CMS: Where Children Learn Naturally

In an era of education dominated by talk of standardized tests and failing schools, it’s refreshing to hear the leaders of Community Montessori School pepper their discussion of teaching with phrases like “the beauty and wonder of children” and “peace is part of our curriculum.”

Those were some of the highlights of a conversation with Ann Evans and Annie Gray, the current and next administrator of CMS, a Montessori school in Lexington since 1970 for children from 18 months through eighth grade.

Preschoolers through third graders attend at the 2.5-acre Crestwood Drive campus; fourth through eighth graders at the 13-acre site on Stone Road, which is home to Montessori Middle School of Kentucky.

Between them, Evans and Gray have more than four decades of experience with Montessori – as parents, teachers and now administrators.

Gray will replace Evans when she retires at the end of this school year.

They share a passion for Montessori – both the program and Maria, the Italian physician and educator who opened her first school in Rome in 1907.

The principles of Montessori are time tested and sublime in their simplicity – children will develop and learn naturally when given a supportive environment and allowed to explore the world at their own pace.

Evans and Gray have witnessed that process unfold countless times – with their own grown children and their students.

“I love this place,” Evans said about CMS. “With Montessori, we’re not trying to find out what a child doesn’t know.

“We look at the wealth of information that a child does know and use that as a guide.”

In fact, teachers at CMS are called guides.

“The environment here provides the scaffolding for children and we don’t want to ruin learning for them by getting in the way,” Gray said.

“It’s still their gem of learning.”

Gray compares a Montessori teacher’s role to casting out seeds to see which ones take root in which children, trusting and having faith that children will naturally want to learn.

Evans compares it to igniting sparks.

“We present the world to them and, whoosh, they take off with it,” she said.

“You don’t have to make children learn. They want to learn. We just remove obstacles and assist them.”

The result? Children emerge with all the skills recommended for the 21st Century.

“Our students are self-directed, creative, know their own learning style, are collaborative and cooperative and accept the views and thoughts of others,” Evans said.

That’s the foundation for nurturing peace within the CMS community.

Children and adults treat each other with respect, courtesy and graciousness.

Said Gray: “Peace starts with our children and that’s fundamental here.”