North Harris Community College
Thornton, Sue, Montessori Life
Located on 200 acres of piney woods in North Houston, TX, is a dynamic learning community at North Harris College, part of the North Harris Montgomery Community College District. Within a 10-mile radius of the urban/suburban college are more than 1 million residents. Not only does the college serve more than 11,000 credit students each semester, but it offers more than 60 associate degree and certificate programs.
One of the most outstanding and noteworthy programs is NHC's Montessori teacher education program. It is unique, because it is the only AMS and MACTE accredited Montessori infant-and-toddler teacher education program offered at a community college. The program also has its own $2.1 million child development lab school, one of the precious few training centers that focuses on teaching the skills necessary to nurture and assist the very young of this nation and their families.
This very important work takes place daily. The design of the facility features an observation corridor with one-way-glass windows, which allows students to watch unobtrusively as AMS-certified infant and toddler teachers guide babies while they move and climb, sleep and eat, coo and talk. The student corridor also provides earphones so the undergraduates can listen attentively to the kind and gentle words spoken by these professional Educarers, encouraging children to engage in the very important task of self-construction. The adult students watch and learn intently as an Educarer extends an inviting hand to a young toddler to join the others at a table for a meal. Students yearn for the opportunity that eventually comes-the practicum phase where they become an integral part of these living communities, no longer watching from behind the glass!
In Maria Montessori's (1949) words from the Absorbent Mind, "During this early period, education must be understood as a help to the unfolding of the child's inborn psychic powers. This means that we cannot use the orthodox methods of teaching, which depend on talk (p. 16)." In keeping with this wisdom, North Harris College's Child and Family Studies program emphasizes an "everybody teaches and everybody learns" concept. In adult training classrooms, faculty discuss concepts of education and care. During a daily visit or phase-in period, parents share with the Educarers what favorite sounds, smells, and actions their babies love. Babies show their parents how to recognize the freedoms they need to succeed on their own! Master trainers educate students in the observation corridor on what to look and listen for. And the children train everyone about what it really means to prepare to be a "highly qualified" and "fully certified" adult, ready to assume an important role in the profession of early care and education.
How We Began
North Harris College's Montessori teacher education program is one of seven instructional program offerings available within the Child Development and Family Studies program. Part of NHC's business, social, and behavioral science division, the CDFS program serves adult students who are interested in learning about quality childcare and education for young children. Despite the low-paying jobs and lack of respect shown by much of our society to childcare providers and early education teachers, there are up to 250 students each semester, who come to increase their early childhood education and develop additional skills in working with children birth through age 8.
The community college's instructional program began in the late 1980s, when many mothers were entering the workforce and searching for quality care for their children. Classes on parenting issues and workshops for teachers of young children were offered in NHC's community education center. Eventually, curriculum ideas began to develop for teachers at first, and later turned to an emphasis on infant-and-toddler care.
Under the direction of Dr. Darla Miller (1990), author of Positive Child Guidance, an infant-and-toddler specialist, experienced Montessori teacher, and the program's first coordinator and faculty member, greater emphasis was placed on creating a college credit program and certificates to prepare professionals for this ever increasing community need for quality providers of care and education. …