News Item

Montessori Summit at Lander University Reaches Capacity

September 11, 2015

State Superintendent of Education and Lander University graduate Molly Spearman opens the Summit on Montessori Education in SC Public Schools

Lander University continued to flex its muscle as a leader in education this week as over a hundred Montessori teaching experts from throughout the Southeast took part in the Summit on Montessori Education in South Carolina Public Schools. The highly successful event came on the heels of Lander being named by U.S. News & World Report as the #4 public regional college in the South in its 2016 “Best Colleges” guide.

“I’m so proud of my alma mater,” said State Superintendent of Education and Lander University graduate Molly Spearman in opening the summit. “As educators, our job is to find out what our students are passionate about, and then establish the conditions for them to be successful. The Montessori approach serves as the passage for students to be the citizens and leaders that we need them to be, and I’m so proud of Lander for taking the lead on this method.”

Sponsored by Lander’s Montessori and Teacher Education programs, the summit was held in the Josephine B. Abney Cultural Center Auditorium. The summit was recorded by Lander’s campus radio station, XLR, and will be broadcast by SCETV Radio’s “Speaking of Schools” program.

Developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori, Montessori education is centered upon the individuality of the child, and is an alternative to a curriculum driven by testing. In Montessori, much respect is given for a child’s natural psychological, physical and social development.

Attendees for the summit ranged from teachers well-versed in the Montessori approach to parents who wanted to learn more about it.

Drs. Keith Whitescarver and Jacqueline Cossentino of the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector, provided attendees with a brief history of Montessori education and its steady growth in popularity. “Today, Montessori is offered in 22,000 schools on six continents, and here in the U.S., there are more than 5,000 Montessori programs,” said Whitescarver.

Cossentino stressed the importance of the human psyche in discussing Montessori’s emphasis on individuality. “We humans are unusual in that it takes us a long time to mature. In fact, we are not fully mature mentally until the age of 24. Everyone who has studied psychology agrees with this. In the traditional approach to education, everything is back-engineered from a successful college graduate and then placed upon a child in elementary school. And what may work for a middle school student will not necessarily work for a 3-year-old child.”

Following the formal presentations, attendees took part in breakout sessions to discuss topics including:  

• Serving 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds in full-day Montessori programs

• Multi-aged grouping: Maintaining fidelity to the Montessori model

• Montessori programs for adolescent students

• Montessori in charter schools

• Fundamentals of establishing a Montessori program

Facilitators for the breakout sessions included:

  • LaDene Conroy; Montessori Coordinator for the Charleston County School District
  • Candi Wilson; Montessori Coordinator for Richland County School District One
  • Jody Swanigan; Principal, East Cooper Montessori Charter School
  • Dr. Nathalie Hunt; Director of Coastal Montessori Charter School
  • Lillian Atkins; Principal, Lexington Four Early Childhood Center
  • Tara Dean; Assistant Superintendent, Laurens 55 School District
  • Dr. Ginny Riga; Former Coordinator of Montessori at the SC Dept. of Education


One summit attendee from Louisiana remarked, “Ordinarily, you’d have to go to several national conferences to learn this much about Montessori from such qualified leaders, and Lander did a wonderful job in getting them together in one place.”