Head Start Montessori Education
After living here full time for a few years, it became quite apparent that education was almost nonexistent or of such poor quality that very few doors were opened to the children of the community. Plus behavioral problems were evident with the “crowd control” public schooling. Many single mom families were just subsisting or worse, with multiple uneducated children. We wanted to create an educational pathway without ANY economic discrimination, so the concept for a free school was birthed. Our friends at the San Lucas Toliman Mission have an early childhood school and June Betsch, one of the Montessori developers, volunteered to help us implement this same type of education.
Without detailed blueprints, a sturdy and whimsical two story 2200 square foot building was created on the fly, with the main classroom and library and kitchen downstairs and the jungle-like recreation area upstairs-all warmly built with our own Opal House forest wood again(beams, ceiling/second story floor, windows, red oak doors, and oak stairs. The entire school is surrounded by organic fruit trees and berries and is a holistic and wholesome environment for learning-we use the farm to the children’s advantage with outdoor classes, science adventures and hikes.
Jackeline Perez, a wonderful mentor, teacher and attorney materialized as an answer to prayer and volunteered to help get the school started and then became our Montessori school director. She received Montessori instruction in Cancun and she was ready to lead the way-thank you Lord for her presence. She is becoming bilingual in English with classes that we are providing and will be living with Maren Talcott, our Montessori intern in Kirkland, WA to immerse in English. This school is definitely a bright light in the community.
The Harriet Shrontz Montessori School
The Harriet Shrontz Montessori school at Opal House was opened after a year and a half of construction! A wonderful gathering of 225 celebrated this special blessing to the community on Sunday February 10th, 2013. We even served our specially prepared home raised 300lb pig. Deacon Nate Bacon, from the San Francisco archdiocese, now based in Xela, Guatemala blessed the community gathered, the school and the Holy Ground overlooking Lake Atitlan. An all female Mayan Marimba band played beautiful music for 3 hours. The classes began Monday the 11th, 2013 with twenty 3, 4 and 5 year old preschoolers in a classic Montessori curriculum.
This school is specially named in honor of my dear friend, Harriet Shrontz, deceased this last year who wanted a special blessing for the children that we serve in Guatemala. We all have been blessed by the Shrontz family and all of our Friends of Opal House. The school, now in its second year has a second class of preschoolers and we will add a first grade class next year. The school also serves as a mom’s gathering place and social center for events. We hope to build an adjacent annex building for the first and second graders in 2014/15. Mike’s Angels of Atlanta is planning on building the first additional classroom with Dr William Boegel designing it and leading the building. Our official primary school papers have been accepted into the department of Education. Please help us grow!