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Mater Amoris Montessori School celebrating 50 and young at heart

Mater Amoris Montessori School celebrating 50 and young at heart
Students at Mater Amoris Montessori School (Courtesy photo/Susan Soldavin)

Congratulations to the Mater Amoris Montessori School for recently celebrating its 50th anniversary. The primary school on Mink Hollow Road serves students from 2½ to 12 years of age. Founded by Charlotte Shea, the school initially opened in Northwest Washington, D.C., in 1968. To secure space for the school, Shea only had to meet eight times with the pastor of the Capital Memorial Seventh Day Adventist Church before he gave permission to use rooms in the church.

Shea named the school in honor of her mother. “Mater Amoris” means “Mother of Love.” The school was an immediate success. The initial goal of enrolling 16 children was met in less than three months. At the end of the first year, 35 students attended the school, which remained at the church for its first decade.

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One hundred fifty students and 10 years later, the school moved five blocks to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. On moving day, teachers and parents rolled the school equipment up Connecticut Avenue to its new home.

The 18501 Mink Hollow Road location opened in September 1980. Fittingly, Pat Krueger, the mother who enrolled the very first student in the school, became the inaugural primary teacher at the school’s permanent location. In the early 1980s, classes were held in a farmhouse until a new school building was completed in 1986.

"Montessori education encourages authentic and natural development in children. Happiness, helpfulness, gratitude and appreciation are as important as intellectual growth and academic skills,” said Deborah Bricker, head of school. “Mater Amoris provides this environment for children in a beautiful natural setting of 13 acres of woods, fields, and gardens and in beautifully prepared classrooms. Relationships, conversation, curiosity, deep work and caring for one another and our place have been valued at Mater Amoris for 50 years and in Montessori schools worldwide for over 100 years."

More than 3,000 students have attended Mater Amoris and have gone on to careers in fields including architecture, education, law, medicine and technology. Current students at the school describe the campus as “beautiful,” “peaceful” and “welcoming.”

When asked how he would describe the school, 11-year-old Luke Tegeris said it is a “great atmosphere for students to learn.”

According to 11-year-old Zikodi Ezebuiro, the best thing about Mater Amoris is the “friendly staff and classmates and the freedom to go at your own pace and explore new ideas.”

To commemorate the milestone, alumni and their families were invited to the school campus “to take a walk down memory lane.” During the festivities, an exhibit on the story of the school was on display in the library. A program recognized 50 years of Excellence and culminated with the presentation of a bronze plague recognizing Charlotte Shea as the founder and long-time directress of the school.

“Mater Amoris is dedicated to a philosophy based on love for the child, respect for his or her dignity and worth as a person, and a strong desire to help each child establish a meaningful place in society,” said Marcia Perez, upper elementary teacher.

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