North Barrie school is proof that ‘no’ is often ‘yes’!

It’s a funny thing how a “no” can turn into the best thing in the long run.

That’s what happened to Peggy McGee.

She wanted to take her four year university honours program concurrently with her teaching degree. And though she applied repeatedly, she was never one of the few selected.

Fate has a funny way of making things happen.

With university completed, Peggy took a job working as a residential counsellor for people with special needs. As she sought extra help for a 16 year old ‘client,’ Peggy was introduced to the tremendous success of the Montessori learning system and introduced her young charge. Very quickly, her non-verbal client was making vowel sounds. “I was amazed at his progress,” Peggy remembers. She was equally amazed at how welcoming the Montessori teachers were to her special needs young man. She decided to continue her pursuit of teaching.

She sent in her registration for a teaching designation at Queen’s University. At the same time she applied for one of 25 coveted spots at the Toronto Montessori Institute. Again fate intervened and she was offered a Montessori spot for 14 months of intense training as a specialized Montessori teacher.

Those two forks in the road have given Barrie a unique gift today.

Peggy graduated as a Montessori teacher, eagerly lapping up the teaching techniques for the 2.5-6 year olds, the 6-9 year olds, and the upper elementary 9-12 year olds. Newly minted, with her enthusiasm at an all-time high, Peggy headed into a Montessori classroom in Brampton, moving later to the Rotherglen Private Montessori School in Oakville, and later to launch the upper elementary program for Guelph Montessori.

She and her husband Mark and their young family made the move to Barrie last year, and again Peggy found fate interfered with her plans.

Her husband and father started retrofitting the family basement to be a Montessori school location. As they neared completion, a chance conversation connected her to recently vacated nursery school space at Northwest United Church at the corner of Ferndale Rd N and Livingstone. And there it was… beautiful space with play areas outdoors and all approved by the Day Nurseries Act.

And so Meadow Creek Montessori School was born!

And what is Montessori? Peggy explains that Montessori offers five areas of learniing… Practical Life, Sensorial Activities, Math, Language and Culture. The philosophy is that each activity has a start, a middle and an end and that an activity begun must be experienced and completed. Children learn by using all their senses and are given the freedom to choose which activities they will incorporate into their day, with strict guidelines around quantity of experience.

Practical Life teaches about living with independence… And since all activities move from left to right, children are readied for reading.

Peggy today says that each barrier in her life had a purpose… that purpose was for her to open her own Montessori School. Why? “I went to university for four years and I learned more in 14 months of Montessori training than I did during those entire four years.

“I’m a visual learner. I like seeing, feeling, knowing. Memorization doesn’t mean anything to me. Montessori uses several senses and relates to all sorts of learners. Every learner can take something from the Montessori approach, and there’s no teacher leaning over to tell a child they’ve done it wrong. The child can see it for themselves, and correct for themselves and celebrate their achievement from within.” Peggy believes the system teaches children to motivate and congratulate themselves, preparing them for solid, functional lives.

Meadow Creek is open to the public to have a look on Saturday, August 23, at 464 Ferndale Dr. N. From 10 am to 3 pm, you can experience Montessori and meet Peggy. Her program includes music, French, computers, and offers a classroom intimacy that’s comforting for children.

Peggy offers three programs, a half day (nursery school-type) program, a full day every day school program, and an alternate day program (kindergarten). Full time students receive a hot catered lunch.

Cost? For full time, it’s about the same as home day care, $27 a day.

What an investment!

Thanks Peggy, for not turning away from your dream, And thanks for having the courage to ignore the barrier and turn down a different fork in the road. Our community is richer for it.