Learning and Support

Over the course of its 35 plus year history the Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca has developed an extensive three-tiered Learning and Support Model.

This model is based on the collective wisdom accrued by founder Andrea Riddle, Laura Gottfried, and other Montessori trained faculty at the school, combined with the most current information available from neuroscience about the brain and how the brain learns.

Level One: Accommodating Strengths and Weaknesses

At the base level, all students are guaranteed an excellent educational experience grounded first and foremost in Montessori pedagogy and the Montessori Method, which is then supplemented by academic material not available at the time Dr. Montessori did her seminal work.  This includes work with the movement integration curriculum developed by Movement Integration Specialist and teacher Melani Fuchs.  This base level serves the needs of most children as the Montessori Method and our highly trained staff is able to accommodate the varying strengths and weaknesses inherent in most of our students.

Level Two: Addressing Persistent Issues

The second level of the Learning and Support Model comes into play when a child displays a weakness that continues over time to cause an impediment to learning despite the remediating factors of the classroom environment, the concrete nature of the Montessori materials, and the expertise of the teachers.  The weakness then becomes a “cause for concern”, when the child displays an issue that gets in the way of their taking in information or demonstrating to others what they know.  We believe that this is a crucial moment in the child’s academic journey because of the overwhelming data supporting the efficacy of early intervention. Teachers formally document their concerns and observations and process the information with Laura Gottfried or Anne Robbins.  If they feel the concerns are warranted, the EACMSI Teacher Support Team will observe and work directly with the child and then share their experience and suggestions with the classroom teachers.

The Teacher Support Team is an interdisciplinary think tank made up of Anne Robbins, Laura Gottfried, Melani Fuchs, Terry Cater-Cyker, Liz Allen, Patrice Jennings and Donyan Shadions.  They have been working together as the Teacher Support Team for over 15 years to provide another layer of support to students and classroom teachers.  Each member of the team brings a different area of expertise and generates a different subset of information and observation.

    Anne Robbins L.M.S.W. and a Family Nurse Practitioner, is our Director of Wellness, Social Worker, social skills coordinator, and faculty resource for health issues.  Anne is also our liaison to the Ithaca City School District Committee on Special Education.  She has worked with children in a school setting for almost 30 years.

    Laura Gottfried combines a background as a Montessori classroom teacher, both at the Primary and Junior Level, with training and experience in learning intervention and assessment. Laura may generate a synopsis of a child’s cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses as part of her contribution to the Child Study Team.

    Melani Fuchs brings a wealth of experience as a Physical Educator and Movement Integration Specialist, in addition to her 30 years in the classroom as a Primary/Extended Day and Junior Level teacher.

    Terry Cater-Cyker brings the perspective of the Upper Elementary program to the team.  She has been remediating, bypassing, and accommodating learning challenges for 30 years and has had extensive experience attending meetings for children at District Committees on Special Education.

    The purpose of the Child Study Team is to generate ways to bypass, support or accommodate the child’s learning challenge(s).  The goal is to develop an individualized Learning Profile and Plan for Learning which combines interventions and accommodations, in an effort to better serve the student and address any weakness(es).  Included in any Plan for Learning will be a section on maximizing the student’s assets, and a sequence for “demystifying” the child about their strengths and weaknesses.

    Level Three: Further Support

    The third level of the Learning and Support Model comes into play when the student continues to display impediments to their learning despite the added support provided by their Plan for Learning.  At this point the need for assessment goes one step farther than the Teacher Support Team, resulting in either a referral to the Ithaca City School District or a private diagnostician.