Local School Board Member Builds Her Own Bilingual Montessori School

Monday, June 3, 2019 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews

Featured image: Claudia Medina sits on a swing in her backyard. Behind her is the 900-square-foot Montessori classroom she and her husband built. She’s now accepting enrollment. | Shanel Romain

On a warm afternoon last month, Claudia Medina sat on the hardwood floor of an airy, sunbathed room that she and her husband built in the back of their Forest Park home. She was laying out cursive letters made from wood onto a rectangular cloth in order to demonstrate the wonders of Montessori education.

“Everything is very tactile, because we know the hands are the eyes of the brain for young minds,” she said.

Medina, a member of the Proviso Township High Schools District 209 Board of Education, has been a Montessori educator for three decades. She’s taught, created curriculum and consulted all over the world — from Colombia to Prague.

In 2012, she conceived the idea to build a school of her own. She looked to open in a Forest Park church and even in an old firehouse in nearby Maywood. When those plans fell through, however, she looked in her own backyard.

Last year, Medina broke ground on a 900-square-foot addition in back of her family’s home. A series of headaches later, Medina’s Bilingual Montessori Lab Academy is now accepting its first class of young minds. She said that she wants to take children from all over Proviso Township, including Bellwood, Maywood and Melrose Park, but she’ll enroll no more than 20 students at a time — at least in the beginning.

Claudia Medina said that Montessori emphasizes hands-on education and learning by experience. | Shanel Romain

Although Medina declined to disclose her prices, she said that she’ll be working with Illinois Action for Children, an organization that collaborates with the state’s Child Care Assistance Program to help low-income working families pay for childcare services. Medina said that she’ll start by accepting 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds.

“Montessori is all about hands-on learning and that small detail leads to fine coordination skills at a very young age,” she said, adding that students in Montessori also become bilingual and learn subjects like geography, reading, writing and math much earlier than usual.

“Language and learning is not categorized when children are at the ages of 3 to 6,” Medina said. “We categorize language once we’re adults, but the children don’t. This is when they’re in a phase called the absorbent mind. Everything is natural to them and wide open, so pronunciation of different languages becomes very simple.”

The Montessori classroom is an extension of the world, Medina said. | Shanel Romain

Medina’s Montessori classroom is an extension of that educational philosophy. There’s a turtle near the window, soaking up the daylight. Rolled-up maps of the continents sit in wooden placeholders until they’re ready to be unfurled.

The room has a tranquil ambience. The calm is deliberate, Medina said.

“When you feel peaceful like this, you learn so much better,” she said. “You almost feel as if you’re out in nature.”

Medina said that she hopes that the school can become a training ground for other Montessori educators in best practices. And, who knows, perhaps one of many more to come.

“I’m hoping that this is just the first of the Bilingual Montessori Lab Academies,” she said.

For more info on the school, visit: https://www.bimontlab.com/.

Contact: thevillagefreepress@gmail.com | Facebook: @maywoodnews

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