Jones heads local Montessori school

Published 5:12 pm Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lifestyles & Features Editor

Steve Jones, head of school at Washington Montessori Public Charter School, hit the ground running when he assumed the role at the beginning of this school year.
Along with settling into a new job and new routine, Jones also faced the dedication of a new classroom building during a ceremony that drew hundreds of students, parents, guests and elected officials.
But he took it all in stride.
“The dedication of the building was a big step in the future of this school, part of the overall plan to hopefully become prekindergarten through 12th-grade,” Jones said.
The public sometimes has misconceptions about a Montessori education, but Jones is quick to point out that such an education doesn’t shortchange the students.
“It’s not a different curriculum. We still have to do end-of-grade testing and we still have to follow state guidelines,” Jones said. “We’re following the standard course of study that the state wants, it’s just a different way of approaching it.”
Jones said that Washington’s school is one of three public Montessori schools in the state; most are privately operated.
“There is a lot of emphasis on students assisting other students in the classroom. Peer relationships are very strong here,” Jones said.
Born in New Jersey and raised in Delaware, Jones received his undergraduate degree from West Virginia Wesleyan College and later did his graduate studies at the University of South Carolina. He and his wife, Kelli, have two sons, Garrett and Grant.
“I started teaching in South Carolina in 1991. I taught seventh grade for about five years there, and during that time I got my graduate degree in school administration,” he said.
A love of the Outer Banks brought him to eastern North Carolina, specifically Pitt County, and he liked the area and “decided to stick around.”
By chance, a neighbor’s children attend Washington Montessori and Jones learned the head of school position was open. He applied and was chosen for the job.
“I’m very impressed with the students, and this school does a lot of things I believe in,” Jones said. “The students are very independent and they take on a role of responsibility and do very well with it. These guys are very mature. That’s a tribute to the teachers and staff here.”
The school also stresses to the students the importance of the world around them. They’ve enjoyed programs led by the staff of Goose Creek State Park, and on-campus projects are being planned.
“We want to set up a garden area with certain plants to attract birds. We’re working on that for this spring,” Jones said. “It’s not just beautification — it helps us appreciate what we have around us.”
Community service is another attribute Washington Montessori encourages, according to Jones.
“Each age level can do something, and we try to have projects the whole school can focus on,” he said. “I’ve always felt that kids should do stuff for the community, that they should give back to the community.”
Washington Montessori offers a well-rounded experience for children, Jones pointed out.
“To have a successful school, it should be good in all aspects, not just academics, not just sports,” he said. “We have a good arts program, a good music program and a good theater program. And we try to get the students ready not just academically but socially, as well.”