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Inside Oklahoma's only public Montessori school

Posted at 6:08 PM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-20 19:08:56-04

TULSA -- The only public Montessori school in the state is twenty days into its first year. 

"We are kind of getting to the point where they are figuring that out and what to do next," Elizabeth Steinocher, a teacher at Emerson Elementary, said. 

A regular school would have a teacher at the front of the classroom and workbooks open on the student's desks. 

The Montessori school leaves the lessons up to the kids. 

"Students have a work plan that is kind of like a to do list for the week and they are responsible for when they get it done and getting it checked by the teacher," Diane Beckham, the principal of the school, said. 

During their three hour work block in the mornings, the only sound is the hum of the children working through their lessons. 

"They work on work rugs, so that's their space to keep their work on that mat," Steinocher said. "One little girl went home and her mom said she got a towel and said, 'I have to got to keep my toys on this towel.' They are learning how to be organized." 

Steinocher has been a teacher in a traditional school for a decade. Adapting to the new teaching style has taken work. 

"There are a lot of times where you want to step in and solve the problem for the kids and instead of doing that you kind of have to hang back," Steinocher said. 

Steinocher said the students are able to learn how to collaborate, problem solve, communicate and time management on top of their lesson. 

The classrooms have a different look than the average room.  Steinocher said the program requires them to have interesting looking classrooms to encourage the kids to want to learn. 

"You look at the beads. We just now started working on these a lot, but every day they would literally stare at them until they could have the lesson to touch them," Steinocher said. "I think there is something to the beauty of providing that zen aspect."

It is the first public Montessori school in the state. Right now, there are about 200 kids in the program. 

Teachers went through 26 months of training to qualify to teach in the program. They are paid the same amount as a teacher in a traditional school.

It is a neighborhood school, but kids who want to transfer within the district can apply through Tulsa Public Schools. 

"We are trying to prepare kids for jobs that don't exist," Steinocher said of a traditional school. "If you think about how quickly technology and everything changes, I feel like Montessori is giving them the skills they need to succeed in the work force."

Currently the school is only Montessori from preschool to second grade. Every year they will add another grade. 

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