Sewickley's Montessori to celebrate School Choice Week

| Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Becky Musial and her husband, Tom, of Sewickley Hills wanted to make their children lifelong learners and decided that an environment outside the traditional public school could help them to meet that goal.

After researching Montessori schools, they sent their first two children — who now attend Quaker Valley High School — to Montessori Children's Community in Sewickley. Three more of their children are current students, and the sixth still is a baby but will attend Montessori, Becky Musial said.

Celebrating that option to choose is what National School Choice Week is all about, said Susan Gaudio, a parent who works at Montessori and is helping to organize the first National School Choice Week event to be held there.

The Musials and their children will be part of the kickoff open house on Sunday, and student activities throughout the week.

Montessori Children's Community, founded in 1991, has 130 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.

The open house is for current and prospective students and their families, and Gaudio said the visitors are welcome to explore classrooms and participate in activities.

Throughout the week, teachers will incorporate School Choice Week by having students reflect on the choice their parents made. They will create posters to advertise the school.

Katie Parsons, NSCW media and communications adviser, said this is the fourth year for the event and for the Florida-based nonprofit of the same name.

National School Choice Week began in 2011 as a joint effort among schools and organizations across the country. The first year, about 150 events were planned. Now, there are more than 5,500 events held during the last week of January, including 200 in Pennsylvania.

“NSCW celebrates school choice where it exists and demands it where it does not,” she said.

Gaudio said, “Montessori is a choice” and participating in the event “seemed like a natural fit.

“The organization is very positive and is encouraging schools to celebrate the choices that parents, teachers and students make. To celebrate our school, we are hosting a brunch for our families.”

Gaudio said the event is for any school that wants to celebrate “who they are,” whether it's traditional public schools, public magnet schools, public charter schools, private and faith-based schools, online learning or homeschooling.

For the Musials, Montessori was the right choice, Becky said, because “we wanted an environment that focused on the individual and their own potential.

It was important us that we find a place where individuals could develop at their own pace.”

Stephanie McMillian of Sewickley, who is teaching first through third grade for the second year at the school and has been teaching in Montessori schools for 15 years, said she agrees.

“I taught in the traditional schools, too, and I send my children to Montessori. It allows them to be more fully who they are rather than try to fit into a mold with a mandated pace.”

The Musials like that Montessori uses hands-on materials — such as beads to learn division and binomial cubes to prepare for algebra and geometry in the upper grades — and in addition to academics, teaches children how to interact and care for others and how to be independent and take care of themselves.

Gaudio said enrollemnt at the school is increasing, and tuition is between $6,000 and $10,000 a year depending on the grade. Montessori has 130 students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or

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