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Montessori method inducted into UTM's graduate program

By University Relations
On December 5, 2012

Children are the ultimate winners in a new partnership allowing UT Martin education graduate students to earn a Montessori teaching credential that can be applied toward completing a master's degree in education.

A ceremony to finalize the agreement between the University of Tennessee at Martin and the Montessori Educational Institute of North America was held Tuesday, Nov. 20, at the UT Martin Jackson Center. University Chancellor Tom Rakes and Teri Canaday, institutional director of the MEINA instructional center located on Cooper Anderson Road in Jackson, signed the memorandum of understanding.

Dr. Maria Montessori, an Italian physician who died in 1952, developed the specialized curricular approach that focuses on self-directed learning, said Dr. Beth Quick, professor and chair, UT Martin Department of Educational Studies. Students will earn the Montessori teaching credential through the MEINA teacher education program and then take six core courses to complete a master's degree in education online from UT Martin, she said.

This initial agreement covers the Elementary I course that focuses on first through third grades. Students can be accepted into UT Martin's graduate program as early as January, pending submission and approval of a portfolio required by the university. An early childhood course of study focusing on children ages 3 through 6 could follow as soon as summer 2013.
 "This is an important event for the university and a very important partnership," said Rakes, who has family members enrolled in Montessori schools in another state.

"This is all about serving children, and that's what I see our work in education as being about," Canaday added. She credited educators for the work they're doing, "but when they have the Montessori education background, they're going to have a whole lot more."

Canaday said that students who complete the Montessori program must apply for the UT Martin graduate program. Students will receive 18 credit hours after completing approximately 330 academic hours in courses leading to the Montessori credential. "They (the students) work extremely hard," Canaday said. "The training course involves not only those academic hours, but for the elementary, it involves 1,080 hours of practicum."

Julie Riddle, business administrator for Montessori Center of Jackson, is certified in Montessori for early childhood. "Montessori includes a philosophy, a methodology and materials that help children develop independence, self-control, coordination and responsibility in their learning," she said. "We teach them the skills they need to become lifelong learners. Hands-on learning and collaborative projects are key components in the Montessori approach.

"Montessori education is not about grades, it is about learning. Children are given opportunities to learn how to think rather than respond in a rote manner on tests."

Riddle added, "Our goal for children is to master what they're learning and feel the joy of the process. Montessori offers rigorous academics along with curriculum that includes a rich background in cultural studies and activities that encourage respect of self, others and the environment."
For information about the program, call the UT Martin Education Graduate Programs office at 731-881-7128, or go online at

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