New York University

By Barron, Marlene | Montessori Life, Winter 2004 | Go to article overview

New York University


Barron, Marlene, Montessori Life


In the United States each of the 50 state education departments sets standards for and approves credit-bearing post-secondary programs that lead to the state's teaching credentials. The result is that education programs in colleges and universities are designed to meet their respective states' proscriptive-and restrictive-requirements for teaching credentials, such as early childhood (birth through second grade), childhood (grades 1 through 6), special education. . . . Thus, when a state changes credential requirements or certification levels, college and university programs must also change their offerings. In my 40 years as an educator in New York state (NYS), I've just experienced my third NYS credential reconfiguration.

This background information explains why the Montessori early childhood teacher education program at NYU is not a program per se. It is a sequence of graduate courses within the Steinhardt School of Education. To be a program, we would have to be approved by NYS Education Department. That could not be possible, since NYS does not officially issue a Montessori credential.

To complicate matters further: in New York City (NYC) licensing requirements for early childhood schools and centers are-and have been for more than 40 years-rigorous. To be a head teacher in NYC, one must have earned the NYS early childhood credential and a master's degree (or be in process of completing a master's degree). And in a Montessori school, head teachers must, of course, have a Montessori credential.

This is atriple whammy! In fact, before-a group of heads of NYC Montessori schools began working with NYU, Montessori teachers spent a few years earning their Montessori credential and then another few years earning a master's degree and NYS certification.

History of NYU-MTES

The history of NYU-MTES is intimately intertwined with the history of the Central Harlem Association of Montessori Parents Montessori Teacher Education Program (CHAMP-MTEP), the only AMS Montessori Teacher Education Program initiated and directed by African Americans. After the demise of its founder, Roslyn Williams, and the closing of the CHAMP daycare center in 1994, the program moved to West Side Montessori School (WSMS) and is currently called the WSMS Teacher Education Program. Since its founding in 1967, CHAMP-MTEP students received undergraduate education credits for their Montessori courses from a local college. This relationship worked on the undergraduate level, but many students already had bachelor degrees. CHAMP-MTEP was continually searching for a university that would grant graduate education credits.

In 1980 Carolyn Dinerstein, director of CHAMP-MTEP, made the initial contact with NYU through James Walker, and then followed up with Steve Zwerling, Bob Clauson, and Clark Brown. Over the next 5 years, Marlene Barron (director, West Side Montessori School), working with Carole Harmon (Brooklyn Heights Montessori School), Gretchen Courage (Park Slope Montessori School), and the NYU team made it a reality. While agreement was reached by the end of the first year, it took another 4 years to mesh the Montessori requirements with NYU and NYS requirements. In the process the NYU Montessori connection was forged and the NYU program initiated. CHAMP-MTEP had given birth to NYU-MTES.

Finally we began in 1984 with a handful of students and a team of seasoned instructors. The core faculty-Kathy Armitage (Children's Harbor Montessori School), Marlene Barron (West Side Montessori School), Gretchen Courage (Park Slope Montessori School), and Carol Harmon (Brooklyn Heights Montessori School)-was supported by Judy Bain, Rosa Packard, and Stephanie Whalen (Staten Island Montessori School). Many of the graduates from this first class continue to be active in Montessori today. Mimi Basso is vice-president of member services for AMS, Susanne Peebles is director of the preschool at Brooklyn Heights Montessori School, Susan Flexner moved to England and was involved with both London Montessori Centre and St. …

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