The innovation that the Robbinsville Montessori uses comes in the form of a new product that it offers to its students. Within this school, learning is a student-driven process in which students get to choose the work that they do, rather than following a set curriculum. This helps solve the fourth UN SDG by allowing students to learn in the best and most effective way possible for them, therefore providing them with a quality education, and teaching them the lifelong skills of figuring out what works for them and how to make choices that are most beneficial towards their success.
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The innovation that the Robbinsville Montessori uses is implementing a student-led learning process in which the students get to choose the work that they do, rather than just having them follow a set curriculum. In the long-term learning process, the teachers lay the foundation for the concepts the students learn and the overall curriculum that they follow, but day-to-day students get to choose how they learn by picking the classwork that they prefer. An example is that when the students are learning a math concept, they are given the option of choosing from 6 different types of teaching material where each one has different style exercises and directions. This allows students to learn in the ways in which they are most comfortable, and gives them the opportunity to choose how their day looks. In a typical, non-Montessori school, all students would be following a set curriculum and doing the same exercises as a class. In this school, however, the teachers set the specific learning tasks and create the work, but the students decide how they want to go about the work. This unique style of learning is student-driven, and allows students to shape the way they learn, therefore ensuring quality education that works best for students and promoting lifelong learning skills as outlined by the fourth UN SDG.
When Vijay opened the school, he communicated the innovation through Facebook, using it to publish information about how the school is different, which attracted parents from neighboring towns. He also used Facebook to send out job openings to Montessori-trained teachers to staff the school. Vijay didn't know about the UN SDGs before we explained them, but looking back their innovation helps to solve the fourth goal. In terms of funding, Vijay used his own money to open the school.
The inspiration for the Robbinsville Montessori at Foxmoor came at a time during the Onteddu family’s first pregnancy. Mrs. Chao, teacher and founder of the school tells us, “I was pregnant with my first child and thought to myself, I wanted to make sure that he would receive the most enriching education that I could give him. I didn’t like the way daycares and the other school systems prioritized profit over the genuine development of the student. The biggest thing for us as teachers and possibly parents, is that we want the best for our students. It might sound cliche and similar to every other school out there, but the things we do, the resources we provide, the student-driven learning that we encourage, and the extra time and effort we put into making sure our teachers are able to nurture these young kids into creatives is what separates us from the others.” These thoughts and emotions were strong enough to drive the family to create their own montessori school where they were living. Six years later, this school is operating with the bright, cheerful faces of all the staff and students. Parents of previous and current students of the Robbinsville Montessori speak highly about the program and emphasize the familial aspect that is created in the school environment. Every individual in the program regardless of their age is given the resources and opportunities through specific classes in a discipline and or extracurricular activities like music or language classes depending on the child. The student is able to make their own decisions and have control over what they learn. “At our school, it’s child-led rather than teacher-led.”
The people who are most affected by this are the children, and a good education is very important for their development. In this school, students receive specialized tutoring from specially trained teachers. At the same time, students can choose the curriculum they want to follow up to a certain extent, rather than following strict requirements.
This gives students a great deal of choice, and in the short term the impact is that students can choose their own curriculum based on their preferences. This allows students to spend more time on the courses they prefer, which helps them to identify how that preference affects them. This helps students to identify what they like and whether they really like it, and helps them to identify what they are good at and what they want to do sooner, and to maximize their skill level and knowledge in a short period of time. Granting students the ability to choose the style of teaching and learning promotes their interests and motivations to perform academically better and learn more efficiently.
The long term impact is that the students will be able to work more closely with their parents and teachers and communicate more effectively through their choices. Through the long term learning process, as the students have the main choice, it will bring them a clearer goal for the future. They have a clearer vision of what they want to achieve earlier in life, which ensures their ability to be independent and make their own decisions. The diversity of society makes everyone's life different, and having the right to make their own choices earlier means that children can decide their own future earlier. By learning skills that interest them, they can recognize their own value. One specific example of the impact of this kind of learning is that Robbinsville Montessori at Foxmoor boasts that a majority of their students are able to fully read by the age of five.
The enriched and more personalized education that this Montessori school provides is a major selling point for the school. Due to the current socio-economic climate, they are currently making an estimated profit of $5,000 per month. Expenses are roughly around $13,000 per month excluding rent. There are currently 5 teachers hired by a selective criteria to give these kids the proper knowledge in the proper manner. According to Wendy, they haven’t had any issues with employees leaving the company and even offered raises to convince the staff to stay during the turbulent months of COVID-19. Vijay and Wendy are hopeful that by September 2022, everything about the school goes back to pre COVID-19 standards. They are also operating at full capacity but the enrollment is affected negatively due to the pandemic. As the owners, this innovative school allows them to have more flexibility as both parents and business owners. They are owners of the building and it is in the location where they currently reside. “For us it’s essentially like buying back our time, we live very close to the school, and if either one of us needs to substitute or handle some business, we are able to do so without repercussions.”
This type of education is not like the typical type of education where the quantitative scores and achievements of the child are the main focus. Of course, there are parents who care about results, however, the Montessori school focuses more on early childhood development and the happiness of the children. A majority of the parents choose to stay with the school to enroll their children into the kindergarten and or first grade program because they are already comfortable with Robbinsville Foxmoor Montessori. Some also choose to send their children into public schools with the foundation they had built previously. Not only are creative and smart children vital to the future in places across the world, having a healthy and happy upbringing is crucial to developing as human beings. “Since most of the class is student-led there is a lot of interaction going on between students, especially when there’s conflicts and they come to the teachers for help, we tell them to talk it out with each other instead of taking ill-advised actions.” Wendy loves teaching and has grown to appreciate how her efforts are helping these kids grow into young adults. Young children that have already identified and become acclimated to the things and disciplines they genuinely enjoy are already one step closer to fulfilling their dreams.
Vijay Onteddu, Founder, Owner
Wendy Chao, Founder, Owner, Teacher
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Robbinsville, NJ, US
Business Website: https://rmontessori.org
Year Founded: 2015
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
At Robbinsville Montessori at Foxmoor we are dedicated to helping tomorrows leaders and peace makers achieve their full potential. Montessori is an approach to education with the fundamental belief that a child learns best within a social environment which supports and respects each individual’s unique development.