History of Alvernia Montessori School
When the Montessori School began at Alvernia in the fall term of 1963, it was regarded as part of the teaching program of Alvernia University (then, Alvernia College). It was initiated through the efforts of Alvernia President, Sister M. Zygmunta. Employing the Montessori method of teaching, the school was known as the Montessori Children’s House.
Three Berks County families Dr. & Mrs. James Ciabattoni of West Reading, Mr. & Mrs. Michael Devereux of Reinholds, and Mr. & Mrs. Thomas Wolff of Reifton originally came up with the idea for the Montessori School. But early efforts were frustrated by difficulty of obtaining a certified Montessori teacher and renting or leasing a suitable premise for a school.
The families contacted Sister Zygmunta upon the recommendation of Rt. Rev. Msgr. Henry J. Huesman, Superintendent of Schools for the Allentown Diocese.
Sister Floretta, while not a certified Montessori teacher, had training in the method and was assigned as the first teacher for the Montessori school. She received her American Montessori Diploma in June, 1965, but left the school a year later.
The initial enrollment of the school was approximately 36 children, open to children of any religious denomination in the 3 to 5 year age group. There was a morning and afternoon session. Each session was limited to 20 students. Tuition was $290.00 a year for a daily three-hour session.
After Sister Floretta left, the Board of Directors felt a responsibility to the parents of the children attending the school. They appealed to the Bernardine sisters to allow the school to continue for a further year’s operation during which time adequate plans could be made for the following year. At this time the school was housed in the former music house on the Alvernia campus. (This building was razed in 1992.)
Because the Provincial Superior of the Bernardine Sisters, Sister M. Blanche, did not allow the School to continue on the grounds of Alvernia University, the Directors moved the Montessori Children’s House to Centre Avenue in Reading.
This ended the Montessori School at Alvernia until 1968 when St. Joseph’s Villa was opened for the aged and infirm Sisters of the Bernardine Franciscan Community, leaving the old St. Elizabeth’s Infirmary building empty. The sisters decided to renovate the old infirmary and open a Montessori School of their own. Also the building would house a Remedial Reading Center for grade-school children.
The first Director of the newly named Alvernia Montessori School was Sister Mericia Olbrish. The school received approval from the Sate Board of Private Academic Schools. The School also received approval to be a Private Academic Nursery and Kindergarten in 1971 (although the school opened in September of 1970 while the Director was in the process of obtaining the License from the State).
Sister Mericia continued on as the Director of the School until May of 1979. During her term as Director, the School started to flourish with approximately 20 children in both the morning and afternoon sessions. Sister brought several Bernardine Sisters to teach in the school.
Sister Ann Marie Coll became the Second Director of the Alvernia Montessori School during the 1979-1980 school year, and continues as the Director of the school today. Under the leadership of Sister Ann Marie the school continued to grow.
In 1987, the State Board of Private schools was petitioned for permission to add an additional classroom for a separate kindergarten class. Sister Philip Ann Yorkonis (who joined the school in 1979) became the kindergarten teacher.
In the spring of 1997, Alvernia University signed an agreement with the Bernardine Sisters to manage the School financially. Under the new agreement, the Bernardine Sisters would continue to own the school, while Alvernia University would be the administrative manager of the school.
In June of 2003, The Montessori School moved to Sacred Heart School in West Reading when the Sacred Heart Convent underwent extensive renovations. Alvernia University agreed to rent space for the school with a lease of 3–5 Years.
The Montessori School continued to flourish at the new location with their excellent reputation for strength in teaching skills to prepare the children for their elementary education. For many years the waitlist to get in to the school has been competitive, and run on a first-come first-serve basis.
In 2009, Alvernia Montessori signed a lease for the empty St. Anthony of Padua School in Milmont. This gives the school the opportunity to be closer to the Alvernia campus and use the resources that the University offers, including interning students in the educational disciplines.