Do you remember when neighbors shared telephone party lines, the average cost for a family home was $57,000 and Telluride Ski Resort was just a few years old? A lot has changed in 40 years!
In our world, which evolves at a dizzying pace, and brings both fantastic innovation and unique challenges, our Montessori School of Evergreen (MSE) remains steadfast, a bedrock of educational excellence and community that empowers children to embrace the possibilities of their future.
This is not to say that we haven’t seen our fair share of change too. Opened as Montessori Children’s House in 1977 by Tom and Kathy Andrews, our school was first housed in a small building (which was the top level of the original fire station in Evergreen!) near the Episcopal Church that still stands on the banks of Bear Creek near downtown Evergreen. For nearly a decade, our primary classroom was put away each spring to make room for an unaffiliated summer camp, only to be reassembled in the fall for the new school year. After eight of these frantic transitions, our school finally found its own space in the fall of 1985. By this time, teacher Betsy Hoke had purchased our school from the Andrews, becoming MSE’s Head of School in 1980 (as she continued teaching as well). She would remain in that role for 29 more years until Beth Heller became Head of School in 2009. MSE continued to thrive under Ms. Heller for 6 years, until 2015, when Bill Schuver, the current Head of School, took the reins. Mr. Schuver is now in his third year at MSE.
In these years, MSE expanded from that original one-room schoolhouse to three buildings in two locations—Marshdale and Troutdale—now serving the educational needs of toddlers through 8th graders. Families drive from as far away as Lakewood, Pine, Georgetown and Kittredge to attend MSE, due to our school’s unwavering record of academic excellence and its warmly welcoming community.
For all the physical changes our school has undergone in 40 years, it is beyond remarkable the consistency of community we have sustained. This is all due to our talented teachers, devoted parents, engaged students, and supportive community. “When you have existed for over 40 years, you have the luxury of observing trends over time,” said Jessene Wangaard, who oversees community relations. “MSE is truly appreciative of our amazing community—full of lifetime supporters. There is something magical about MSE that continues to draw students, parents and teachers alike. We have seen some of the founding teachers at the school, such as Nancy Benedick and Yvonne Bader, stay for over 30 years!” Yvonne retired in the spring of 2016 after 35 years of devoted service, along with Ruthann Christensen (21 years of service while her own children attended MSE), and David Land (18 years of service). Yvonne’s daughter, Michaela Bader, graduated from 8th grade at MSE, and then returned to work at our school after graduating from college. Nancy Benedick is still employed at our school after 38 years of service, sharing her love of art as a teacher to primary students, and of Montessori philosophy as a mentor to other teachers. Her granddaughter, Maura, graduated from MSE last year, and her grandson, Mikey, is currently enjoying 6th grade at our school.
We have seen several generations of students become teachers at MSE, having learned from the very best. And we have seen many students of MSE grow up to enroll their own kids, creating multi-generational MSE families. Loie Evans enrolled her daughter, Lynn Peesel, at MSE in its first year (1977); Lynn is now an elementary teacher at our school, with both of her own children at MSE, in the 5th and 7th grades, respectively, having attended since primary. Nancy Plant enrolled her daughter, Cora, at MSE in 1989, and now both teach at our school, the elder a teacher of the lower elementary students, and the younger a teacher of the primary grades. We have seen teachers relocate, only to return to MSE later. Kim Oyler taught music at our school in the 1980’s after enrolling her daughter, Katy. Now, in 2017, she is back as the music teacher of our toddler through upper elementary grades. Looking through our online staff directory is like looking at the past, the present, and the future—all at the same time!
It is because of this engaged, dedicated community that our school thrives today. Insisting that we expand to support their growing families and the community at large, these employees, parents and volunteers put in countless hours not only educating the students, but also helping with moving, painting and remodeling buildings. Expanding from our original primary program, MSE added the lower elementary program in 1987, the upper elementary program in 1992, and became the first Montessori school in Colorado to add a middle school program (in 1997). The toddler program was added in 2012.
This multi-generational weaving of history, memories and meaning created an intricate tapestry of connection, our vibrant MSE community that lives and continues to grow today.
Sure, change is necessary and exciting. But even so, it is reassuring to know that as housing prices continue to rise, and new gadgets make our lives more meaningful and maddening, your MSE community is stronger than ever, and anticipates another 40 years of educating new students while celebrating those that have preceded us and continue to learn with us.
We invite you to be part of MSE’s community tapestry! Please call Christiane Leitinger for a tour today, or visit www.montessori-evergreen.org. It’s never too late to become part of Montessori School of Evergreen.
MSE teacher Lynn Peesel, with her mom, Loie Evans, and children, Zoe and Spencer