Vicki Butler is the driving force behind the development of Fayetteville Montessori School, but her modesty precludes that claim.
Butler, the school’s director of education, has followed a tenacious path to put children at the forefront of education that included 25 years as an elementary teacher. Immediately upon discovering the Montessori method of education, she felt connected and inspired.
“Montessori looks at children in a respectful and capable way. They have their own environment, and the teachers are not the focus of the classroom — the children are,” Butler said.
Teachers, parents and volunteers help children understand the guidelines of social interaction and focus on positive reinforcement of individual characteristics and talents.
“We teach a diverse curriculum to expose the children to their many gifts,” Butler said.
The organization of mixed-age classrooms instills a sense of community among the children, she said. The interest of the younger children inspires those a year or two older, and naturally the older children step up to be role models. As a result, the older children gain confidence and master the skills that they themselves are still learning.
“Each child has their own learning style,” states the school’s website, located at fayettevillemontessorischool.com. “Montessori teachers treat each child as an individual and customize lessons to fit his/her needs, personality and interests.”
The concept of education at Montessori stems from the belief that human beings learn critical thinking skills through discovery. In other words, children grasp abstract concepts by literally putting their hands on them. That understanding is the doctrine for the construction of a building for elementary-aged children at Colt Square.
Butler is utilizing her collection of scientific artifacts to decorate the new building. As one enters, they will be introduced to the world as it began, Butler said. There will be a jar of algae, rock and mineral formations, crinoids and fossils. Throughout the building, the progression of biological entities is revealed.
“We even have dinosaur poop,” Butler said.
Other interests to the collection include dinosaur eggs, fish skeletons, coral, bug collections, shark, a freeze-dried cobra and a woolly mammoth.
Internationally renowned architect Marlon Blackwell designed the building and his wife, Meryati, helped lead the project. Construction of the site is being executed by Nabholz Construction Services and financed through Legacy Bank.
Butler cited a commitment to living within her own means and making timely payments, along with the equity of the existing school, as factors that allowed for the development of the project. With some help along the way, Butler has guided the institute from a two-bedroom schoolhouse to a multiple-building facility.
“I believe that children should learn and be in a beautiful space. Marlon has a fantastic eye for design,” she said.
The new building is expected to be open to students Aug. 1.