Who We Are
For over 50 years, Gladwyne Montessori has provided families a nurturing environment for children to start their journey as lifelong learners and become positive contributors to the world around them. At Gladwyne Montessori, we educate leaders through a proven method of 21st century learning.
The Children's House was incorporated as a non-profit organization on August 22, 1962. Today it is Gladwyne Montessori. The Children’s House was the dream of seven women who worked together to research the best educational methods available, and establish a school. The founding parents included Nora Leibold, Vivian Piasecki, Joan Kirk, Pat Dempsey, Josie Sorlien, Darcey Hall and Grace Sharples Wheeler.
Their dream was realized when The Children’s House opened its doors in a rented carriage house at the Mildred Sullivan School building in Rosemont to 30 pre-schoolers in the fall of 1962. The school was Board-administered under the guidance of founder and teacher Josie Sorlien.
In 1965, Darcey Hall Hale became administrator of the Children’s House and served as the first non-teaching Headmistress until 1968. The Children’s House moved in fall 1966 to the St. Sahag & St. Mesrob Armenian Apostolic Church in Wynnewood when it enrolled 90 primary age children. The school remained at that site for two years as parents raised funds to acquire a permanent home.
The parent board explored the possibilities of purchasing the abandoned and run-down Merion Square School in Gladwyne beginning in 1966, where the school is located today. This historic building served as a six-room schoolhouse in 1881. New Headmistress, Hope Dechert Mitchell welcomed children to the school in its new home in September 1968.
In 1970, the Board of Directors renovated the north wing of the upper level of the school and expanded the curriculum to include an Elementary unit for 1st through 3rd grade students (6-8 year olds).
Virginia Mount (now Virginia Ayres) became the first headmistress with Montessori training when she took over after Mrs. Mitchell’s retirement in 1971. Under Mrs. Ayres leadership, during the 1973-74 school year, The Children’s House earned its first accreditation from the Pennsylvania Association of Private Academic Schools (PAPAS).
Kathleen Dzura, headmistress from 1976 to 1979 created Kindergym, a physical education program for Primary students and added an after-school program called La Casa for primary students. In 1977, the Elementary Unit was further expanded to include 4th through 6th grades (9-12 year olds).
Kathleen Young served as Acting Headmistress for the 1979-1980 school year and worked to lay the groundwork for adding a toddler program, Stepping Stones, which welcomed students in the fall of 1980.
Anne R. Shields (now Anne Shields Kane) was hired as Headmistress in spring 1980. In 1980 the Board approved a renovation of the Elementary Unit space dividing the area into three distinct classroom spaces and adding a mezzanine library above an art and science center. In 1981, The Children’s House graduated it’s first 6th grade class.
In 1982, the school launched “The Continuation of Excellence” development campaign to raise funds for future curriculum materials and building plans including renovation of the Kindergym space and the addition of a new Stepping Stones classroom. The library, above the elementary unit, was expanded and computerized in 1989.
Having added the subtitle The Gladwyne Montessori School to the school name in 1981, the board voted to transpose the name in 1989 when it became known as The Gladwyne Montessori School, The Children’s House. The subtitle was dropped and the name was legally changed to The Gladwyne Montessori School in 1998.
Annmarie Torres, a former Montessori teacher and trainer, became the school’s sixth Head of School in August 1990. In 1991, the board began a three-year planning process to establish long-range goals of the school.
Following a successful Special Projects Campaign, extensive renovations to the building interior, began in the summer of 1996 to create administrative offices and additional classroom space. In 1997, the playground was redesigned to include two large play structures, an amphitheater for programs and dramatic play was added and gardens for the environmental education program were planted.
At the Board's behest, Gladwyne Montessori added 1.1 acres to the school grounds. Plans were developed to incorporate this space with the school's long-range plans to add classroom space and parking. In the spring of 1998, after the retirement of Ms. Torres, the Board hired Walter Ebmeyer as the new Head of School.
In the summer of 2000, school grounds were redesigned to provide more parking and a relocated play area. Two years later in March 2002, ground was broken for the construction of the Rachel E. Savett Elementary Building. The new building, which includes three classrooms for Elementary students and a spacious art room, opened in August 2003. Mr. Ebmeyer retired in Spring 2003, and Usha Balamore became Head of School in July of the same year.
Since 2004, the Board of Trustees and Head of School have paved the way for future campus improvement and expansion through further land acquisitions. Dr. Balamore served as Head of School until 2006 and Abigail Miller became Head of School in July 2007.
During the 2007-2008 school year, the Board and members of the school community worked to create a five-year strategic plan. Changes made as a result of the strategic plan recommendations include: changing the foreign language from French to Spanish in 2008, adding extracurricular programs for Primary and Elementary students, and offering a full-day option for our toddler students in Stepping Stones.
In 2010, in keeping with previous Boards before them, the Board of Trustees looked again toward plans for future expansion through further land acquisition.
In March 2012, the Board of Trustees approved the addition of 7th and 8th grade to the school’s academic program. The first group of Gladwyne Montessori middle schoolers began classes in September 2012 and in June 2013 the school had it’s first 8th grade graduate.
Gladwyne Montessori celebrated its 50th Anniversary during the 2012-2013 school year holding a fall gala at the Union League, which welcomed back past teachers and families as well as current families and staff. The occasion also included the production a documentary film, Montessori Rising, chronicling the schools history and increasing relevance of Montessori education in the 21st Century Economy.