By ALLISON ERWIN/Montana State News

Education starts from the time you are born. One never stops learning, which is why educators like Riley Lubich are important. Working towards a degree at Montana State University, Lubich – who is 21 – is passionate about her love of teaching.

Working at Little Tree Education, Lubich explains how Montessori schools differ from other preschools.

“Montessori’s main philosophy is that children naturally want to learn,” he says. “They love to learn. So at a Montessori they foster that natural love of learning and exploration that children have,” said Lubich while tying her hair up into a bun.

While Montessori is not a trademark name, Maria Montessori, who lived from 1870 to 1952, worked with handicapped and socially deprived children and learned how children concentrate. According to Little Tree Education’s website, Montessori discovered “children learn best by doing things for themselves, having the opportunity to correct their own mistakes… and not by receiving reward or punishment.”

Montessori’s philosophy embodies the needs of children to create an atmosphere where learning can happen naturally.  Montessori education focuses on the individuals needs to succeed, not a standard of pass/fail expectations.

Lubich sees the significance of early childhood education and believes secular schools show the importance of self-reliance for a child.

“At our pre-school all the students are expected to walk as soon as they can,” she says. “No one gets picked up. They learn to clear their own plates after meals and help with housework.”

She explains that requiring self-reliance gives her students the confidence to feel like they can accomplish anything. The surge of independence fosters education at an early age.

Montessori’s are popular for parents who want their children to learn at their own pace.

Sarah Mahoney mother of Oliver Mahoney, 4, explains why she chose Montessori over a traditional education system: “Ollie just transforms when he walks in. I feel like he’s starting off with a love of learning. Montessoris have a huge community aspect and the children feel more at home.”

The feeling of being at home is not done unintentionally.

“Little Tree is located in a house which makes the learning feel more natural,” said Lubich. She explains it rejects the typical classroom environment with a line of chairs and the teacher lecturing at the front. Montessori’s believe that a children’s desire to learn needs to be cultivated in a less threatening environment.

According to the Bozeman Chronicle, public schools have started adopting these philosophies as well as using hands-on learning such as blocks to teach mathematics, and groups of tables instead of individual rows.

Lubich’s love of a less traditional learning environment stemmed from a difficult beginning into education: “I had a very hard time finding my place and figuring out how to make myself be able to fit into the classroom the way my teachers wanted me to.”

She describes herself as a rambunctious child, consistently disorganized, fiddling with her fingers and daydreaming. “I was trying to be successful the way my teachers saw success,” said Lubich while wrapping her finger around her sterling silver necklace.

Her eyes dazed off in a moment of thought, peering over to Cooper, her 3-year-old rescued Shepherd mix, “how ya doing Coop?” she said while beaming.

Lubich’s break came when she entered  the  third grade in small town Johnstown, Colorado,

“Mrs. Denman was the most frazzled lady I have ever met,” she says. “She wore these glasses with tree-frogs on them and she lost one of the sides that went around her, ugh…” while motioning to the area behind her ear. “She lost one side the first month of school, and then she lost the other, but she continued to wear those glasses without arms, propped up her nose, for the rest of the year… probably a few years after that too,” said Lubich jokingly.

Unlike other teachers, who concentrated on things Lubich was failing at, Mrs. Denman focused on her strengths

“She made my parents and I feel like there wasn’t anything less about me because I didn’t fit into the traditional classroom,” Lubich says

Lubich aspires to be like Mrs. Denman in her ability to work with students on things they don’t necessarily thrive at, but simultaneously focus on the things they do well and enjoy.

“Mrs. Denman came to my graduation party when I graduated high school and gave me twenty dollars worth of lottery tickets,” said a smiling Lubich while picking at the duck tape on her left sleeve used to fix a rip in her purple down jacket.

Concentrating on an individualized educational path is not the easiest task; however, schools and teachers that emphasize the specific children’s needs, instead of a more state goal centering around test scores, create what some argue is a more valuable learning experience.

Lubich, among many students, was unable to fit the traditional student mold, because teachers presumed her shortcomings stemmed from a lack of enthusiasm, her problems were shrugged off and she was handed off as the next teachers problem.

– Edited by Ross Sellers

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