By LOIS KINDLE
Since 2011, Rohini Rustogi’s Montessori School in Waterset has provided pre-school, VPK and kindergarten education to children ages 2 to 6, using Maria Montessori’s method of teaching through self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play.
This fall, the school’s founder and president is adding a new wing to include an elementary classroom on its site at 7006 Sail View Lane in Apollo Beach.
“Our program has become so popular here in South Shore, we decided to add an elementary program for children ages 6 to 9,” Rustogi said. “It will be staffed with certified Montessori teachers and a reading specialist and offer curriculums in art, Spanish and P.E.” Extracurricular activities like Tai Kwon Do, ballet or tap dance will be offered at an additional cost.
The beginning class will be 19 students and the teacher to student ratio, one to every six children,” she said. “After that, the class size will stay between 19 and 20.”
Construction of the new building by contractor Kevin Suarez, of Spartan Builders, began in May on space that was part of the school’s oversized playgrounds. It will be completed by the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
Rustogi has worked in the Montessori system since 1994, when she began as a teacher’s aide and, then, teacher at the South Tampa Montessori School.
She founded the Brandon Montessori School at River Hills in 2001 and the Riverview Montessori School at Rivercrest in 2005. All three schools are accredited through the American Montessori Society and the National Council for Private School Accreditation. The Riverview school is additionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
“We do this for the long-term benefit to the children,” Rustogi said. “It’s my calling in life.”
Rustogi fully understands the importance of early childhood education in a child’s life and knows the seeds she’s planting will produce mighty results. She believes wholeheartedly in the words of Bengali philosopher Rabidranath Tagore, who wrote, “The one who plants trees knowing he will never sit in their shade has at least started to understand the meaning of life.”
“We focus beyond the development of a child’s academic skills,” she said. “In Montessori, children are taught to be independent thinkers who are interested in the world and have an enthusiasm for life.”
For Rohini, teaching kids these things is a privilege.
“I appreciate how the community has embraced me and given me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many of its children,” she said.