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Parents seek to introduce innovative schooling in Lower Valley area

In the early 1900s, a new and revolutionary teaching method was born out of the slums of Italy.

Maria Montessori, Italy's first female physician, began her work with children that had been deemed unteachable. They were poor and uneducated, forgotten by the school systems and left to continue a cycle of poverty and despair.

But Montessori found a way for the children to prosper. Her method was one of exploration and self-discovery. Where children are given the freedom to use their own inquisitive nature to investigate and discover, to nurture, teach and grow.

It is this time tested and highly successful teaching method that Sunnyside's Merritt Mitchell Wajeeh and Prosser's Tara Griffin are hoping to bring to the Lower Yakima Valley.

With Montessori schools available in both Yakima and the Tri-Cities, these women feel it is about time to bring this revolutionary educational method a little closer to home.

Both women are mothers of young children and both have experience with the seeds of success the Montessori system can instill in children.

Wajeeh's younger brother, Scott Mitchell, attended a Montessori school until the fifth grade. At the age of 13, Mitchell took an SAT test offered through Duke University and scored a perfect score in the mathematics portion.

Mitchell and his family credit the Montessori education for providing him with a deep and comprehensive understanding of mathematical principles.

As a preschooler, Griffin's older son had a Montessori education. She says that her son was instilled with an excitement and understanding for math that preschoolers are often considered too young to grasp.

Initially, the school will need to require tuition, Wajeeh reports, simply because Washington State does not provide federal funding for what it considers private or charter schools.

Creating a new school is no easy or inexpensive task. It will need to find a home somewhere in the Lower Yakima Valley, teachers will need to be hired and supplies obtained.

But Wajeeh wants parents to know that they are hoping that the school will soon be available to all children for free. At the very least, they are looking to establish scholarships that will help parents enroll their children in this innovative school.

Wajeeh and Griffin are hoping for a first year enrollment of 10-12 children with a target age of 3 years old, though four or five year olds will also be considered.

For now, the Lower Valley Montessori school is still in the early planning phase. Wajeeh and Griffin are hoping to gather like-minded parents and community members who are concerned about academic failure and want to expand school choices, to help develop this new school.

Merritt Mitchell Wajeeh can be reached at 509-840-5600 or merritt_mitchell@hotmail.com. Tara Griffin can also be contacted at 509-308-9121.

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