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Public Montessori School Will Open in San Antonio

Private Montessori School can be expensive.  When Steele Montessori Academy opens in the San Antonio Independent School District in the fall, it will be free for some families and at a reduced cost for others who make a higher income.

There are private Montessori Schools in San Antonio, but Steele Montessori Academy will be the only public Montessori school. Of the six private schools we surveyed, the average annual tuition for pre-k and kindergarten is almost $11,000.


Steele Montessori Academy will open for ages four to six, expanding up to age 12 in subsequent years. At Montessori schools, students learn how to interact with their peers by being in multiple age classrooms. For example, 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds are in one class.


In Montessori classrooms, the teacher doesn’t teach a lesson or lead an activity for all the students at the same time. Each student gets individual lessons from the teacher using class materials, and then a student returns to those materials independently on their own schedule.


Sara Suchman is with the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. She says the classroom for 3- and 4-year-olds is set up to nurture their interest in taking care of their environment, with a section of the room called practical life.

“And the children are wiping tables, watering plants, polishing mirrors,” Suchman says.  “And while they’re learning how to take care of their environment, they’re learning how to hold multiple step sequence and instructions in their heads, the fine motor coordination they’re going to need later on.”

Daisy Medina’s son, J.J. is four years old and has been going to a private Montessori school since he was 18 months old. Medina is excited about the possibility of sending him to Steele Montessori Academy. 


“The way he is learning is very different,” Medina says. “His independence. His ability to go ahead and work independently, get a task and continue doing it, put it away. And he does it at home. He helps me pick up, volunteers to put the dishes away, to wash dishes, to set the table, everything that they do at school, he does at home.”


Eric Rivera wants to send his young children, Izabella and Vincent, to the school. He says Izabella was in Pre-K 4 SA, which uses a curriculum similar to Montessori’s, and she liked it. Rivera says now that she’s in kindergarten she’s in a standard school and seems bored. 


“We’ve noticed she likes to go at her own pace,” Rivera says. “She’s very inquisitive, and it seems like a program like this allows that, nurtures that inquisitiveness that children can naturally have—how they stated: Young kids want to learn. They want to be hands on. They want to do things. I really think she would benefit from a program like this.”


Pedro Martinez is superintendent for SAISD.


“To bring in a Montessori program that has the national credibility, national reputation, of being a high- quality student-focused program that for the most part most families see it that they’re only for private schools, or for very elite families” Martinez says. “To be able to bring it down to this neighborhood at Steele Elementary. We think the interest is going to be so high that we’re going to have to open up other Montessori schools, but this will be the model school.”


Steele Montessori Academy will be open to students across Bexar County, but first priority will be given to families within the former Steele Elementary School’s attendance boundaries. Students in SAISD will have second priority.

Louisa Jonas is an independent public radio producer, environmental writer, and radio production teacher based in Baltimore. She is thrilled to have been a PRX STEM Story Project recipient for which she produced a piece about periodical cicadas. Her work includes documentaries about spawning horseshoe crabs and migratory shorebirds aired on NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Louisa previously worked as the podcast producer at WYPR 88.1FM in Baltimore. There she created and produced two documentary podcast series: Natural Maryland and Ascending: Baltimore School for the Arts. The Nature Conservancy selected her documentaries for their podcast Nature Stories. She has also produced for the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s Distillations Podcast. Louisa is editor of the book Backyard Carolina: Two Decades of Public Radio Commentary. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her training also includes journalism fellowships from the Science Literacy Project and the Knight Digital Media Center, both in Berkeley, CA. Most recently she received a journalism fellowship through Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where she traveled to Toolik Field Station in Arctic Alaska to study climate change. In addition to her work as an independent producer, she teaches radio production classes at Howard Community College to a great group of budding journalists. She has worked as an environmental educator and canoe instructor but has yet to convince a great blue heron to squawk for her microphone…she remains undeterred.