Montessori school opening in Fulton

Sharon Estrada
Sharon Estrada, of Victoria, Minnesota, will open a 20-seat bilingual Montessori preschool and kindergarten this fall in Fulton. Photos by Nate Gotlieb

A Victoria, Minnesota, woman is opening a 20-seat bilingual Montessori preschool and kindergarten this fall in Fulton.

Girasol Montessori School will serve kids between 33 months and 6 years old in Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, located on France Avenue. Students of all ages will attend the one-room school and they will learn and play together in uninterrupted blocks of time.

Founder and lead teacher Sharon Estrada, a native of Costa Rica, said she plans on speaking mostly Spanish, though she’ll teach some of the necessary academic skills, such as letters and numbers, in English. One of her assistants will only speak to the students in Spanish, she said.

Estrada said starting a Montessori school has been a dream of hers since she graduated from a Montessori teacher-training program in 2011. She said she became interested in the educational approach almost 11 years ago when she toured a Montessori program while looking for a preschool for her firstborn daughter.

“There was a sense of community,” she said. “When you walk into any authentic Montessori environment, that’s what you’ll find.”

sandpaper letters
Estrada will use sandpaper letters to teach children the phonetic sounds that help them learn
to write and read.

Montessori education centers around the teachings of Maria Montessori, an Italian doctor who thought the goal of early education should be to “activate” a child’s own desire to learn. Children at Montessori schools work in mixed-age classrooms and have choices of different activities.

The teachers, or “guides,” give students uninterrupted blocks of time in which to work. They use their observations of a child’s abilities and tendencies to guide their interaction with the student.

“It’s a method based on respect for the child and this mentality that if you can impact these little ones’ lives, you can impact our society,” Estrada said.

Estrada said she will encourage Girasol students to learn writing before reading, which is typical in Montessori schools. The students will also do “practical-life” exercises, such as table-, dish- and window-washing, which Estrada said will help prepare them for more advanced activities. There will also be activities that activate different senses.

The school will offer three different schedules for parents — a half-day, a full-day and an extended-day option. All three programs will run five days a week, which Estrada said will allow children to create and establish a routine and a sense of community.

She is working to create an outdoor play area on the church’s east lawn.

Spots are still available for this first year, Estrada said.