander to create a free-standing Montessori center that will enhance the program's profile and reputation.
Adam Taylor, Lander's vice president for Governmental Affairs, said the appropriation will underwrite the cost of acquiring or building a facility that will help the university improve early childhood education in the state.
Ervin said, "The new center will allow Lander to be more aggressive in recruiting Montessori teacher candidates nationally and internationally. Having a center that can serve local children will help us provide a site for our adult students to complete the practicum, or supervised teaching phase of the program, particularly international students." She added that there is a shortage of Montessori teachers nationwide as the program continues to grow in popularity with parents.
There are 23 school districts in South Carolina that offer Montessori classes. Included in that number is Laurens District 55, which is the largest public school Montessori program in the state, with classes in all its elementary schools and two middle schools. In Greenwood District 50, Mathews Elementary School has two preschool and three elementary level classes.
Teacher candidates come to Lander's program in one of two ways, Ervin said. "Lander works with school districts in the state that have identified licensed teachers in their districts who would be good candidates to become Montessori teachers. Other candidates, who are looking for a career change, apply to Lander's program on their own."
There are currently 21 teachers in the practicum phase of Lander's program, working in 17 separate schools in South Carolina and Charlotte, N.C.
Lander is the only university in the state and one of the few public educational institutions in the country with a Montessori certification program. It offers an undergraduate degree in early childhood education with a Montessori emphasis and a master's in Montessori education. Lander's program is affiliated with the American Montessori Society, the largest Montessori membership organization in the world, and it is accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE).
Lander introduced its Montessori program in 1998 with a grant from the Self Family Foundation, and Ervin joined the faculty as director three years later. In 2006, the program was named to honor Virginia Self who, along with the foundation, is credited with promoting Montessori education at Lander and elsewhere in South Carolina.
Ervin, who came to Lander with 20 years experience as a Montessori teacher, has traveled the world as a volunteer with MACTE, serving on teams that evaluate schools that have applied for accreditation.